MEET DENISE MCCRAY (Ph.D., '07)
When I graduated from high school my goal was to eventually obtain a Ph.D. degree. I completed my Master's degree however, life happened (marriage, career, and family). Several years later, I had the opportunity to become involved in several political campaigns and developed an interest in politics and public service. I decided to pursue my ambition to receive a doctoral degree. While conducting my research, I became interested in Levin College.
- Ph.D., in Urban Studies and Public Affairs, Cleveland State University
- M.S., Corrections/Criminal Justice, Xavier University
- B.S., Social Work and Sociology, Central State University
Where are you currently residing?
Where are you from?
Position Title: Manager of Training and Employee Programs
Place of Employment: City of Cleveland, Department of Public Utilities, Human Resources Section
Job Duties: The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approximately 1,500 employees. Under the direction of the Chief of Human Resources, as the Manager of Training and Employee Programs my duties include managing the Training Unit that provides and facilitates training for all DPU employees. Training includes internal training, provided by our staff of Talent Development Specialists, and external training provided through contracts with outside providers. Duties also include being the Administrator for the following departmental initiatives:
- All DPU Apprenticeship and Internship Programs
- DPU Wellness Program
- Performance Management Process
- Employee Recognition Program
- Human Resource File Room and Records Retention
In addition to the above, the Manager of Training and Employee Programs serves in the capacity of Acting Chief of Human Resources in their absence.
Describe your volunteer experience:
I have been serving as a volunteer board member with Women of Hope, an organization that provides support services to homeless female veterans and their families. I recently became a volunteer at Eliza Bryant Village, a senior services facility that provides residential and nursing care for the elderly.
Why did you decide to attend Levin?
When I graduated from high school in 1970, my goal was to eventually obtain a Ph.D. degree. I completed my Master's degree in 1977; however, life happened (marriage, career, and family) and as a result I was unable to continue my studies. Several years later, I had the opportunity to become actively involved in several political campaigns developing an interest in politics and public service. I worked on the campaign of Michael R. White during his first run for the Mayor of the City of Cleveland. Michael noticed my ability to organize and develop collaborative relationships and made me his Assistant Campaign Manager in charge of Field Operations. After his victory in 1989, I was appointed his Special Assistant of External and Community Affairs. This position showed me the importance of being able to balance the work of the City with the politics of the job. Several years later, and after leaving the public sector and working in the private sector, I decided to pursue my ambition to receive a doctoral degree. While conducting my research, I noticed that Levin College had my track of interest.
What's your favorite Levin memory?
I have several memories of Levin College, however the professors that left an indelible mark on my life were Dr. Larry Terry, Dr. Cam Stivers, and Professor Sy Murray.
- Dr. Terry, the Director of the Ph.D. Program, went against some of the members of the admission committee who felt that I was not the "type" of student the program needed. It was stated that I was a "practitioner" and should pursue a DPA degree (Doctorate in Public Administration) and not a Ph.D. which is a "scholarly" degree. Ph.D.'s are for those who have the desire to teach and conduct research; however, my goal was to be proficient with theory as well as the application. I always stated that theory is no good if it cannot be applied! Dr. Terry provided me with encouragement and told me to keep pressing on.
- Dr. Cam Stivers noticed something in me early on during my matriculation in the program. Cam would ask me to share my professional experiences with many of her classes so they would have an opportunity to see what could be accomplished in the field of Public Administration. She told me that I was a "sleeper" and had a lot to offer any entity that would include me as a part of their organization.
- Professor Sy Murray is someone who I will never forget. He was one of the most knowledgeable practitioners in the field of Public Administration I have ever met. I was with Sy, as his Student Assistant, from the time I entered the program until the day I graduated. We continued to work on consulting projects after I graduated from Cleveland State University. Professor Murray was more than an instructor and mentor; he was like a father to me as well as to so many of his other students. His "Sy-isms", his method of instructing, and delivering a message was unique and like no other professor in the university. He encouraged and supported me through some of my most difficult times in the program. He was the perfect example of a "professional" in Public Administration. He hooded me when I received my Ph.D. Sy provided me and other black students in the program with opportunities that we would have not otherwise been afforded. Sy Murray is an important reason why Levin College is ranked so highly to this day.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned at Levin?
It is important to have someone to mentor you through the program. Decide your passion, set goals, and focus on that area. Study with students who have your same interest and who are goal oriented. No matter how difficult, never give up!
What issues are you passionate about/what inspires you?
My passion is helping others and making a difference.
What’s your hero and why?
My parents are my heroes because they instilled the importance of education and community service in me and my three siblings. My mother was a civil rights advocate during the 1960's and worked closely with members of the Movement. During her early years she was a licensed cosmetologist and later became a social worker. My father was one of the few blacks in a supervisory position at the General Electric Plant in Cincinnati, Ohio. They worked hard and showed us what it means to have a good work ethic. Both parents attended college but did not graduate. I am the first generation to graduate from college on my father's side and the first generation to obtain a Ph.D. degree on both sides. I was blessed that both parents lived to see me obtain my degree in 2007. My father passed away the following year.