GradImpact: Advocating for Solutions that Promote Public Safety and Rehabilitation

    Ryan Gentzler, a recent Master of Public Administration recipient from the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, saw many challenges facing his fellow Oklahomans from low and middle-income families. Having worked for Tulsa non-profits, he realized that public policy research and advocacy were ways for him to help his community, and he knew the MPA program at OU-Tulsa would help him develop those skills.


    “Low-paying work, difficult-to-access healthcare, underfunded schools, and a punitive criminal justice system can make the struggle out of poverty insurmountable, landing the state at the bottom of the pack in many measures of well-being,” said Gentzler. “[I’m] hoping to address these challenges at the structural level.” Gentzler now works for the Oklahoma Policy Institute as a policy analyst. His current focus is to raise awareness surrounding Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. The state’s incarceration rate is one of the highest in the country, and Gentzler seeks solutions to reduce these numbers and promote public safety and rehabilitation.


    In the first survey of its kind, Gentzler researched thousands of public records to ascertain how much money in fines and legal fees Oklahomans owed to the court system, and he wanted to know where they lived. Gentzler discovered that as Oklahoma’s state budget got tighter, the court fees increased to meet the shortfalls. In some cases, the fees more than doubled. In addition, Gentzler found that “people in low-income neighborhoods in Tulsa County owed up to ten times as much in court debt as those in wealthier neighborhoods, creating a huge barrier to economic mobility and trapping people in a cycle of incarceration and poverty.” To learn more about Ryan’s work visit the OU-Tulsa website and the Oklahoma Policy Institute.


    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.


    Photo Credit: Becca Hyvonen, OU-Tulsa



    The CGS GRADIMPACT project draws from member examples to tell the larger story of graduate education. Our goal is to demonstrate the importance of graduate education not only to degree holders, but also to the communities where we live and work. Do you have a great story to share about the impact of master’s or doctoral education? Visit our WEBSITE for more information.


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