August 2015 Alumni Spotlight
August Alumni Spotlight with Farhana Hassan, BSPA ‘14
Since graduating the BSPA program last year, Farhana has had an impressive start going from Colin Powell Fellow to Community Liaison in the Office of a New York State senator. We speak about her post-graduation roles, the issues she’s passionate about, and her experience at the School of Public Affairs.
What did you learn during your year working in Washington, D.C. as a Colin Powell Fellow and at the Posse Foundation?
Within my first year upon graduation, I was able to experience the best of both worlds working for a federal agency and a national nonprofit organization shaping my understanding of service delivery and the public sector.
While putting together briefing documents for Mayors and Governors prior to trade missions or representing the Acting Special Representative at meetings, I learned just how important foreign investment and international business are to our diplomatic relationships abroad.
During my time at the Posse Foundation, I got to immerse myself in the nonprofit sector and the world of higher education. Working closely with the director and the development team taught me the importance of cultivating a culture of philanthropy to lead any highly functional non profit organization. While working for Posse, I also learned the importance of diversity of thought and inclusiveness in any organization. I strive to take this mindset with me wherever I go professionally.
You’re the Community Liaison in the Office of NYS Senator Jose M. Serrano as of just two months ago. What drew you to that role?
As an undergrad, I had the opportunity to intern for New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery as a Caucus CUNY Scholar. Working at Senator Montgomery’s district office exposed me to so many complex issues that affect millions of New Yorkers every day and just being around her tenacious, wise personality resonated with me more than I knew at the time. When I learned of this position, I thought of my experience as a Caucus CUNY Scholar and knew right away that the role of a Community Liaison with Senator Serrano’s office was a challenge worth exploring.
However, what really drew me to this role are the issues surrounding all New Yorkers including myself and my family and the Senator’s positions on these topics as a legislator. As a college graduate, starting a life and a career, I only hope that legislators will steer this city and state in the right direction. I worry about affordable housing and rent regulation, wage laws (for men and women), a quality public education system, criminal justice reform, among other issues. Engaging community members to contribute towards meaningful legislation, is what undoubtedly drew me to this position.
What is it like being the Community Liaison for Senator Serrano?
These past three months have flown by faster than I imagined with everything that’s happened during session in Albany and in the communities of the 29th Senate district. The district encompasses the South Bronx, East Harlem, Yorkville, the Upper West Side, as well as Roosevelt Island. Rent regulation, rezoning, affordable housing, police relations/criminal justice reform are issues currently affecting the constituents of our diverse district.
Hosting weekly off-site constituent hours and collaborating with community leaders, activists, nonprofits and other elected officials’ offices has helped me to identify and address the root issues in order to enhance the quality of life for these communities and all New Yorkers. My day-to-day responsibilities involve attending various meetings and town halls, meeting with constituents and community groups about the changes that their neighborhoods may face in this continuously evolving city. Working to ensure the local community’s interests are preserved while encouraging progress has been a wonderful challenge.
Most recently, I put together an IDNYC info session during one of the Senator’s off-site constituent services hours at the High Bridge area in the Bronx. Many undocumented New Yorkers living in this city lack proper identification to access certain services and institutions. In a single afternoon, we helped a largely spanish speaking community fill out applications and set up appointments to receive their free municipal IDs. With these IDs, these New Yorkers will now be able to have proper identification to do simple day-to-day things that we take for granted like open up a bank account or be able to register for administered exams. Moments like this where I am able to connect our constituents to resources that make their lives a little easier, is probably the most rewarding aspect of this job.
How has the School of Public Affairs helped you to achieve your goals thus far?
Transferring to Baruch College for the School of Public Affairs was the best decision I could have made as I was not only looking for a program that was academically enriching but one that would simultaneously allow me to grow professionally. Programs like the Hagedorn Internship course afforded me the ability to gain real world experience in the nonprofit sector and apply what I was learning in the classroom.
More importantly, my professors weren’t people I simply saw twice a week and communicated with over email, they are my mentors till this day. Because of Professors like Michael Feller, I am exactly where I want to be today. He didn’t simply provide recommendations but he took the time help me grow professionally from internships to full time offers. Professors are always willing to be a resource and to guide students/alumni through the nonprofit and government industries which will undoubtedly continue to help the School of Public Affairs inspire future change agents.