Price students gain unique insight into public, private, nonprofit careers through NYC Trek
By Cristy Lytal
Thirteen students from the USC Price School of Public Policy spent spring break on an island — but not one known for its warm tropical beaches. The students braved the cold amid Manhattan’s hustle and bustle of for the opportunity to explore a professional landscape like no other, as part of the 2018 New York City (NYC) Trek.
Led by the USC Price Office of Career Services in partnership with the school’s Development Office, the NYC Trek encompassed visits to five prominent employers: the government relations and strategic consulting firm Capalino + Company; the architecture firm NBBJ; the New York City Office of Management and Budget; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and the Rockefeller Foundation. The NYC Trek also provided opportunities for informational interviews, cultural excursions, alumni-hosted dinners and a networking event — all at no cost to the student participants.
According to USC Price Career Services Director Valerie Savior, the NYC Trek “introduces Price undergraduates and master’s students to alumni leaders working in diverse firms across New York City.”
Dominic Alletto, the associate director of employer relations at USC Price, added: “It was a wonderful experience to get to see that full life cycle of undergraduates, graduate students and alumni.”
Opening windows of opportunity
By visiting alumni at public, private and nonprofit organizations, the students broadened their perspectives on potential career paths.
“I would have to say one of the biggest takeaways from the trip was to open myself a little bit to other opportunities I might not have traditionally conceptualized,” said Zachary Whalen, who is pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree. “I went into the trip thinking I was bound for a career in local government. But having visited and talked with several alumni who had the opportunity to work in government, but have since moved on, they encouraged me to open myself to other opportunities. That’s been fantastic.”
Janice Atmadja, a student pursuing a Master of International Public Policy and Management degree, added, “One thing that I really learned in New York City was that all of the [professionals that we met] had very non-linear career paths. They were just immersed in what they’re doing, and then they responded to the needs that got presented before them.”
The networking opportunities included two dinners, hosted by Trojan parents Steve Pfaler and Xavier and Catherine Negroni, and a networking reception and lecture titled “Is the Cemetery Dead?” by USC Price Professor David Sloane. To familiarize students with this unusual policy topic, the NYC Trek included a trolley tour of Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark.
The students also enjoyed tours of New York City Hall and the rail line-turned-public park known as the High Line — both arranged by USC Price alumnus Mark Thompson, their host at Capalino + Company.
As a founding supporter of the NYC Trek, Thompson described how “it’s really important to spend the time and to pay it forward to younger people — to make sure that they see as much as they can, give them an exposure to potential careers and just open their eyes to stuff.”
Fellow USC Price alumna Megan Maxwell, who is senior management analyst in the Office of Continuous Improvement at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, hosted the students at the Port Authority and arranged a private tour of One World Trade Center and the Oculus transportation hub.
“The NYC Trek is a really valuable opportunity for students to learn about a region that’s so vital to this country and to the world,” Maxwell said. “And they get to see so many different sites and see so many different ways that you can work in the city, which is so unique for students who aren’t from the area. I think about half of the students had never been in New York City before. It’s great to introduce people to a city that we all love.”
Master of Planning student Rui Zhang enjoyed her introduction. “The professional environment [in New York City] is just very different from the west coast, and it’s very interesting and attractive how people communicate and how people set their pace of work,” she said. “And I really like it.”
For Andrew Philps, a Price undergraduate majoring in real estate development, the best part of the NYC Trek was connecting one-on-one with alumni — and experiencing the full meaning of the Trojan Family.
“My highlight would be the individual informational interviews,” said Philps, a native of Vancouver who made his first visit to New York as part of the NYC Trek. “That was pretty cool; to sit down with some high-ranking people in these companies, and get to know them, and ask some important and interesting questions to help me better understand their businesses… and establish that connection.”