June 2017 Alumni Spotlight
June Alumni Spotlight with Martin Schmid, BSPA ’16
Being granted the opportunity to become a community leader is a crucial aspect of the BSPA program at the Marxe School. We discuss community leadership with Martin Schmid who recalls his time as a Resident Assistant, his pathway to the Coro Fellowship, and his first internship – experiences that have helped him to carve out his place as a community leader.
What is it about BSPA at the Marxe School that attracted you?
Before my first day at Baruch College, I knew that I wanted to expand on my interests in New York City government and public policy. I quickly realized that the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs was the right school for these interests as soon as I started to enroll in its courses because in addition to traditional prerequisite course work, I was able to take a range of classes in everything from housing in New York City to economic development and business improvement districts. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take classes at the Marxe School because I gained a very practical, hands-on education that provided a solid foundation for future work. I wanted a program where I could be immersed in local civic affairs, and I certainly got that during my time there.
Did you take any leadership roles during your time at BSPA?
While I was enrolled, I was also a Resident Assistant (RA). As an RA I was able to better understand what it meant to be a community leader and what it meant to live in a community. This experience dovetailed with what I was learning about leadership and community building in the classroom, and the conflation of these two experiences helped me to live out what I was learning in course work.
I loved my time as an RA and find that if I reflect on it too much I can get quite nostalgic! More than anything I enjoyed the feeling that I could really make a positive impact in a resident’s life, whether it came from helping to work out a semester schedule or mediate a roommate dispute. Then there was the sense of community. The Residence Hall undoubtedly had a community that I miss being a part of. I think sometimes it is easy to take that for granted while living there, but looking back on that time, I made some great memories that I will always take with me. I hope to take those feelings of community and embrace with me in my career.
What classes were most beneficial to you while at Baruch?
My favorite class at Baruch was Professor Rob Walsh’s in economic development. It was in this class that I learned about business improvement districts and how anchor institutions can impact a community. For one of our classes, Rob took us to Union Square, where he explained about the transformation of the neighborhood and his role in its development. I am also thankful that he encouraged me to apply for the Coro Fellowship!
Tell us about your time with the Coro Fellowship Program and what you gained from it.
The Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs is a nine-month, post-graduate program that places its twelve nationally selected fellows in various sectors throughout the course of the program. These placements include government agencies, political campaigns, labor organizing, private businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The Fellowship is an incredible opportunity to explore different sectors of New York City civic life and allows fellows to experience the cross-sector intersectionality and collaboration that drives New York City. In addition to placements, we also meet with a variety of stakeholders throughout the program to give nuance to our placement experiences.
I decided to apply to the Fellowship at the urging of Professor Rob Walsh. I was looking at multiple post-graduate fellowships to continue my learning in government and policy, and the Coro Fellowship stood out to me because it seemed to be a natural transition from the work I did at the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. I felt that the fellowship would deepen my understanding of New York City civic life and would serve as the next logical step to starting a career in this field. Right now in the fellowship, we just wrapped up our nonprofit placements, where I was working with Rob Walsh at the HELP USA Fund. HELP USA is a national provider of housing and homeless services and was founded in New York City by Andrew Cuomo thirty years ago. While at HELP USA, I researched workforce development partnerships HELP USA can make to create a more robust and accessible career pipeline for New York City’s expanding technology industry. For this project, I found that I was pulling from what I learned about the role of anchor tenants in a community in Rob Walsh’s course on economic development. I think the most enriching part of this fellowship is being plugged into a whole network of Coro affiliated individuals and organizations whose work is directly contributing to improving and growing the city. What’s more is seeing how all of these moving parts connect over the course of nine months. One of the biggest challenges for me, and also one of my most important learning experiences, has been unpacking the meaning of privilege and the reasons behind why some people have a seat at the table yet others’ voices aren’t heard or are just ignored. For instance, what are the inherent privileges of my being a white male and how can I make space for other voices? How can a community and especially its government be made more equitable and responsive to those it serves? These are some of the bigger, more adaptive questions that come out during the course of the Fellowship year.
Can you tell us about the internships you took while you were a student at Baruch? What are the skills and knowledge you gained and how do they benefit you in your current role?
My first internship was with Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh during my freshman year. Just two weeks after starting at the Assemblyman’s office, Hurricane Sandy struck New York City and I quickly discovered one manifestation of public service. The Assemblyman and his staff delivered food and vital provisions to constituents who lived in high-rise apartment complexes on the Lower East Side, all without access to elevators or electricity. From the Assemblyman’s office I learned that leadership should be collaborative and inclusive, where in many cases the leader is working with the people and not for them. I was also fortunate to spend time at New York State Senator Tim Kennedy’s district office in Buffalo, New York where I helped campaign for his re-election. Following this, I interned for New York City Councilman Dan Garodnick through Professor Stephen Dibrienza’s course on the City Council. In addition to these wonderful experiences in elected politics, I was looking for some other ways to learn about government. My time at the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership filled this desire because I was able to tangibly learn about how a business improvement district works and what it means to be a public-private partnership. Paired with coursework in this subject matter, all of these internships helped to create a foundation on which I am building in my time as a Coro Fellow.