Engaging a New Generation in Public Service

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This September, The New School’s Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment hosted its first Public Service Weekend, partnering with the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) and the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

Thirty-two undergraduates and recent graduates from across the metropolitan area, and beyond, visited The New School to participate in the weekend conference around the theme of “Engaging a New Generation to Restore Trust in Public Service.”

The Public Service Weekend began with a keynote from University Professor Maya Wiley, who spoke about the importance of people with a wide range of lived experience going into public service and the fact that we can only fix injustices by listening to people who understand the flaws in the system. “In public service, what is right is what is right for the people that you serve,” she said. In light of recent events, Maya reminded us that as a public servant you must be held to the highest standard and that your job is not to be popular, but to be principled. Maya spoke of her own early career in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, “I was not the attorney for my boss, but for the people. My ethical and legal obligation is to advise and represent them, but never beyond the bounds of the law.”

Alumna Alexandria McBride opened the all-day Saturday session with a talk on the Activist-Bureaucrat, examining governmental activism. Alex is a 2016 graduate of Milano’s Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management program and currently serves as Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Oakland, CA. In her talk, Alex quoted Dolores Huerta: “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.” She told the audience, “Working in public service is the most fulfilling role I’ve had. I am excited for this next generation to get to a new level of your career and advance the change you want to see.”

Charles Allison, Associate Professor of Professional Practice at Milano, moderated a panel on policy in practice and its application in work settings. In his opening remarks, he commented, “I am so fortunate to have had prior direct or indirect contact with all of the panelists– either through the Urban Policy Lab, as an advisor, or through one of my finance, infrastructure or leadership courses.  It really is great to see them out in the world as leaders making a difference.” Panelist Sarah Fajardo ’13 talked about her work as the Policy Director for the ACLU-NJ and about serving on the board of the grassroots organizing nonprofit CAAAV-Organizing Asian Americans. Nicole Lau ’18 specializes in the areas of community development finance and small business growth. She is an Assistant Vice President at Citi Community Development and an advocate for revitalizing New York City’s local manufacturing industry. Jeff Lindor ‘15 is the Founder and CEO of The Gentlemen’s Factory, a coworking social club that provides a space for men of color to come together and share ideas. Jeff spoke about the racial economic disparities that inspired him to study urban policy. Mariana Peinado is an Argentinian lawyer, who holds a Master’s degree in Constitutional Law and Human Rights, and who was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2018 to pursue a Master’s in Public and Urban Policy at The New School. Davis Winslow ‘15 spoke about his work as a Senior Economist in the New York City Council’s Finance Division.

Conference goers got their own opportunity to put policy into practice with a policy-learning experience led by Rachel Meltzer, Associate Professor of Urban Policy and Chair of the MS Public and Urban Policy Program. The workshop was facilitated by Milano alumni Belen Fodde ’19 (now working on her PhD at the Milano School), Adrienne Hadaway ’14, Luisa Rodriguez-Aponte ’17, Edward Ubiera ’07, and Sam Wu ’18; along with current students Duncan Miller, Doug Salathé, Andrew Stark, and Lila Zwonitzer

PPIA’s vision is to create a new generation of diverse students to enter graduate programs and pursue careers in public service.  Director of Admission Merida Escandon Gasbarro and Assistant Director Gabriela Garcia Juarez gave a talk on how applying to graduate school works.  Many of the students attending the conference are already exploring policy careers through internships with organizations such as the International Rescue Committee, Pennsylvania Women’s Law Project, the NYC Mayor’s Office, New York State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright’s office, and the NY State Supreme Court.

Saturday ended with a closing reception. Many lasting connections were made. 

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