Antonio Whitaker
MPA-PNP 2010

Brooklyn Borough Director
New York City Department of Education

What do you do in your current role?

I’m the Brooklyn Borough Director for the New York City Department of Education. In my role, I serve as the DOE’s liaison to all the local elected officials in Brooklyn, including its six members of Congress.

How did you decide to attend Wagner?

What I found most compelling about Wagner was its formidable reputation among top tier public service schools, particularly in the Northeast region of the country. I was working a full time job at the New York City Council at the time that I was strongly considering going back to school for my masters. I wanted to attend a school that was recognized for the caliber of its faculty, as well as the quality of the students that attended that school. More importantly, it had to be located in the greater New York region. After spending several months researching graduate programs that fit my schedule and aligned with the career path I wanted, Wagner was the optimal choice.

What is special about Wagner?

I would have to say that what I found special about Wagner was the way the faculty wanted to cultivate that one-on-one relationship that I believe was essential to my success at Wagner. Whenever I had an issue with a grade or wanted to take some extra time to talk about the specifics of a project, I was able to approach my professors and have an open and frank discussion about it. I also appreciated how the faculty at Wagner encourages you to expand your boundaries and think outside of the box, and to not take everything at face value. Their real world experience really helped to inform my views on issues of importance to me, and I am forever grateful to them for that.

How did you end up where you are?

I’ve always been interested in politics and education, but it took me some time before I found a way to successfully interlace these two pursuits. I started working on my first political campaign as a campaign volunteer coordinator on a City Council race in 2001. My path continued to Albany as a Legislative Assistant for a state Assembly Member and then on to Queens for a state Senator. My path diverted somewhat when I became a NYC Teaching Fellow and taught special education for some time in a public school across from a major public housing project in Jamaica, Queens. After my brief teaching stint, I returned to the political realm and served as a Legislative and Budget Director for several Council Members before accepting a position at the Department of Education. After working for the last several years in politics, I finally was able to work in a position that merges my two most cardinal interests: politics and education.

What are the connections between your Wagner education / experience and your current work?

At Wagner, my focus was management, and I often find myself calling upon the skills I learned in class in the regular course of my job. My role requires that I skillfully manage multiple projects simultaneously, diplomatically manage massive egos (I work with politicians, after all), and know how best to effectively manage my time.

What do you enjoy about your job?

In my currently role, I still have the opportunity to interact with most of the politicians and staffers with whom I cultivated relationships over the years. Most importantly, my job is an amalgamation of the two things I care most about: politics and education. In my position, I’m able to be involved in the shaping of educational policy in New York, and that’s truly exciting.

Were there any skills you gained at Wagner that have been particularly useful / relevant?

I would have to say conflict resolution would be one of the most useful skills I learned at Wagner. I’ve had to use the techniques I learned on several occasions in the course of my duties!

What are your future goals for your career?

In a few years, I would like to be the head of Governmental Relations for a major non-profit organization, or a lobbyist/political strategist for a national consulting firm. I’m also thinking about running for political office in a few years, so stay tuned!

Do you have any thoughts or advice for Wagner students / alumni?

For current Wagner students, make sure you use every networking opportunity to your advantage. You never know what great opportunities are waiting for you!