Internship led Watts College outstanding grad to fall 'in love with local government'

Ashley Funneman, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions overall outstanding graduate Fall 2019

Ashley Funneman, fall 2019 overall outstanding graduate, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

Ashley Funneman was a case manager and crisis intervention specialist working in a state-funded program to help seriously mentally ill adults and children when she realized she wanted to learn more about how such programs are run.

That is, what it’s like to be the boss.

“I really wanted to get more on the administrative side of things,” said Funneman, who holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and is receiving her master’s degree in public administration from Arizona State University's School of Public Affairs. She is the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solution’s overall Outstanding Graduate for fall 2019.

“After doing direct service for vulnerable adults, I realized I could have more of an impact on the administrative side, developing policies and programs that work and are more efficient at reaching their objectives,” she said.

Funneman, from Effingham, Illinois, said she was surprised at this revelation, because she originally had no plans to go into local government.

“But after an internship with the Medical Examiner’s Office, I fell in love with local government, and my belief in community was strengthened,” she said. “I was able to see all the working pieces and how they come together.”

Funneman said she chose ASU because as she examined public administration degree programs, the School of Public Affairs ranked highly and offered the convenience of being in Arizona, where she now lives and where she wanted to network.

"I’m very passionate about disadvantaged populations and wiping out poverty. A lot of issues stem from poverty, including physical and mental illnesses.” 
— Ashley Funneman

Another revelation came while Funneman worked as graduate assistant to Watts College Associate Dean and Associate Professor Joanna Lucio, who was writing a book exploring homeowners’ opposition to affordable housing developments.

“I helped her research articles and case studies. I did a smart studies research project to see if public housing recipients getting internet access would increase their access to opportunities,” Funneman said. “Her passion for affordable housing and her knowledge helped solidify the idea in me that everybody deserves housing and access to healthcare.”

She advises fellow students to grab on to any interest they have in their fields of study and explore it. There are so many topics which overlap.

“You’ll never know where it’ll lead you. I’m very passionate about disadvantaged populations and wiping out poverty. A lot of issues stem from poverty, including physical and mental illnesses,” she said, adding her explorations led to internships she treasured.

“And apply for scholarships,” she said. “Not a lot of people do.”

She’s thankful for the financial assistance she’s received from the Segal Scholarship for AmeriCorps service and the Frank Sackton Scholarship Endowment.

After graduation Funneman plans to work in local government either at the city or county level, possibly in a human services department, leading to her plans for advancement.

“Eventually I want to work my way up and have more power in program development and working with disadvantaged populations,” she said. “I want to try to eliminate the negative consequences of poverty as much as possible with support and community resources.”

If granted $40 million to solve one of the world’s problems, Funneman said she would use the money toward improving equitable access to basic needs, including housing, food, water and education, for all people.

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