MUP Alumni in Action
MUP - 2009
Senior Project Manager Rebuild By Design
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?
As the Community Planning and Health Programs Manager at the Brownsville Partnership, I manage all community planning and community health programming in Brownsville, Brooklyn, including programs related to active living, healthy eating, placemaking and neighborhood mobilization. In this role, I directly manage four program coordinators and lead a team of ten. I am building the department as I lead it, so there’s a lot of pinch hitting, a lot of building the car while driving, and tons of creative thinking and problem solving!
I began working at the Brownsville Partnership as a health coordinator and I transitioned into my current role after a year with the organization. The shift hasn’t been seamless, but I’ve learned a whole new set of skills that I hadn’t encountered as a program coordinator.
Please summarize your professional and academic background. What has been a highlight?
After completing my MUP at Wagner, I continued on to receive my MPH at Columbia one year later.
I was always toggling back and forth between my interests in public health and urban planning and gained an immense amount of knowledge working and interning in both fields, at organizations that focused on both the macro and micro level. Throughout my time in graduate school, I interned and worked part time at the United Nations, the Clinton Foundation, NYC Department of City Planning, the Manhattan Borough Presidents Office, and at the NYU Center for Asian American Health.
What led you to pursue a master's degree in Urban Planning? Why did you decide to study at Wagner?
I grew up in Boston, but my parents are from India. As I traveled back and forth between these two countries and three cities, I longed for the language to articulate the differences between these urban centers. At Bryn Mawr College, where I received my BA, I was able to study and understand these differences. I knew I wanted to do more than just understand the differences; at Wagner, I learned to use tools to change issues I perceived in these cities.
I decided to study at Wagner precisely because the MUP degree was housed in a school of public service, not in a school of architecture. Where traditional urban planning programs focus on hypotheticals, Wagner’s program is grounded in reality--and it is that grounding that allowed my transition from student to employee to be a seamless and pleasant one.
In your current position, how do you use the knowledge and skills that you gained at Wagner? Which skills do you use most frequently?
As I work to manage multiple programs and initiatives here in Brownsville Brooklyn, I draw on my knowledge and skills gained from Wagner daily. These include: the ability to work in teams, to synthesis materials and 'get to the point' in a short amount of time, the ability look at the micro and macro level repercussions simultaneously, and the ability to forge strong partnerships with other organizations and individuals in positions that can facilitate a safer, healthier, more prosperous Brownsville.
Reflecting on your academic experience, what Wagner courses, professors, and / or projects had the greatest influence on your professional development? How?
The Capstone experience, above all, taught me more than all my classes combined. It taught me to liaise with clients, get projects done on time, be professional, and be effective. It taught me how to work on a project in a team effectively, and how to advocate for myself.
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?
Serving on the International Public Service Association (IPSA) Board was a class in itself. As the 'ambassador of fun,' I managed and organized all the social programming for IPSA. It was an amazing experience that taught me how to create invaluable networking opportunities for Wagner students. My success in effectively engaging every student group by co-sponsoring the IPSA potluck, and attracting over 120 attendees was an amazing accomplishment.
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 wish I had taken the Project Management course. It is a practical skill I learned on the job, but would have loved to have had a foundation when entering the workforce. In my role as a department manager, a course on managing employees and building effective leaders would have been really helpful as well.
How are you involved with the Wagner community as an alumna (i.e. attending events, mentoring students, maintaining connections with other alumni, recruiting at Wagner, etc.)?
I do my best to keep in touch and maintain my network of friends through organized happy hours and dinners. I actually found my first job at the Brownsville Partnership through a Wagner alum! When job searching, I sent out feelers to my Wagner friends, and when the job description came across one alumna’s desk, she immediately thought of me.
Next week, I am meeting with a fellow Wagner alum who is interested in the Brownsville Partnership’s on the ground collaborations. I’m always looking to connect with Wagner alumni whose work focuses on healthy communities, either in the realm of urban planning or public health! If that’s you, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.