Alumni in Action

Public Service Spotlight

Cuong Nguyen

MPA-PNP - 2007

Senior Manager of Talent and Administration at Net Impact

Tell us about your current public service work. Can you briefly describe your employment organization and position responsibilities, as well as any relevant volunteer or entrepreneurial activities?

I am the Senior Manager of Talent and Administration at Net Impact, a San Francisco-based nonprofit with more than 290 chapters worldwide, providing support, connections, and practical advice to help people in all sectors and job functions using their careers to create a more just and sustainable future. In this role, I am charged with developing and executing the organization’s strategy to attract, develop, retain, and promote high-performing staff at all levels of the organization. I am also tasked with maintain efficient office operations and supporting the finance and accounting functions of the organization.

Please summarize your professional and academic background. What has been a highlight?

Before joining Net Impact, I worked in various management and human resources roles in New York City, including the Manhattan Borough President's Office and the New York City Department of Small Business Services. I started my career as a Peace Corps Volunteer providing business assistance to entrepreneurs and cooperatives in Honduras. Along with my MPA from NYU Wagner, I hold a BS in Business Administration from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

What led you to pursue a master's degree in Public Administration? Why did you decide to study at Wagner?

In pursuing a master's degree, I wanted to obtain an educational experience that would lend itself easily to a career in the public sector. I wanted hands on learning and Wagner provided that with its core curriculum, Capstone projects and excellent professors who are not just experts, but current practitioners in their fields.

In your current position, how do you use the knowledge and skills that you gained at Wagner? Which skills do you use most frequently?

Wagner gave me a broad set of skills in project management, program measurement and financial analysis that has enabled me to easily transition from the government sector to the nonprofit sector. In my role in talent development and administration, I use both soft and hard skills I gained from my experience at Wagner.

Reflecting on your academic experience, what Wagner courses, professors, and / or projects had the greatest influence on your professional development? How?

Two particular courses that I enjoyed the most were Financial Management for Public, Nonprofit, and Health Organizations and Public Economics. Both courses provided me with hard skills in finance, economics and programs that I still use to this day.

Reflecting on your time outside of the classroom (social events, orientations, trainings, etc.), can you describe one or two key moments at Wagner that impacted your passion for public service?

I was involved in the Wagner Finance Society and through the interactions with the club members, our club advisor and wider Wagner community, I became convinced that public service was my calling.

Are there any programs, opportunities or other aspects of the Wagner experience that you wish you had leveraged during your time as a student?

I felt that I fully took advantage of all types of opportunities at Wagner. One experience that I didn't get a chance to participate in that I wish I would have was being an advisor during the new student orientations.

How are you involved with the Wagner community as an alumnus (i.e. attending events, mentoring students, maintaining connections with other alumni, recruiting at Wagner, etc.)?

I've been asked to participate in two career panels for alumni working in government and those were particularly satisfying as I got to interact with engaged and intelligent students.

Prospective students have expressed interest in learning how alumni funded their living expenses and education during their time as a Wagner student. If you feel comfortable, would you please tell us how you made it work?

I began as a full-time student with federal and personal loans - but through the extensive network at Wagner, I obtained an internship my first year that eventually turned into a full-time position. So after my first year, I switched to being a part-time student and worked full-time to help fund my living expenses and education for the following two years until I graduated.