Alumni Voices: Razakh Abukar Abdirahman (MPA 2019)

Razakh and classmates at the 2019 capstone event

By Mikeala Sparks (MUP, International Development)


Razakh was born in Mogadishu, Somalia (a region still under debate as to whether it is Somali or Ethiopian territory) and moved to the US during a refugee resettlement program in Seattle, WA. There, he lived in shelters for two years before his family was able to obtain housing through Section 8, a government assistance program for low- and moderate-income families to rent housing.

Razakh’s new environment was not what he had pictured in the US. He and his family moved to a place called Yesler Terrace, America’s first racially integrated public housing development. Yesler Terrace was also home to Seattle’s poorest families for seven decades, but Razakh remembers the impact his upbringing in Yesler Terrace had on his outlook on public service. 

“Growing up in this area of Seattle, I made friends from all over the world—Bosnia, Pakistan, Armenia— and was able to learn the importance of diversity. This influenced my decision to come to New York City for graduate school. Here, I am able to network with different people and expose myself to a variety of thoughts and cultures to solve some of the world’s greatest problems,” he said.

Before attending NYU Wagner, Razakh worked with the Peace Corps in the Comoros Islands, teaching English to villagers and applying for grants on behalf of small- and medium-sized women-owned and operated enterprises. His purpose for joining the Peace Corps was to gain an international approach to economic development. Although the city was often without power, Razakh was humbled by the experience and honored to secure funding for three companies to receive business development training from Coca-Cola. 

During his experience at NYU Wagner, Razakh interned with the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), as an operational support and quality control intern with the innovations team. Razakh launched the first round of the UNFPA Innovation Lab that focuses on improving internal communication and efficiency for various offices. 

By the end of his first semester, Razakh found the content from his favorite class, Financial management, to be useful and applicable to the projects he worked on with the United Nations. 

“All of my favorite classes were finance-related, especially Financial Management for Global Nonprofit Organizations,” he said. “They were challenging for me because I saw them as puzzles, and I like to solve puzzles. Finance is not subjective— it is practical and applicable.”

During the rest of his time at NYU Wagner, Razakh was active in student organizations including the Black Student Association, Students for Criminal Justice Reform, and the Wagner Refugee Action Council (WAGRAC)

“I’ve received a lot of support from NYU Wagner,” Razakh said. “It’s hard to pick just one good memory because I have so many from immersing myself into the school’s culture.” Another important highlight from his time at NYU Wagner is the role that collaboration and teamwork played. "Without my classmates, I would not have been successful," he believes.

Before he graduated in the Spring of 2019, Razakh worked as a survey support specialist with the NYC Department of Education (DOE). With the DOE, he managed an ongoing help desk caseload, ensuring compliance and quality control with the administration of the NYC Schools Survey. During this period, Razakh learned about obtaining data and utilizing results to illustrate performance. Once the contract ends, he plans to move into advocacy, development, and equity.