Skip to main content
Employee Spotlight

Unifying for a Higher Purpose

Eva Witesman believes in creating a better world, and she works toward it through her position as a professor in the BYU Marriott School of Business’s MPA program. Teaching courses on statistics, social impact, and prosocial business strategy, Witesman emphasizes to students the importance of unity with one another and the organizations they will work for.

A woman with long blond curly hair looks straight into the camera while sitting.
Eva Witesman is a professor in the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics and is the director of the Ballard Center for Social Impact.
Photo courtesy of Eva Witesman.

Fresh out of college, Witesman started working at the Waterford Institute, a nonprofit that develops educational software for children. Shortly after beginning her new job, a new manager named Ty Mullen took over. Mullen impressed Witesman by revolutionizing the way she and her colleagues performed at work.

Instead of diving straight in and implementing top-down managerial changes, Mullen chose to improve things from the employee level. For example, he created employee-led pilot programs and an accountability program for the company’s mission-aligned outcomes. “Ty allowed for the employees to connect as people and not just workers,” Witesman explains. “I didn’t know how to do any of the things that he did for our company. I just knew it felt like magic, and I wanted to learn the secrets that allowed Ty to empower us in our work so well.”

Witesman started looking for master’s programs to learn how to tranform organizations just like Mullen had done. “I wondered if I could find an MBA program that specialized in nonprofit and government work, and that’s how I found out what an MPA was.” Witesman went on to earn an MPA degree from Indiana University in Bloomington.

While in Indiana, Witesman felt strongly that she needed to pursue further education. “I had a very clear, direct, and unquestionable revelation that I needed to get my PhD at the university,” she reveals. “So I did it.” Witesman received her PhD in public management and policy analysis in 2009. Getting her PhD was the stepping stone that would lead to teaching MPA students at BYU Marriott’s Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics.

“I started talking to universities and knew BYU was somewhere I would like to end up,” Witesman says. Although Witesman was new to the job market, she was already publishing her own scholarly work and collaborating with mentors.

David Hart, the search committee chair for the MPA program, remembers evaluating her as a candidate. “The thing I was most excited about was Eva’s potential,” Hart explains. “We were super excited to get a quantitatively oriented person who we knew would do well in the classroom, and we were also very impressed by her research trajectory. We all saw that she would be an excellent fit in a very tight-knit and collegial program.”

A woman with long curly blond hair is seated at table with two other people and smiling
Witesman enjoys the team atmosphere of the MPA program.
Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

Collaborating closely with other professors, Witesman works to make the experience better for students. “We run the MPA program as a team and try to have consensus when we’re making tweaks and changes,” Witesman says. “It’s really important to us that what we teach is tethered directly to the skills they’re going to need at work.”

Witesman also builds on the work that other professors do in their classes to solidify core concepts. “I learn what’s going on in other classes, and I have students use the tools they’re learning in my class too,” she explains. For example, another MPA professor teaches the Tuckman model—a model that explains how teams develop and collaborate more effectively over time, so she reinforces this knowledge in her own class; “I try to highlight the ways that it affects the work they do too.”

Also serving as head of the MPA Student Experiences Committee, Witesman interviews MPA students to find where curriculum and instructional adjustments can be made. “We want to understand what their experiences are, including what they love about the program and what they consider to be rough spots,” Witesman says. Understanding the MPA student experience is integral to her goals as a professor.

Throughout the program, MPA students work on projects together, improving their ability to work as a team. Many of the program’s events are directly intended to foster connections and improve cooperation. “It’s so fun because every cohort that comes through has its own personality. We try to facilitate their unique personality so the students learn leadership skills, such as creating a healthy culture and teamwork within a diverse group,” Witesman explains.

Witesman not only wants her students to build collaboration skills, but she also wants businesses to acquire and maintain unity too. “My personal mission is to bring the major institutions of the world closer to Zion,” Witesman explains, specifically referring to government, nonprofit, and business institutions.

Whether teaching students or advising organizations, Witesman actively contributes to bettering the world through collaboration. “Gathering diverse people to interact in unity is my vision,” Witesman says. “That’s why I’m here. That’s what fires me up every day.”


Written by Maggie Olsen