December 2020 Student Spotlight
December 2020 Student Spotlight with Mark Tria, BSPA ’20
Fire Department of New York veteran Mark Tria came to Marxe via the School’s FDNY-BSPA program to upgrade his college education from Associate’s to Bachelor’s. In this spotlight he tells us about his experience in the FDNY, his transition to the Marxe School, and more.
Tell us about your experience at the FDNY. What were some of the greatest challenges you faced during your time there?
The bulk of my career with the FDNY was spent supervising the Emergency Crew, which was the call center for field repairs of department equipment such as ambulances, fire engines and other miscellaneous questions that field units had. My job was to make sure that all the equipment in the field was ready to respond and address any problems with them. I was also responsible for operating our mobile fuel truck, this task lead me to be deployed to New Orleans during hurricane Katrina. My biggest challenge, outside of dealing with the WTC attack and the unexpected time away from my family over the years, was to carry out my duties effectively within the manpower and budget constraints allotted. Some of the most heart-wrenching times were when I would go to a fire around the holidays and see kid’s toys strewn out in front of their homes, I could never get used to that.
After so many years in a steady and fruitful career why did you make your way back to a college education?
I would like to say my returning to college was a planned and determine event but that is really not the case. While I was assigned to the Randall’s Island Shop the department sponsored a college fair with some of the CUNY colleges. I had always thought about law school so I went had talked to the people from John Jay who were rather indifferent. I then sat through a presentation by Melissa Sultana about the BSPA program at Baruch and how they were looking forward to working with the FDNY members to form a student cohort. I have been interested in public policy and helping people all my life so this seemed like a good fit. Although I loved my job I knew retirement was approaching and was not the type to sit and watch television all day so I spoke to Melissa and explained that I originally graduated college in 1980 with an Associate’s Degree and was somewhat apprehensive about returning. She helped me with the application process and next thing I knew I was a college student again.
All the professors in the Marxe School were very supportive and tried to accommodate my work schedule and my need to suddenly leave class due to work. The program afforded me opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. I was able to participate in a United Nations Earth Day conference along with participating in several student conferences and competitions about policy making. I think one of the biggest opportunities I had was the opportunity to do internships. I don’t recall this being available the first time I went to college and would highly recommend students take full advantage of them.
What was your internship with the NYC Council like? Did you or the Councilmember(s) you supported have any notable accomplishments during your internship?
Interning with the City Council while still with the FDNY was an interesting experience. I had to work hard to keep the two separate and not use information from one entity with the other. In the council members office I did a lot of research on different topics such as local farming and restaurant wages. I was also involved with safety netting on the foul lines at baseball stadiums. I did not realize that more people were injured watching a ball game than actually playing the game.
You were a New York State Senate intern as well. What were some key differences going from the city level to the state level?
Unfortunately my NYS internship was cut drastically short by COVID-19 and many of the associated events never happened. I have said in the past that it you want to see government in action, or inaction, observe it during a crisis. I found that the city council seems to react faster than the NYS government to public concerns. I noticed that there was more personal contact with elected leaders in the city than in the state. My personal opinion is that much of it has to do with the size of each level of government and the fact that the city council is only one chamber whereas the state has both the Senate and the Assembly. I found both experiences to very educational in their own right; looking back I would do both of them again.