Public Service Spotlight
Health Coordinator at the Brownsville Partnership
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 Health Coordinator at the Brownsville Partnership, a community based organization in Brownsville, Brooklyn, I ensure that our multiple health programs are running smoothly. It’s not a conventional health program; it focuses on Active Living and Healthy Eating. This means that no two days are alike! I could spend a day presenting our health work to the State Department of Health in Albany, an hour working with local senior centers in Brownsville to get more seniors involved in our walking groups, or facilitate a community planning meeting to figure out barriers to walkability in Brownsville. My work spans both Urban Planning and Public Health, both the micro and the macro, and forces me to be adaptable, nimble and sharp!
Please summarize your professional and academic background. What has been a highlight?
Prior to this job, I was focused internationally--not only did I complete my MUP at Wagner, but I continued on to receive my MPH at Columbia one year later. 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. 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.
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. At Wagner, I learned to use tools to change what I saw in these cities.
I decided to study at Wagner precisely because the MUP degree was housed in a school of public service, and not in a school of architecture. Whereas traditional urban planning programs focused on hypotheticals, Wagner’s program was 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 increase Active Living and Healthy Eating 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 it taught me 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 organizing the IPSA potluck, to effectively engage every student group to co-sponsor the event and have over 120 people in attendance 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 that I learned on the job, but would have loved to have had a foundation in entering this job.
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 with my friends through organized happy hours and dinners with them. Actually, I got my current job through a Wagner alum! I sent out feelers to all my alum friends, and the job description came across her desk and she immediately thought of me.