January 2021 Student Spotlight
Cindy Concepcion, Executive MPA ’21
“The simplest acts of service are the catalyst for community transformation.” Executive MPA student Cindy Concepcion talks about her aspirations, philosophies, her work at the New Settlement’s College Access Center, and more.
Why did you choose the Executive MPA program?
In December of 2018, I attended the open house for the Executive MPA. I observed the Governing New York City course. As I sat there, taking in the information, I envisioned myself as one of the graduate students acquiring the knowledge of the infrastructures of New York City agencies. This was an eye opener, as I made connections between the power dynamics, funding streams, and the moving pieces of public governance. I was drawn to the Executive MPA for the accelerated study, cohort model, and hands-on application in applying theory in the classroom as well as through my peers’ lived experience. I knew that I would have access to expert practitioners actively working in their respective specialty bringing real-world knowledge to the curriculum. I was most excited by the co-teaching of theoretical and practical aspects of budgeting, principles of management, communication strategies, and program evaluation because it will help me conceive and implement future solutions.
What professional philosophy guides your work? How does this philosophy impact what you hope to accomplish in the future?
Since my childhood, I have walked with the purpose of building stronger communities through service. I grew up in the Bronx surrounded by family members, teachers, and community advocates who taught me that I have the power to make a difference. I knew early on, from my elementary school years, that the simplest acts of service are the catalyst for community transformation.
Working with young adults, I am inspired by their creativity, educational and career goals, as well as their ability to navigate through barriers with tremendous resiliency. My one-to-one interactions with young people are based on the core principles of youth development: centering youth voice, working from a strength-based approach, building trust, and developing powerful relationships.
Within this work, I am committed to addressing the intersectionality of education and youth development, through a diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) lens, to fortify systemic change. In the future I aspire to emerge as a leader within the college access and persistence field, promoting social change through career-readiness. I will continuously be an active voice in addressing barriers that our participants face in their livelihood.
How did you arrive at your current role? What do you do? What are some of your current projects you are working on?
For the last eight years, I have been working at a non-profit profit organization, New Settlement’s College Access Center (NSCAC), supporting youth and young adults in post-secondary pathways. I spent the first four years establishing New Settlement’s College Success Center, at a Bronx educational high school campus. The Success Center focused on counseling students in the college application process while creating a college-going culture at respective high schools. This initiative was an effort to build capacity, strengthen collaboration between co-located high schools, and bridge the gap of college advising on campus.
As Program Coordinator of New Settlement’s College Success Program, I currently oversee a persistence program that offers academic, financial, socio-emotional, and career readiness programming. In my role, I support counselors in managing their caseloads, sustaining a budget, planning and facilitating events, while developing partnerships with higher education institutions, community based organizations, and social services agencies with wrap around services.
This work requires collaborations that focus on improving the lives of the students we serve. For almost a decade, we have been part of the Bronx Opportunity Network (BON), a collective of seven Bronx-based organizations working with the City University of New York (CUNY) to address academic and non-academic needs impacting college students attainment of a college degree. The network came together with the purpose of being solution-oriented and putting students at the forefront allowing for the change we need for student success. It’s not about working in silos but more as a village.
Most recently, we have been awarded the Graduate NYC’s College Completion Innovation Fund (CCIF) grant serving young adults in the Bronx who have stopped out of college to enroll and graduate with a degree or valuable credential. We get to partner with our workforce development program, New Settlement’s Young Adult Outreach Initiative, who are able to provide young adults with positive intervention services focusing on current barriers to employment and education. In my experience, young adults in our communities often stop out due to non-academic barriers, struggle to link their time in college to future career opportunities, and are in need of an individualized plan to work through their pathways. For me, this project is even more meaningful because we can elevate young people through a holistic approach while changing the landscape of their future and leveraging many opportunities.
How will an Executive MPA enhance your ability to perform your current job responsibilities and grow professionally?
An Executive MPA degree provides me with analytical and technical skills to apply in the workplace. Through courses like Public and Non-Profit Management and Communication Strategy, I’ve been able to share practical strategies to enhance programming and structural procedures. In the midst of challenges due to the impact of COVID-19, the organization shifted virtually without having an actual crisis communication plan. Immediately, with the support of the director, we created a needs assessment survey, enhanced our database to capture COVID-19 data, and implemented a webpage on our website for resources for students, families, and community members. I recommended instituting a New Settlement crisis management team and having a plan to address any types of future crisis. These are steps I knew we needed to take because of my work in the program.