In May 2019, representatives from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were performing a site visit to assess several properties managed by the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority (MHRA). During their visit, the HUD personnel noted that several of the elevator systems were out-of-date and suggested that they look into grant funding to make these necessary improvements.
Mia Tran ’21, Information Systems Coordinator at the MHRA, despite having limited grant writing experience was compelled to seize the opportunity. She wanted to make a positive impact within the organization and the community it serves, and had even expressed interest in securing federal grant funds in the past. Mia discussed this opportunity with the Housing Operations Director. Her motivation and natural determination were evident and he entrusted her with the mission of pursuing the grant to modernize the elevators.
To some, putting a multi-million dollar grant opportunity in the hands of an ambitious novice could seem unusual. However, when you meet Mia, you can understand why the organization’s confidence was well placed.
Mia’s college experience began at Manchester Community College with the goal of starting a career in the medical field. She selected a dual associate degree in life science and health science and decided to gain hands-on experience in order to advance toward her career goals.
Getting my associate degree in health care was only the beginning. I also wanted to develop practical skills through experience with patient care. So, I researched my options and joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves as an Aerospace Medical Technician, which was a great fit for me because I was serving my country and supporting my education.
During Mia’s time as a medic, she was immersed in direct patient care. The experience exposed Mia to the health care field and it also uncovered new strengths that prompted Mia to reassess her goals. What she discovered is that she was passionate about a career that helped people, but it didn’t necessarily need to be within the health care industry. Gradually, she began to consider professions in different fields that were still rooted in serving others and the greater community, but just in different ways.
Finding Her Calling
While serving in the Air Force Reserves as a medic, Mia also had a civilian job as an Intake Specialist at the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which is the largest public housing agency and largest landlord in Northern New England. In this role, Mia was exposed to new career possibilities beyond the medical profession.
I started in an entry-level position as an intake specialist and I worked directly with the public. I helped guide applicants in need of housing to apply and access affordable housing based on our criteria and their income level.
Mia began to thrive in this position. She was able to quickly see the big picture and the end goal that the organization strives to achieve: to help families find suitable, affordable, secure, and quality homes in Manchester. Her critical thinking and problem solving skills were a great match for understanding new processes and finding efficiencies. Seeing how the role of an intake specialist was making a direct impact in helping people create homes in the Queen City was inspirational and transformative for Mia. To date, she has helped over 250 families and elderly citizens.
In the Air Force, they teach you: “Integrity first, Service before self, and excellence in all we do.” I try to embody these three core values in everything that I do.
After five years of working with the MHRA, Mia’s supervisor recognized her potential and presented her with a new way to put her strengths to work through a newly created Information Technology Coordinator position.
Finishing Her Bachelor’s Degree
With her newfound interest in Information Technology and support from her family and workplace, Mia applied to Granite State College [now UNH College of Professional Studies] to pursue her bachelor’s in Technology Management to help develop managerial skills and deepen her IT knowledge. She had heard from other graduates that Granite State was a military-friendly college, which was important to her as she looked toward balancing her academics with her civilian and military careers.
Within her first few semesters at Granite State, Mia was immersed in the HUD grant assignment at the MHRA. Throughout the grant writing process, Mia independently researched elevator safety, grant writing best practices, and sought assistance from others.
To ensure a successful proposal, I obtained letters of support from a U.S. Senator and the Deputy Fire Marshal in the City of Manchester. There were many key individuals who helped me along the way including but not limited to the MHRA Executive Director, Housing Operations Director, Finance Director, Facilities Maintenance Manager, Director of Contracting and Development, and Elevator Consulting Associates.
When considering courses for the 2019 Summer Term, Mia noticed that Granite State College was offering a course in grant writing. She registered and was excited to learn more about the grant process and strengthen her future proposals.
I worked closely with Professor Pat Erwin-Ploog. She was able to offer insight and increase my confidence that I was on the right path. The proposal was successful and we ended up getting $2.3 in funding.
There are 515 residents in the buildings where we’re upgrading the elevators. Many are elderly and have been living there for years. For me to be able to provide support through securing a grant is very meaningful.
Building Her Future
Mia hopes to use her bachelor’s degree to achieve a director-level position at an organization with a purpose that she’s passionate about. Outside of work, she has taken on the adventurous hobby in aviation and earning a private pilot license. With her busy schedule, Mia still finds time to build up flight time in pursuit of this goal.
For students facing uncertainty over the next steps in their career journey, Mia shares the following advice.
Look for opportunities in your life and be open to new possibilities. Regardless of my capability to do it, I never would have had the opportunity to write a grant unless I put myself out there. If you want to seek purpose and meaning in what you’re doing, communicating these goals and having the determination to accomplish them is an invaluable quality that will serve you well in life.
Mia’s story was originally featured in the Granite State College Spring 2020 Course Schedule.