"Sitting at the Table"
PROVO, Utah – Mar 18, 2020 – Lori Wadsworth, the director of BYU Marriott’s MPA program, missed only one night of classes during her time as a student in the BYU Marriott Executive MPA (EMPA) program—the night of her son’s birth.
During Wadsworth’s time as a student in the EMPA program, she worked full-time at BYU Graduate Studies while she and her husband were raising five children, six once the aforementioned son was born. Though Wadsworth had multiple responsibilities, earning her EMPA through the Romney Institute was worthwhile.
“The BYU Marriott EMPA program changed my life in significant ways,” says Wadsworth. “During those three years, I went from having little confidence in my abilities to walking out feeling like I could do hard things.”
While Wadsworth was in the program, several faculty members approached her and asked if she had considered pursuing a PhD. “I hadn’t, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I would like being at the front of the class as a professor instead of sitting in the back of the class as a student,” she says.
Wadsworth gave birth to their seventh and eighth children, twins, four months before she started her PhD program. “That time period was crazy because there were ten of us in our family, and we didn’t have any income other than the stipend that the University of Utah gave me,” says Wadsworth. “Earning my PhD was definitely a team effort with my husband taking care of everything at home so I could concentrate on my PhD.”
Nevertheless, pursuing a PhD opened up possibilities for Wadsworth. While she was completing her PhD, she returned to BYU Marriott’s MPA program as a visiting professor with the intention of staying for one year. That year turned into two years, and twenty years later, Wadsworth now sits behind a desk as the MPA program’s director. “BYU is where I needed to make my impact,” says Wadsworth. “I’ve had the opportunity to make a difference here.”
Becoming a professor in BYU Marriott’s MPA program allowed Wadsworth to work alongside her own role models from the program. “When I came to the MPA program, the people who I think of as the giants of the program—Gary Cornia, Gloria Wheeler, Bob Parsons, Dale Wright, Doyle Buckwalter, Lennis Knighton, Karl Snow—were here,” says Wadsworth. “Being among people who were my heroes was a thrill to me. They had been my professors, and suddenly I was sitting next to them at the table.”
In 2017, Wadsworth was given the chance to have an even greater impact when the MPA program’s faculty and staff selected her as the program’s director. In this role, Wadsworth teaches the MPA program’s leadership capstone class, conducts research in work-life integration, helps with alumni relations, and more.
Wadsworth is also the chair of BYU Marriott’s Inclusion Committee. “As director, I’m part of the MPA staff, so I have one foot there, and I’m a faculty member, so I have another foot there, and I don’t have another foot, but maybe like a Twister game, I’ve got my arm in the inclusion committee,” says Wadsworth.
Though the role of director is a balancing act, Wadsworth enjoys the challenge, especially when she gets the chance to interact with students and alumni. “My heart is with the BYU Marriott MPA program,” says Wadsworth. “Something special goes on here. Our students want to make a difference in the world, and the alumni feel the way I do—that the MPA program has changed our lives.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Natalia Green