May 2017 Alumni Spotlight
May Alumni Spotlight with Scott Castillo, MPA ’16
It’s a well-known and demoralizing fact that many proud veterans who have faithfully served their country often come home and have trouble finding their place in society. But this isn’t everyone’s tale. MPA graduate, Scott Castillo walks us through his experience in the U.S. Army, how he found his calling in the field of social work, and his time at Baruch College.
You joined the U.S. Army after 9/11. Can you tell us about that experience?
After the events of 9/11, I knew I could not be one of those people that just stood by and prayed for the world to get better. I could only sleep at night if I knew I was taking action and accepting personal responsibility to help defend my friends, my family and my nation.
At every stage of my training, I always felt I could be doing more, so I kept striving to complete ever more advanced levels of training and hone my skills. My determination paid off and I had the honor of become a member of the United States Special Operation Command (USSOCOM) as an Airborne Ranger.
Despite what people see in the movies, I can honestly say there is nothing glorious or “exciting” about being in a war-zone. At least, in the units I operated in, all my fellow Ranger knew full well the horrors and seriousness about having the enormous responsibility of defending the lives of others and sometimes needing to make the decision to take the lives of other human beings, in pursuit of freeing the world from ideologies that seek to enslave or eradicate anyone who doesn’t hold their monolithic view of religion and morality.
While many may disagree with war in general or the policies of the United States, I and my fellow Rangers had a much different perspective. We were faced with the constant reminders of what happens to a society when a small, radical group of religious zealots take control of the levers of power, society and law. Daily, we encountered men, women and children from all walks of life, who could not work, worship, live or love in freedom and peace; they were all slaves to a small group of men who would seek to control every aspect of how they lived, what they said and how they thought; with the threat of imprisonment, torture, unspeakable acts of depravity and death ever present.
So while many of us, as American soldiers, found it necessary to take other lives in pursuit of our mission; we can never forget the countless innocent civilians we saved from enslavement and death, at the hands of those we call the enemies of freedom, the enemies of peace, the enemies of decency and ultimately – the enemies of all humanity.
Can you talk a bit about your role in public service after your Honorable Discharge?
After I was discharged from the Army, my spirit of service was more alive than ever. I had done my part in helping preserve the security of my nation and the freedom of people on the other side of the world. I now had an overwhelming desire to help those close to home; I knew I wanted to find a way to help those less fortunate or in need where I lived, in all the communities around me.
I found my calling in social work. When I was first discharged, I had a difficult time adjusting back to civilian life, especially finding steady employment. I was greatly aided by a social worker who specialized in helping military veterans. From that time forward, I knew I wanted to do the same thing. I first began as a social services representative in Nassau County, where my hometown of Long beach, NY was located. I found a rewarding life working here. Every day I was able to help families, single mothers, homeless military veterans, the elderly – anyone in need of an uplifting hand; I was in a position to help them all get to a better place in their lives and ease some of their daily struggles.
Whether, it was help buying food for their children, or getting a job after going through a long period of unemployment and depression, assistance in getting and apartment after serving in the military and becoming homeless…whatever the situation, I was able to set up financial assistance and aid those in need to get back on their feet. I had such a feeling of fulfillment in being able to help so many people.
This incredible experience led me to my next opportunity, joining the ranks of the Nassau County Department of Veteran’s Affairs. I had now come full circle; from being a civilian, to a soldier helped out by a social worker after I was discharged and now as a veteran working as a social worker helping other military veterans in need.
In this role, I always felt a special connection to my past. Here I was, meeting some of the most selfless men and women in our nation; knowing what they had gone through and experienced on the field of battle and knowing what they were going through now; and I knew I could help them move into the next phase in their life.
Whatever I do in the future, I will never forget those that I met while doing social work; both the dedicated colleagues I worked with day in and out and the countless decent and kind people I helped to make their lives better.
Why did you decide on Baruch College?
There were several reasons why I decided to pursue my MPA at Baruch. It’s location in the heart of Manhattan, the city that doesn’t sleep; it offers the best value for a great program. And renowned professors that use a hands-on approach to learning – and with real-life experience in the public/nonprofit sectors – convinced me that Baruch was the best school for me.
What do you hope to do with your MPA?
My Baruch experience was fruitful and up to my expectations. I learned how to analyze and dissect information through different scopes. The program helped me prepare for entrepreneurial projects that require expertise in my area. In addition, my Baruch MPA will make me more competitive in today’s global market. I’m currently exploring a nonprofit startup for disadvantaged veterans.
What were some of your favorite classes and most vital things you learned at Baruch College?
My favorite courses were Leadership and Strategy with Professor Douglas Muzzio; Fundraising and Grants with Professor Michael Seltzer; Public/Nonprofit Management with Professor Ryan Smith; and Capstone Seminar, with Professor Neil Sullivan. Their passion for students to learn, expertise in their respective fields and guidance were instrumental in my own passion to learn and excel. Not only have they inspired me but I will always draw from their practical approach to teaching as a model for my future endeavors and challenges in life.