Student Profile: David Martak, Master of Arts in Public Policy
“The MPPA program is helping me reinvent myself as a security professional. I’ve had extensive training in my work for the Department of Homeland Security, but the MPPA degree will enhance my credibility as an executive within the DHS and open doors to future career opportunities.”
When he transitioned from active duty in the U.S. Navy to the Reserve Command in 2000, Commander David Martak went from flying jets off aircraft carriers to ferrying passengers for American Airlines. When the airline industry tanked after 9/11, Martak was voluntarily recalled to active duty in the Navy Reserve Recruiting Command, ultimately becoming a reserve unit officer in charge in Chicago. It was there that he first heard about Northwestern’s MPPA program. “It impressed me,” says Martak, “and Northwestern’s reputation stands out on a resume.”
Martak could not enroll then because he was moving to Memphis to work for the Department of Homeland Security, overseeing FedEx’s compliance with federal transportation security regulations. His experience as a pilot and his top-secret government clearance made him a natural for the job, but he says the transition from being a career aviator to a security professional was not easy: “It was adapt or perish. And I realized that if I wanted to go further as a senior manager, I needed a master’s degree.” When Northwestern launched the online MPPA program in 2009, Martak jumped at the opportunity.
Distance learning offers Martak the flexible scheduling he needs as well as a virtual community of classmates. “There’s a great benefit to hearing different perspectives from an extremely diverse group,” says Martak, who has also connected online with professors including Joel Shapiro.
As convenient as online learning is for Martak, it is also challenging. “The reading requires a big time commitment, but I’m learning a lot,” says Martak. “In the field you can get frustrated with how slowly the wheels turn in D.C., but now I have better insight into how government works.”