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photo of Frank Mieczkowski and familyFrank Mieczkowski

From teaching to law to politics:  an open road for this 2003 MPA grad

Frank Mieczkowski has a plan, but perhaps not the typical one.  Since graduation, he has held an administrative position, taught social studies, and coached swimming at Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del.  However, he’s been thinking about and planning a career change as part of his public service journey.

At Salesianum—a private, Catholic-run high school for boys—Mieczkowski currently teaches World History to freshmen and United States Government to seniors.  He also moderates the school’s Minority Coalition.  He reflects on taking his first job at a school.

“I was hired at Salesianum directly out of graduate school at the University of Delaware and had no prior experience or coursework in education,” Mieczkowski admits. “The position for which I was originally hired, however, only had a small teaching component—one class. My main responsibilities were as the Assistant Principal and Director of Activities. These responsibilities were administrative in nature and focused on the extracurricular facets of student life.”

“I had been fortunate enough to retain the Assistant Principal position for four years before transitioning into full-time teaching,” Mieczkowski said. “As the Director of Activities I was responsible for the student clubs, activities, and athletics aspects of the school community. This meant overseeing the extracurricular opportunities for the students and the faculty moderators, and it included managing budgets and developing and marketing summer programs for youths in the community, not solely for Salesianum students.”

Today Mieczkowski moderates Salesianum’s Minority Coalition and interacts with the school’s minority parents’ association, a task that can be quite challenging at times.  The Coalition aims to promote activities within the school for minority students to give them a better sense of community and inclusion. Most of the members of the group are involved in several activities and sports; however, this offers another avenue for them to get involved within the school.

Mieczkowski explains, “The most challenging aspect of working with the Coalition is recruiting and retaining active members. As with many student and parent organizations, we have a core group of members but struggle with getting more people involved. The students say that the most challenging aspect of wanting to be a part of the Coalition is the stigma that other students may attach to a club such as ours [as the vast majority of the student body is middle-class and white].”

As a step forward, the group decided last year that it would include any students with a desire to participate regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. “We’re taking a multi-cultural approach in celebrating the diversity within our school community,” Mieczkowski says.  He adds, “Our club organizes service events, plans field trips and activities, and hopes this year to culminate with a trip to Washington, D.C., for a tour of the White House and Congress.”

So how does Mieczkowski apply what he learned as a UD student and IPA research assistant, since his current career has a somewhat tenuous connection to his IPA experience?

“I have been able to incorporate a considerable amount of my experiences from having been a [two-term] Legislative Fellow into teaching United States Government,” Mieczkowski says.  “Plus, the coursework I had taken in organizational management, public finance, and human resources helped with understanding how to run the school from an administrative perspective.”

Mieczkowski goes on to say, “My experience in the Legislative Fellows Program reaffirmed my desire to get involved in politics.  The amount of practical, real-world experience I learned while in Dover was invaluable. Conducting policy research, analysis, and constituent work, as well as witnessing legislative and committee sessions, contributed to my appreciation for the public sector and my desire to pursue a career in it.”

Speaking of which, Mieczkowski has been going to law school on the side.  He will graduate from Widener Law School this May and plans to transition into a new career.

“At this point,” Mieczkowski says, “I have not yet decided where I want to begin my [new] career, but I’ve had valuable summer experiences that gave me some good insight into what options I have. I spent my first summer with a private law firm focusing on environmental litigation. During my second summer, I clerked at the Office of the Attorney General for the state of Delaware, working for the criminal and civil divisions. I spent this past summer clerking in the Superior Court of Delaware.”

Mieczkowski talks about what may await him while working in the legal field and why.  “I would also like to get involved in politics as my new career begins to take shape. I have always had an interest in local and statewide politics,” a desire that was strongly reaffirmed when he spent two years as a Legislative Fellow. “It is my hope that over the next few months and years I can begin to get more involved in the political and community arena,” Mieczkowski says.  “This desire not only stems from my interest in politics but, more importantly, because I am concerned for my neighborhood and the local community. My wife and I have been in our neighborhood for seven years, and I have a pretty good sense of the issues that affect us and have some ideas on how we can address them.”

Mieczkowski credits UD’s influence in giving him his aspiring career direction.  “When I first applied to the [MPA] program,” he says, “it was simply to get into a graduate school so I could play football for my final year [having had a year of eligibility left after getting his bachelor’s degree]. I had no idea about the program, but, looking back, I would not have changed that decision for the world. The entire public policy and administration program—particularly the MPA program, IPA, Legislative Fellows, those with which I was involved—offers so much to any and all students regardless of their interest. Not only does the variety of programs the school offers seem limitless, the faculty and staff do such a great job of showing what opportunities exist upon graduation.”

Mieczkowski adds, “The most valuable thing I learned from the [MPA] program is that the career possibilities are so extensive—in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The breadth of the program permits students to shape their practice work to fit their interests,” he concludes.

Expect to see Mieczkowski—administrator, teacher, coach, and soon-to-be lawyer—running for political office one day.

He and wife, Dana, live in Wilmington, Del. They have one child, Anna Elizabeth, who was born in April 2010. His personal interests and hobbies include running, swimming, biking, doing triathlons, fishing, spending time with his family, going to the beach, and reading history books.  And, of course, he holds season tickets for UD football.