Spotlight on...

Mark Stevens

photo of Mark StevensFederal budget analyst works with scientific leaders

Among his other skills, Mark Stevens (MPA ’09) has a flair for communication. It is little wonder then that he is able to ply his trade as a budget analyst for the National Eye Institute and connect with senior-level scientific researchers.

The National Eye Institute (NEI) is one of the 27 institutes and centers that compose the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md.  Stevens is responsible for formulating and executing NEI’s $72-million intramural research program. This requires skills and competencies in the federal budget process, data gathering and analysis, financial management, communication, and process management, which can prove an ongoing challenge.

“As budget analyst for the NEI intramural program that oversees all laboratory operations on the NIH campus related to eye and vision research,” Stevens explains, “I serve as the central point of contact to NEI’s Principal Investigators on tracking their complicated budgets, consisting of personnel and operating expenses. This responsibility includes providing advice and guidance on spending plans using appropriated funds from Congress and outside grant funding.”

Stevens is no numbers wonk. He’s pretty excited about what he does.

“I most enjoy the opportunity and direct access to interact daily and closely with senior scientific leaders to assist in financial planning in support of the NEI scientific mission. It is gratifying to know that my contributions assist NEI Senior leadership in making sound policy and management decisions that positively impact NEI’s basic and clinical research portfolio.”

Again in his own words, Stevens effuses about his position at NEI (see video).

After completing his graduate studies at UD’s School of Public Policy & Administration in May 2009, Stevens was selected through a highly competitive selection process for a two-year Administrative Fellowship at the NIH.

“As an Administrative Fellow,” Stevens says, “I had the opportunity to gain on-the-job training, mentoring, and individualized career development as a Budget Analyst with NEI. Also, I completed a three-month rotational assignment as an Administrative Officer in the NIH Clinical Center.” 

In July 2011 Stevens successfully completed the aforementioned Fellowship and is now a permanent federal employee in his current position with NEI. In addition to working full-time, Stevens is currently pursuing a Doctor in Public Administration at the University of Baltimore on a part-time basis. Now in his third year of study, his dissertation research most likely will focus on management of public health organizations.

Stevens feels experience at UD provided him with the professional development needed to embark on a career in public service.

“Fortunately,” Stevens says, “I was able to get training and development in data gathering and analysis, financial management, communication, and process management while an MPA student at UD. My classroom training in financial management with Dr. Jonathan Justice and Eric Jacobson, in particular, provided me with the technical and analytical skills needed to work with financial systems.”

Stevens continues, “In addition to the classroom learning, my experience working as a Legislative Fellow on the [Delaware] House Banking and Insurance and Housing and Community Affairs Committees was instrumental in developing my policy analysis and communication skills. Last but not least, my research assistantships with Dr. [James] Flynn and Bernard Dworsky on Delaware’s education- and transportation-related issues afforded me the opportunity to improve my research and writing skills. All of the experiences fully prepared me for the rigors of a federal budget career.”

Stevens says that, in particular, the time spent working as a Legislative Fellow on public policy issues provided him with valuable opportunities to handle multiple complicated tasks efficiently and effectively. “This has served me well in my career in federal financial management,” he says.

Stevens also reflects on how IPA specifically helped ready him for a public service career.

“Working for IPA and giving presentations in classes taught me the importance of effective communication,” he insists. “Whether it was presenting a paper to classmates, giving a briefing to officials of the Red Clay Consolidated School District, or offering policy analysis to the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly as a Legislative Fellow, I was given many opportunities to hone my oral and written communication skills, which have served me well.” 

Stevens has aspirations beyond his budget analyst post. “Because of my passion for public service in the federal government,” he says, “I’d like to work as a senior administrator at NIH through the Federal Senior Executive Service. This would allow me to lead an organization of dedicated employees in meaningful ways toward meeting the agency’s public-health mission.”

With such a great set of skills, Stevens is well positioned to realize this goal.

In his spare time, Stevens enjoys reading books on history and politics, line dancing, participating in public speaking activities through Toastmasters, and spending time with his family.

Photo courtesy of Mark Stevens, video courtesy of NIH