Wilder alumnus hopes to make big change by starting small
By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)
Javon Davis (B.A.’14/GPA; Cert.’15/GPA; M.P.A.’16/GPA), policy and government affairs manager for the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department takes over the VCU Alumni Instagram tomorrow, Sept. 18.
Why did you choose VCU?
After growing up in a small town in southern Virginia, I was really looking for an urban environment for college. My uncle, a fellow VCU alumnus, lived in the Richmond, Virginia, area and I always loved coming to the city to see him and explore. While VCU had always been No. 1 in the back of my mind, it was a campus tour that really sold me. I instantly felt at home on campus and the welcoming, diverse community was everything I dreamed of. VCU is one of few schools in the country that offers a homeland security program, and with incredible opportunities in and out of the classroom, it was an easy choice for me.
What sparked your interest in public administration?
My father, uncle and grandfather all had public service experience in some capacity so it has always interested me. When I originally came to VCU, I studied homeland security and emergency preparedness in hopes of working in federal law enforcement with an agency like the FBI. However, through different experiences I had while interning around Richmond, I learned that instead of putting more people in prison, I wanted to be on the other side and help build strong communities that give people opportunities outside of crime.
After that realization, I worked to get a Master of Public Administration after I finished my undergraduate studies in 2014. Now I’m applying my degree by working in local government.
What was your VCU experience like over the years?
Nothing short of amazing. When I finished undergrad, I knew I wasn’t quite ready to leave yet, so I was extremely happy when I was awarded the Eva S. Hardy Scholarship in Public Administration and the L. Douglas Wilder Graduate Scholars Fellowship which allowed me to gain real-world experience working with the Virginia Department of Corrections while pursuing my M.P.A.
I think my experience at VCU definitely played a role in encouraging my call to work in government. From the moment I stepped on campus, I was floored by the diversity. I learned so much about language, religion, gender, sexuality and race from my peers. VCU opened my eyes to the fact that 32,000 people, all of whom come from different backgrounds, can still connect in a meaningful way. In many ways, I see VCU as a microcosm of what America could be.
How did you land in Kansas City after graduation?
I knew I wanted to be a part of creating strong, prosperous communities, and I knew that local government is where one can have the most impact in the shortest amount of time. However, I didn’t know which department or which position would be the best for me within a large city government.
After being chosen for the Cookingham-Noll Management Fellowship by the city of Kansas City, Missouri, I started working in the city manager’s office here. It allowed me the opportunity to rotate through six departments over a two-year period, helping me grow in ways I could not have imagined. From this experience, I learned the intricacies of city administration, researched issues that are being faced in cities throughout the country and have met connections that will last a lifetime. While I do miss Richmond, Kansas City has been exactly what I needed right out of graduate school.