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Animal Advocacy Leads Graduate Student to Focus on the Impact of Public Policy

Photo of Michele Patterson and her three dogs

Michele Patterson ’22 is working on her Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) at York College of Pennsylvania. 

Michele Patterson ’22 sees examples of animal cruelty on a regular basis in Pennsylvania. From trucks packed with chickens and pigs for slaughter to the farms advertising dogs bred in puppy mills, Michele found fuel for her passion to help make changes.

“A national organization emailed me about a volunteer policy position, and I knew this was what I wanted to do.  It felt like fate,” she says. “It led me to dive into legislation and meet with policymakers to say, ‘things have to be different.’ ”

While she already has a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Policy and Administration ’91 from Penn State, Michele saw an opportunity to deepen her knowledge and make her work even more impactful.

She was teaching yoga when COVID-19 shut down studios and laid off yoga instructors. She didn’t see the industry going back to business-as-usual, and a friend who attended York College of Pennsylvania introduced her to the postgraduate program offerings.

Michele was looking for a school she could commute to and study for her Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA), a program she knew was not available at many nearby colleges.

“Public policy is where my passion has been for a long time,” Michele says. “My goal is to work with organizations that make animal welfare and protection policy a priority.”

Better prepared

Even though she has been doing advocacy work since 2016, Michele feels better prepared walking into meetings with legislators thanks to her York College education.

While most of her advocacy is at the federal level, she’s working on Victoria’s Law (SB 234, HB1299) in Pennsylvania, which would put a retail sales ban on the commercial breeding of cats, dogs, and rabbits. In the Commonwealth, she says, there are still 41 pet stores that source commercially bred animals.

Through her continued efforts, she leans on the experiences she’s had through York College coursework to better her volunteer impact. “I feel like I may be one of few students who use every resource the College offers,” she says, laughing. 

That means Michele can be meeting with the Writing Center, the Career Development Center, and getting input on her research papers and policy work from her professors. It’s helped her become a better writer and, therefore, a better advocate, she says.

She finds her classes, such as a strategic planning course, help her dive deeper into the subjects that matter to her. She was tasked to analyze a government agency and chose the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. While doing required work for her quantitative analysis class, she was also able to compare Pennsylvania state rankings to other states when it comes to animal cruelty laws.

“There’s a lot of information out there, and it’s tough to know it all unless you’re really tuned into the issues,” Michele says. “York College gave me an opportunity to do that.”