October 2022 Alumni Spotlight
We speak to Excelsior Fellow and Marxe MPA alumna, Joanna Green, about her summer position working as a VISTA NYC Program Coordinator for the Summer Associate Program at Hunger Free America, her involvement with the MPA club, her time as a Graduate Research Fellow and Teaching Assistant working with Professor Deborah Balk, and much more.
Could you tell us a bit about your position working as a VISTA NYC Program Coordinator for the Summer Associate Program at Hunger Free America?
The NYC Nutrition Outreach Team is a group of eight AmeriCorps VISTAs that conduct outreach across the city to provide communities with critical information on supplemental nutrition programs – SNAP, WIC, P-EBT, and the Summer Food Service Program. A large chunk of my role is managing their daily activities and coordinating with partner organizations in HFA’s anti-hunger initiatives. I have to say, what I learned in Public & Nonprofit Management really benefited me when it came to leadership skills, navigating complex group dynamics and ethical issues, and implementing DEI. In recruiting the summer associates, it was imperative to find dedicated individuals who would think critically about how structural inequalities intersect with food insecurity and be effective in outreach efforts with their fellow New Yorkers. I’m very happy with the work they’ve done this summer and I’m glad I’ve had this chance to improve my communication and time management skills.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments and experiences throughout your career history?
A major accomplishment of mine was helping organize and run the American Geographic Society’s “Geography 2020” conference and Teacher Fellows program when I worked with them as a special programs coordinator. However, a lot of what I’m most proud of have been the smaller, but personally meaningful things, like helping my peers learn GIS as a TA to Professor Deborah Balk, or successfully petitioning the administration of Clark University – where I did my undergraduate work – to hire more mental health professionals in response to an ongoing mental health crisis among the student body. My hope is that I can be of help to people in whatever I pursue moving forward.
Tell us about your involvement with the MPA Club as the Event Coordinator on the 2020-2021 Executive Board.
I handled most of the logistics for the events, but really everything was a group effort. We were able to arrange some important and impactful programming for students and the department. A highlight for me was “I Can’t Breathe: A Conversation on Race, Police Brutality, and Systemic Racism in America,” with Professor Sonia Jarvis and mental health facilitators from the Counseling Center. We also had great events on allyship and vital topics such as DEI and BLM. Another great success was the creation by the e-board of a WhatsApp group for students to discuss questions, concerns, and share information. The group is still very active.
You were a Graduate Research Fellow and Teaching Assistant. Could you tell us about the research you were working on with Professor Deborah Balk?
Never underestimate the value of previous, seemingly unrelated, work history. Prior to deciding I wanted to go to Marxe to study public administration, I had studied Urban Geography as an undergrad and completed a certificate in Geographic Information Systems/Science (GIS) – basically the art and science of mapping and cartography. I didn’t think I would use these skills heavily in grad school until I sought out a graduate assistantship (GA) with Deborah – who is a true gem, I must add. As a GA, I provided spatial and statistical research support on understanding population exposure to seaward hazards along an urban continuum. This work came in handy when I started working under Deborah as a Research Fellow for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency (MOR) and the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC). I helped use GIS and spatial tools to advance critical research that will help the city adapt to climate change, take action to mitigate its future impact, and build a more equitable and resilient future. As a teacher’s assistant (TA) I had the pleasure of working further under Deborah in her Map Making for Public Policy course, which was incredibly rewarding. I assisted in teaching students from all technical and professional backgrounds a hard skill that they could use to bolster their resume and snag that position they wanted. You get to see people who’ve never worked with technical software, databases, or spatial information, master the fundamentals of GIS and completely alter their viewpoint on policy matters through a spatial lens.
You mention on your LinkedIn, that you are passionate about policy, planning, women’s rights, and public health – particularly reproductive health, mental health, and environmental justice. Could you share with us some details from your capstone on reproductive healthcare?
I honestly think that healthcare, and as follows, reproductive healthcare, should be an inalienable right for all people. My research examined the landscape of abortion in the US through multiple lenses. These include a longitudinal study of state laws, a study of the spatial patterns of abortion facilities along an urban-rural continuum and regional geographies, and a study of the spatial relationship between abortion facilities and medically underserved areas. Specifically, I wanted to find out the distance a person would have to travel to reach an abortion facility. Distance, combined with other factors (such as restrictive laws, financial limitations, age, religious beliefs, stigma, and Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs)), is a barrier to accessing reproductive health, and this barrier varies regionally and along an urban-rural continuum.
I didn’t realize quite how relevant or timely my capstone would be. The Guttmacher Institute and the University of California’s, San Francisco (UCSF) Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) track a lot of the metrics and information I sought out in my capstone.
While my numbers are already drastically outdated, here are a few key findings. In the past twenty years, the landscape of supportive and hostile state legislation [to reproductive healthcare] has become more polarized. The US has seen a significant increase in the number of states hostile and very hostile to abortion, increasing from 4 to 21 states. Supportive states have about double the abortion facilities that hostile states do. On average, people in hostile states have to travel about 90 miles (62%) farther to reach an abortion facility than do people in supportive states. On an urban-rural continuum, as counties become more rural, patients must travel farther distances on average to reach a facility. 38% of women of reproductive age in the US live in a county without an abortion facility. I found that the majority of open abortion facilities fall within areas that are not designated medically underserved – meaning that most medically underserved areas also lack access to this vital health resource.
What was your MPA experience like at the Marxe School?
While I have completed the entirety of my courses virtually, and acclimated to virtual learning, the first portion of my first semester at Marxe was invaluable to networking. Those few months allowed me to familiarize myself with my colleagues who pushed me to get involved in the MPA club; I am still close friends with everyone who I served with on the e-board. Both students and faculty at Marxe go out of their way to help their peers – from sharing insights on courses to job openings – they want to see you succeed.
Throughout my time at Marxe I really came to appreciate the art of strategically planning your next move while simultaneously being open to opportunities you never expected to pursue. I have also come to learn that the road you start your career path on will likely change many times, and that is okay. Marxe pushed me out of my comfort zone in all the right ways. Even taking the required courses such as Research and Analysis I & II, which I thought I would really struggle in, ended up being my favorite courses. I never thought I would take a leadership position on the executive board of the MPA club, be a TA/GA in graduate school, or apply for a fellowship – much less pursue one with the DOH. Being a mentee with Executives on Campus has been a really enjoyable experience; I have someone with extensive experience in public health on my side, who offers invaluable insight, advice, knowledge, and friendship.