January 2016 Alumni Spotlight
January Alumni Spotlight with Rosalba Messina, Executive MPA ’13
Many modern professionals find the demands of the nonprofit landscape now require an extra level of education and preparation. Accomplished nonprofit professional Rosalba Messina (Executive MPA ’13) believes that “learning is a life-long” process, and so decided to continue her education despite her already successful career. She tells us about her decision to come back to school, how nonprofits can evolve for the better, and what has changed since she received her Executive degree.
You’ve held vital positions for many years now at LGBT Community Services Center, GLAAD, and the Messina Consulting Group (which you founded), but chose to further your education at the School of Public Affairs just a few years ago. Why do this when your career has already been so successful?
Although I have had a successful business career, I chose to further my education at the School of Public Affairs for two reasons: 1. Learning is a life-long process for me and it was always a personal goal of mine to achieve my Master’s degree; 2. Given my successful career in the nonprofit sector and my desire to continue to effect positive change in the world through my work, it seemed natural to do that through the Executive MPA program.
I received my undergraduate degree from Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business and I have a huge love for Baruch. I researched MPA programs at several schools and in the end chose Baruch’s School of Public Affairs because of the incredibly rich program compared to the cost. I spoke with several students who had graduated from this program who had only great things to say, including the cohort model, classes, and professors. And at least one of those graduates started their MPA programs at other schools and transferred to Baruch program because they did not find those other programs to be as enriching as they’d hoped.
And the benefits of the program lives on for me every day – both from what I learned in class and continue to learn from my cohort. We still get together regularly! I love my Executive MPA cohort!
What makes an effective coach when it comes to assisting nonprofits improve their human and organizational capacity?
I believe what makes me an effective change agent are the following: 1. Building strong relationships built on trust; 2. Listening, listening, listening; 3. Asking tough questions; 4. Being persistent (change does not happen overnight); 5. Knowledge of nonprofit management best practices.
What was the most challenging case you’ve ever taken? How did you accomplish what you set out to?
In my work with nonprofit organizations, the most challenging cases are those organizations with great resistance to change. Keeping in mind that resistance is normal with organizational growth, I use the following as a strategy to assist in overcoming that resistance: 1. Communicate the threat to the organization of NOT changing; 2. Involve the team in decision-making (change is less scary when you are driving!); 3. Be as transparent as possible to minimize uncertainty; 4. Celebrate successes along the way; 5. Continue to explain the necessity and reasons for change.
What has changed for you since you finished your Executive MPA?
I earned my Executive Masters in Public Administration from the School while successfully working and managing my own consulting business. I proudly display my diploma and I am thrilled to have this added accomplishment. It feels great to be able to add MPA to my credentials, along with years of management experience in working with the nonprofit sector. It’s an added level of experience and gives me a competitive edge. And, in addition to the wonderful professors I had the pleasure of learning from, I now have 23 additional friends/colleagues in my Cohort 28!