January 2022 Alumni Spotlight
Alumnus, Wooserk Park was a Policy and Research Assistant at the Marxe School’s Howard J. Samuels State and City Policy Center. He discusses his research at the Center, what it’s like to work in research, and more in this month’s Alumni Spotlight.
What do you find appealing about working in research?
Ever since I realized fiscal and monetary policies successfully resolve imminent social challenges, I became intrigued by the theory of public policy and its impact on social benefits. A variety of research experiences since then—in academia and in government—led me to discover that I enjoy research and analysis and narrow my desired field of concentration in public finance and urban economics. Since I am a passionate person who wants to devote my efforts to finding a solution that promotes the economic and social wellbeing of people together, I am thrilled to join the Ph.D. in Public Administration focusing on Public Finance at O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington.
Tell us about the research you conducted while working for the Marxe School.
I worked on several projects for the Marxe School. The first project evaluated 79 New York State child welfare organizations’ financial statements—specifically, reviewed their financial conditions and fiscal management practices—at the Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management. This project was the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies’ project, assisting Profs. James Krauskopf, Rahul Pathak, and Alexis Perrota. The second project analyzed the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the New York City finances. Prof. Rahul Pathak and I examined the fiscal impact of the ongoing pandemic in New York City (Park and Pathak, 2020). We scrutinized the economic lockdown impacts on the City’s finances by exploiting credit card and mobility pattern datasets. The third project was for the U.S. Census Bureau’s ‘Opportunity Project,’ a project aimed to help solve the nation’s toughest challenges using open sources, refined reliable data and built a platform to estimate COVID-19 federal stimulus packages effectiveness. I joined the project with Prof. Rahul Pathak and Marxe alumnus Priyanka Mishra. We published a website publicfinanceinstitute.org.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to pursue a research position?
I believe that intellectual curiosity, as well as strong analytical skills in data-backed research, are crucial to being a good researcher. The Marxe School’s MPA program has various advantages that help achieve the necessary skills and knowledge to be a researcher. Here are my tips. First, show your passion for research to professors—particularly those who have the same interest. Many professors at Marxe love to help their students, and they are willing to be your mentor. In addition, they have an excellent research reputation in the field. Second, find a research assistant position and contact professors to appeal your interest. Professors need some talented research assistants who can support their projects. Such opportunities not only widen your scope in research but also provide competitive advantages in the job market and network in the scholarly world. Third, focus on your interest and dive into it. Interestingly, I could have a career in the field I was interested in, such as housing finance research at the Federal Housing Finance Agency. I was selected because I had a keen interest in financial policy and its impact on the economy. Finally, take some advanced courses, such as statistics. I learned basic statistics and software under Prof. Sanders Korenman. His lesson expanded the scope of understanding research, as well as provided more job opportunities.
What are your career goals and how did your MPA experience and Marxe faculty and staff help you pursue them?
I have a straightforward but ambitious career plan. I would like to become a pioneering practitioner in the fields of public finance and urban economics. I have met many brilliant and generous people during my journey at the Marxe School. Many of these people inspired me to pursue my Ph.D., and I sincerely appreciate their kindness—for example, Profs. Rahul Pathak and Sanders Korenman had never hesitated to help me when I encountered challenging situations. Profs. Frank Heiland and Thomas Main provided great insight into research, as well as inspired me to pursue becoming a researcher. Prof. James Krauskopr was the kindest person who allowed me to be his research assistant, showing his trust in his students. I also thank many faculty members at the Marxe School. Marny Smith was always willing to support Marxe students with her warm heart. Sandra Fajardo was a person who made me keep pursuing my career as a civil servant. I got a lot of kind and generous supports from the Marxe School, and I look forward to paying back their efforts.