November 2023 Alumni Spotlight
MPA alumna and soon-to-be adjunct Ana Champeny (who will be teaching PAF 9140 Budgeting and Financial Analysis at Marxe in the spring) talks about her upcoming class, her role as in governmental fiscal oversight and policy research as Vice President for Research at Citizens Budget Commission, and more.
Tell us about the class you’ll be teaching at Marxe in the spring. What will it prepare students to do?
I’ll be teaching the core budgeting and financial analysis course. It’s a foundational course that exposes students to municipal budgeting—the numbers, processes, and analytics—and teaches the tools necessary to develop, assess, and monitor public budgets and financial documents.
Students can expect to learn to navigate budget and financial documents, and answer questions such as: How do you read a budget? How do you calculate how much the program staff will cost? How do you forecast your revenues? Does a government or organization have a structurally balanced budget, or do they have a budget gap? What are an entity’s long-term liabilities?
These tools are critical whether you work in a budget office, government agency, at a non-profit, in public finance or municipal ratings, or as a fiscal monitor, which I have done for nearly two decades.
Can you tell us what challenges you face working in government fiscal oversight and policy research?
As fiscal monitors, we are outside looking in. While there is a lot of information available now, way more than even five or ten years ago, fiscal monitors do not have the same level of detail and information as budget staff within agencies or in central budget offices. This means we need to be facile with the data we do have—maintaining analytic integrity and rigor while also making reasonable assumptions and drawing valid conclusions.
Another challenge—and this is true for many researchers—is getting the research used to impact policy choices. In addition to doing high-quality work, we want to get that work in front of elected officials, advocates, policymakers, and the media. This means we need to hone communications skills, develop networks, and actively seek opportunities to impact policy.
How did you become interested in that field?
After my academic studies, I wanted a career that utilized my quantitative skills, focused on public policy, and brought evidence-based research to policymaking. I’ve also always been more of a generalist—I relish learning about new policy areas—and wanted to have the opportunity to broaden my knowledge.
My first position was at the NYC Independent Budget Office, which produces nonpartisan, data-driven policy and budget analysis and serves as a fiscal monitor for New York City. I was drawn to the agency’s mission of using data and analytics to inform complex policy debates. During my time there, I worked on education funding, property tax forecasting and analysis and in policy areas such as economic development, sanitation and solid waste management, and
For the last seven years, I’ve been at the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), first as the Director of City Studies, and for the past 18 months, as the Vice President for Research. The CBC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank and fiscal watchdog for NYC, NYS, and the MTA. In addition to continuing my dedication to practical, data-driven analytics, I appreciate CBC’s advocacy and commitment to ensuring the long-term fiscal stability and competitiveness of New York.
What was your MPA experience like at the Marxe School?
The MPA has been critical in my career. In the courses and research opportunities I had during my time at Marxe, I learned valuable analytic and communication skills as well as practical tools to overcome research challenges. I put many of the skills I learned to use on a regular basis to this day.