Student Profile: Averie Bye-Dickerson on Public Service and Community Engagement

Apr 17, 2024
Averie Bye-Dickinson, a graduate student of the Master go Public Administration program. She is sitting in the lobby in Horace Mann, and is wearing a gray, long-sleeve shirt. She has red hair and glasses, and has one arm over the back of the chair she sits on as she smiles at the camera. White light from the background streams in behind her.

Averie Bye-Dickerson.

Averie Bye-Dickerson, a graduate student in Westfield State University's Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, is making waves both academically and in her community engagements. In addition to her studies, she also works for the Office of Alumni Relations and Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response. With a diverse background and a passion for public service, Averie Bye-Dickerson's journey exemplifies the power of education, mentorship, and community connections.

Originally from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, Bye-Dickerson graduated from Shippensburg University in 2021 with a bachelor's degree in geo-environmental studies, complemented by a Geographic Information Systems certificate. Her educational journey took an unexpected turn when she landed a part-time job as a bartender with Dining Services at Westfield State University, after initially staying with a family friend in Holyoke.

During one of the university's Community Conversations events hosted by President Linda Thompson, Bye-Dickerson crossed paths with William Hynes, the Director of Advancement and Major Gifts, who encouraged her to apply for a graduate student position in their office. Reflecting on the opportunities she's been given, Bye-Dickerson shared, "They've done a lot for me in the two years I've been here. I'm very grateful."

Bye-Dickerson's choice of Westfield State University was in part, informed by her desire to cultivate a close, tight-knit community. I didnt want a big school, and it was the same way for my undergraduate degree,” she added. I was definitely a lot more willing to be in a place that I knew was going to be able to make the connections. I like to get to know people, and I like to know a decent amount of my community so I can help other people. Being at an institution this size is ideal for me.”

As far as the MPA program itself, she praised its versatility, noting that graduates can pursue careers in various sectors such as public management, healthcare administration, and criminal justice. “Ive absolutely loved the program,” she said. "Most of the classes Ive had have a real world application. I liked having that variety of options while also getting a meaningful degree. I’ll be able to apply it to anything that I do.”

Under the guidance of Charles DiStefano, Assistant Professor of Political Science and director of the MPA program, Bye-Dickerson has already engaged in real-world partnerships, consulting with a diverse array of organizations such as Holyoke Community College's Early Childhood Initiatives Program, Rick's Place in Wilbraham, and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA). Meanwhile, her capstone project focuses on the relationship between the decline in student enrollment versus the burnout and quick turnover rates in higher education. The project has been fruitful, with connections being formed that may yet impact future career opportunities.

Reflecting on her journey, Bye-Dickerson emphasized the significance of community and relationships, acknowledging the support and opportunities provided by Westfield State University. She also highlighted the importance of treating everyone with respect, regardless of their job title, and the value of learning from mistakes.

“The power of relationships was really solidified for me here,” she said. “I started in part-time bartending, and ended up being the Summer Conference and Catering Coordinator for two years. I’ve had to interact with a lot of people. I found people who have my back, especially in Facilities, for anytime I need something. It’s so important to do well in your academics, but also to build relationships. I would not have gotten anywhere near as far without the people around me who have given me the opportunities to learn and grow, and also the opportunity to make mistakes and not fault me for that. Whether someone thinks another person’s job is important or not, it’s important to treat them with respect.”