Overcoming the odds

Adrienne Draper, a Wright State marketing graduate, is now pursuing a Master of Public Administration while serving on the Englewood City Council.

As a child, Adrienne Draper was often told that college was not in her future. How ironic then that not only is she a recent Wright State University graduate but also returned to Wright State to pursue a Master of Public Administration while serving as an elected council member for the city in which she was raised and still calls home.

After graduating from Northmont High School, Draper, 25, enrolled at Sinclair College and then transferred to Wright State, where she received a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Currently, she works in the Montgomery County Treasurer’s Office.

But that’s not where her story ends.

A political neophyte, Draper was encouraged by her peers, city stakeholders and others to run for Englewood City Council in 2019 during her first term at Wright State. Five candidates were running for four openings. At the age of 21, Draper won her first election for council, becoming the youngest woman to hold elected office in Montgomery County, according to the Board of Elections.

“I was shocked and humbled,” she said of her election night victory. “All my hard work paid off.”

A commitment to her hometown is what drove Draper to run for office. But it was not her victory alone as she credits many people for helping to make it happen.

For instance, Wright State gave her the tools to succeed, and her professors were understanding of her unique situation.

Kunal Swani, Ph.D., professor of marketing, helped Draper cultivate a marketing campaign combatting some issues like her age, while her Entrepreneurship Club advisor, Kendall Goodrich, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Marketing, assisted with marketing strategy. Countless classmates aided with tasks from literature design to door-knocking that supported Draper’s success.

She described her first time on the dais for a council meeting as a full circle moment.

“I remember looking into the audience seeing everyone who got me there feeling so grateful,” she said. “At the same time, it was time to get to work and do the job I was elected to do.”

During her time in office, Draper said Englewood has become more transparent and has worked to increase civic engagement with high school students. She has also earned the respect of her fellow City Council members.

“Adrienne has a strong desire to learn,” said Brad Daugherty, the vice mayor of Englewood. “Even though she is very young, she takes everything in and is eager to listen to more experienced council members. Adrienne brings a young perspective to council which will make our council stronger and representative of the entire Englewood community.”

Draper’s success is evidenced by the fact that after her partial term expired, she ran for re-election in 2021 and was the top vote-getter.

Her primary goal during her second term is to update the city’s Comprehensive Community Development Plan, which has remained unchanged since 1998.

“Businesses, government and technology have changed a lot since 1998, and it is not reflected in our plans and strategies for the city,” she said.

Her work on the Englewood City Council partially fueled her decision to enroll in the Master of Public Administration program at Wright State, where she was awarded the prestigious Wright Fellow Scholarship.

“After getting on council, I knew I wanted to go for my MPA. The program at Wright State was a winner for me,” said Draper. “I enjoy the multidisciplinary approach the program offers and the ability to learn from my peers who work in different private- and public-sector backgrounds.”

And if she weren’t already busy enough, Draper is a president’s ambassador and serves on the Graduate and Honors Student Advisory Board as the vice president of public relations.

“It has always been clear to me that Adrienne had leadership potential and strong business and organizational planning skills,” said Goodrich.

Daniel Warshawsky, Ph.D., associate professor of geography and director of the MPA Program, echoed the sentiment.

“Adrienne is one of the best MPA students we have had in years,” Warshawsky said. “And even though Adrienne is very busy as a City Council member in Englewood and MPA student, she remains one of the most engaged students in our program. She volunteers to help with student recruiting, program events and other opportunities across campus.”

Although she is uncertain as to what the future ultimately holds for her, Draper is sure of one thing — that whatever she decides to do impacts those whose lives mirror hers as a young girl.

“I hope I can help others who were in my shoes and felt like something was impossible,” she said. “It is not when you have support around you, which I hope to be for others somehow.”

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