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Moakley Scholarship program, a partnership between Northeastern and city of Boston, preparing the next generation of civic leaders

Moakley scholars posing at the reception.
Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu recognize city employees earning master’s degrees at Northeastern. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

One Moakley Scholarship recipient emphasized how an advanced Northeastern University degree would help her “stay ahead of the curve” in data science. 

Another recipient said the scholarship helped him empathize with the patients he saw as a city paramedic. 

A third said the scholarship prepared him to become a “leader for the future” in the Boston Police Department.

“Talk to any of the Moakley scholars here today and you will find committed, caring and driven employees at one of the greatest cities on Earth,” Ian Donnelly, a Moakley Scholar and assistant director of capital planning for the city of Boston, said during a celebration of the scholars on Monday.

Donnelly attended Northeastern as an undergraduate and will become a double Husky upon receiving his master’s of public administration degree through the scholarship program.

“It’s because of programs like this one, because of the educational opportunities at Northeastern and because of the values and dedication of my co-workers that makes me proud each and every day to be a resident, a scholar and an employee of the city,” Donnelly said.

The Moakley Scholarship program was established more than 20 years ago and has helped nearly 200 city of Boston employees attend Northeastern to further their education and improve the city’s services. It is named after the late U.S. Rep. Joe Moakley, who was instrumental in securing federal money to build some of Northeastern’s buildings. 

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun, and several scholarship recipients and their managers gathered Monday at the Parkman House, the mayor’s official reception hall on Beacon Hill, to celebrate the program and the scholars.

“I’m so proud to call you my colleagues,” Wu said. “To take the time to invest in yourselves, and therefore your community, and in our organization at City Hall means so much, and we’re so thankful to you for making the sacrifice that this demands of your personal time and of your energy for the ultimate benefit that will accrue to many, many folks around you.”

Aoun also praised the scholars, saying that the program not only benefited their own personal growth, “but the growth of the city and all of us.”

“The fact that the mayor is insisting every year to be here with you in order to signal the importance of this program is really a testament to the fact that she values public service and she values the transformation goal of higher education,” Aoun said. 

He then thanked the scholars, mayor and managers in turn. 

“So thank you all very much, and thank you again, Mayor Wu for your leadership, and thank you all for your enormous support,” Aoun continued. “We’re very grateful.”

The scholars are picked by the city in a highly competitive process. To be eligible, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, be a full-time city employee and have worked for the city for at least one year. The scholarship covers tuition.

“There’s a benefit to us as individuals to gain this education,” Donnelly said. “But perhaps the greater contribution is when we can return to our jobs and use this education to make the city just a little bit better for the residents and constituents that we work for.”

Pursuing an advanced degree while managing a full-time job in municipal government is no easy feat, said Alex Lawrence, chief people officer for the city. 

“The individuals before us are employees and students, parents and caregivers and artists, and I’m inspired by your resilience and determination and, most of all, your commitment to your civic duty,” Lawrence said. “And I know I’m not the only one.”