USC Price School of Public Policy

From local government to global architecture, Price students explore NYC careers

May 5, 2017

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USC Price students gaze out onto a bird’s-eye view of New York from the office of architectural firm NBBJ. (Photo by Ahmad Dahoul)

By Cristy Lytal

This past spring break, 10 select students from the USC Price School of Public Policy took part in the first-ever New York City Trek — a unique, career-focused program that introduces students to the city’s professional landscape through site visits to five prominent employers.

USC Price students took part in the first-ever first-ever New York City Trek career program in March. (Photo by Ahmad Dahoul )

Chosen from nearly 100 applicants, the 10 participants experienced the inaugural NYC Trek free of cost, thanks to the generosity of USC Price alumni David Penchoff, Mark Thompson and several others. The program was organized and hosted by the Price School’s Office of Career Services.

“We introduced our students to public service careers in the greatest interdisciplinary breadth, which is what we expect of them as scholar-practitioners,” said Price Career Services Director Valerie Savior. “And we evidenced the power of the Trojan network through panels, a mixer, and the connectedness of the alumni and their willingness give us so much of their time. We all walked away saturated with knowledge about how things work in New York in terms of policy, planning, transportation, public relations and government.”

Career Services Advisor Allyson Himelstein added: “The mission of the school is to improve communities here and abroad, and this trek gave students an opportunity to think about improving communities in New York. At the end of the day, every place that we went to was about either making a city more beautiful, more understandable, more livable or more seamless.”

Broadening perspectives

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USC Price alumnus Mark Thompson, center, with students (Photo by Ahmad Dahoul)

Jim Capalino (left), CEO of government relations and strategic consulting firm Capalino+Company, engages with Price students. (Capalino+Company)

Undeterred by a heavy East Coast snowstorm, the students kicked off the trip with a welcome dinner hosted by USC Price parents, Xavier and Catherine Negroni.

They next visited the stunning offices of the architectural firm NBBJ, where they enjoyed panoramic views of the city and the Statue of Liberty. USC Price alumnus Mark Koechling hosted the visit.

“Visiting NBBJ Architects was most informative, as I was able to learn that there is so much more to an architecture firm than meets the eye, and realized that I fully intend to find a career in the architecture realm,” said undergraduate student Cristina Morales. “The New York Trek opened a door that will surely change my life immensely.”

From there, they walked to Capalino+Company, a government relations and strategic consulting firm.

According to Thompson, who hosted the visit, “Jim Capalino actually said, ‘I’ll come out and talk for a few minutes.’ He ended up talking about his distinguished career, Ed Koch, local politics and the current administration for 45 minutes or longer; and Jim is a legend in New York.”

Max Sherman, a master of planning (MPL) student, marveled at the fact that he “was able to get face time with executive management at companies that are industry leaders in their field.” He added, “For someone like me who is passionate about the urban planning and public affairs space, being able to meet with NBBJ and Capalino was a highlight of my entire time at Price.”

Public sector projects

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Price students visit the New York City Office of Management and Budget. (Photo by Ahmad Dahoul)

Next on the schedule was the New York City Office of Management and Budget, hosted by USC Price alumnus David Greenberg.

“It was inspiring at OMB,” Savior said. “All the USC graduates — none of them are New Yorkers, and they all successfully landed gainful employment with steep promotion success.”

They then visited the New York City Department of Transportation’s Pedestrian Projects Division. Their host was USC Price alumna Terra Ishee, who gave a presentation highlighting pedestrian-based projects that are improving the safety and beauty of heavily trafficked urban areas.

To round out their experience, they visited the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services in Brooklyn. Host Andrew Erlichman, a Price alumnus, described the remarkably rapid transition to a paperless contracting system.

“The true value of the USC Sol Price degree is learning the practical implications of our education,” said master of public policy (MPP) student Ahmad Dahdoul. “While in New York, we met professionals from a range of disciplines taught at Price. Meeting these individuals and seeing where their Price education and Trojan network has gotten them, left all of us hopeful and inspired to achieve our dream jobs.”

In addition, they enjoyed a mixer and transportation panel moderated by Genevieve Giuliano, USC Price professor and director of the METRANS Transportation Center. Panelists included: Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation; Alison Conway from City College of New York; and Eliott Sclar from the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development. The event also featured speakers Thompson and John Sonego, associate dean for development and external relations at USC Price.

Trojan connections

Price students with Career Services Director Valerie Savior, right, the evening after storm (Photo by Ahmad Dahoul)

“The Price New York Trek elucidated the robust nature of the Trojan Network due to the exposure to opportunities available on the East Coast,” said MPL student Sean Veal.

The farewell dinner, hosted by USC Price parents, Wan Man Lee and Suk Mi Lee, brought the students together to reflect on all that they had gained during the trek.

“What I enjoyed the most about the New York Trek was how close I became with the group of students who traveled with me to create strong connections at USC,” said Melody Klingenfuss Arteaga, a master of nonprofit leadership management student. “Being funded for this opportunity has helped me expand my California-concentrated mindset and be open to bigger ideas and possibilities anywhere I go.”

Undergraduate Vanessa Li added: “I reaped the sweet fruits of traveling to New York with a tremendous Career Services staff, financial support from the school and some of the brightest peers on this campus. Through conversations with firm executives, the most willing USC alumni network, prospective students and longtime public servants of the city of New York, I gained better industry knowledge of heath policy and management roles, career advice on further steps in pursuing a master’s degree and tangible, real-world interactions with those in interdisciplinary fields that was truly unparalleled.”