April 2020 Alumni Spotlight
April Alumni Spotlight with Jeffers Kuo, MPA ‘17
Senior Development Officer at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center in Hong Kong, Jeffers Kuo talks about his Marxe experience as an international student, his drive for nonprofit management, and his work at the Center.
Why did you choose to come to Marxe and how has your experience been thus far in the context of coming in as an international student?
My formal involvement with the nonprofit sector started when I worked for a Chilean nonprofit called Todo Mejora, an organization that serves local LGBTQ children and teenagers. Through my experience there, I realized the importance of having professionals specializing in nonprofit administration working in the sector and decided to further my education. After conducting some research and seeking advice from others, New York City was the best place to study nonprofit management. It is home to more than 35,000 nonprofits, providing employment to more than 600,000 people. Many international organizations also reside there, making the city even more diverse to someone foreign like me.
Deciding to study for a master’s degree was not easy, but it sure was easy choosing the right school. I knew Marxe was for me as soon as I read about its flexible yet rigorous program, excellent faculty from diverse academic and professional background, and solid network of alumni and networking opportunities. As an international student, I wanted to learn more about how American nonprofits operate and apply that knowledge anywhere I go. At the same time, social life was crucial for me, and I always had the need to create new connections. Luckily, Marxe was a welcoming school and experienced in taking care of international students. The International Student Service Center supported me as a newcomer to the U.S. while Academic Advisement Office provided me advice through the lens of an international student. The student body is composed by both local students and international students, which gave me the chance to learn more about New York life with my peer but never feeling too much like an outsider with other international students by my side.
What drives your passion for nonprofit management?
I have been volunteering at different nonprofits since I was a teenager, assisting in different projects from cleaning the beach to providing care to homeless children. Even though I couldn’t place a proper term to it, I always knew that helping others would bring me immense amount of joy and tranquility. After my undergraduate program and having entered the professional world, it was evident to me that whatever I do needs more than remuneration—I needed to work with purpose. Working for Todo Mejora opened my eyes as I learned that it is viable to make a living while championing a cause; however, during my time there I also realized there is a deficiency of nonprofit professionals in the sector. Many people from different backgrounds are devoted to their nonprofit work, but rarely do you see someone with a nonprofit management degree. In an era where we value education and specialization, I found it difficult to believe the nonprofit sector wasn’t led by people who actually learn how to run them. You need a medical degree to treat patients, an architecture degree to design houses, why do we not uphold the same standards for running a nonprofit? In a way, I grew passionate about nonprofit management because I wanted to be the missing link of specialized knowledge applied in real world.
What do you do as Senior Development Officer at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center in Hong Kong? How have you applied your Marxe education to the challenges of this role?
I have been working at Asia Society Hong Kong Center for over four months now. As the Senior Development Officer, I manage foundation and corporate relationship for Asia Society Hong Kong, preparing proposals, reports, and correspondence for the Center’s programs and exhibitions. I also plan and execute events of different scales, from small private engagement programs to large fundraising galas. As it is for every role, challenges may arise from time to time, but thanks to my learning at Marxe, I was always able to navigate them at ease. Sometimes the challenges can be more general and strategic, such as setting a development target or creating a fundraising strategy for a campaign, and I always refer back to what I learned at Administration of the Nonprofit Sector and Voluntary Agencies and try to be as inclusive as possible for all stakeholders. In other instances where I need to budget for our program or exhibition, all the knowledge from Budgeting and Finance for Nonprofits would pop up, and suddenly I am the one who knows how to explain the items in a way that our constituents and sponsors can easily understand. Of course, since I am fundraising for a nonprofit, everything I do and know how to do are greatly attributed to Marxe, and I always look forward to using my experiences and knowledge in my next project.