Archive for March, 2011

Earlier this week my policy group and I officially completed the first round of lab.  It was definitely a tough haul but everything worked out in the end.  The process itself is very interesting: we spent several weeks going in one direction on the project, but then had to shift and go in another direction – two weeks before we had to present to the client.  With the deadline looming, we re-worked our entire analysis, even to the last minute.  After our briefing, we went to work on the analytic brief, adding information that didn’t make it to the briefing, filling in spots that the client requested, and clarifying key points.  Five people working on one document – not a party.  The whole thing was stressful, time consuming, and very irritating.  The result?  The client is very pleased.

Lab really is one of those experiences that helps you grow as a student, as a professional, and as a person.  Yes it’s stressful.  Yes it’s time consuming.  Yes it’s irritating.  But it’s good for the soul.  And I really do mean that.  Depending on the group you have, you can build very strong bonds with your group mates.  That 12-hour analysis session of yesterday will be the nostalgic joke of tomorrow that you all laugh about.  You learn to work with people.  You learn to compromise.  You learn when to lead and when to follow, when to speak up and when to shut up.  It’s tough, rough, and not fun by any recreation standards.  And it’s all worth it.

On Monday I’ll get a new group and a new policy issue.  And it will all begin again.


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Hey folks! We’re  here at the “Careers in Urban Economic Development” event at Milano The New School for International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. We’re going to live blog the event. Video of the event will be posted on YouTube, so stay tuned for when that link is available.

The panel is being moderated by Charles H. Allison, Jr., Associate Professor of Professional Practice at Milano.  Esteemed panelists include:

Mitchell Cook ’09 – freelance research consultant specializing in issues of urban planing, local governance and international development.

Rebecca Laurie ’09 – Director of Development for the Consortium for Worker Education.

Paul Travis ’77 – Managing Partner of Washington Square Partners.

Soledad Ursua ’09 – Associate for Enhanced Capital Partners, Inc.

NOTE: Comments posted below are not necessarily direct quotes. I will paraphrase (liberally). Any problems/issues/etc. with the comments can be attributed to me and not the panelists. Watch the YouTube video for direct quotes.


Both Mr. Travis and Ms. Ursua cited Milano course work as key to their careers, particularly the policy lab and the professional development report (PDR).


Hard question posed by Prof. Allison: what do you know now that you wish you knew on Day 1 at Milano?

Ms. Laurie ’09 – knowing the opportunities to connect to the other schools/programs within the university [take notes fellow grad students!!!]

Mr. Travis ’77 – the importance of finance and budgeting. He says it’s a basic and necessary skill.

Mr. Ursua ’09 – network much more. Networking is key not just for jobs, but also to obtain important research information. People are more willing to talk to students than you might think.

Mr. Cook ’09 – the importance of in-depth long-form writing and analysis.


Questions on the floor dealing with the constant change in the world and quick paradigm shifts [horrible paraphrase, watch the YouTube].

Mr. Travis says to not look at this degree as a vocational degree. The classes you take here don’t lock you into a job/career.

Ms. Ursua says to keep your eyes and ears open to change and you can transfer

Mr. Cook says that if you develop traditional analytic skills you can use them at a whole range of places. Paradigms change quickly but institutions do not.


Ms. Ursua says that potential employers may not know the New School or your degree, but they will be impressed by your skills.


Question on the floor: What skills do you look for when hiring?

Mr. Travis says: quantitative skills, writing ability, and the ability to make your point five minutes. [Are you taking notes fellow grad students?]  When writing, the ability to make your point within two pages is very important.

Ms. Ursua says: the ability to talk to people is important. Communication, articulation, and charisma are key.


Question on the floor is it better to be multidisciplinary or a specialist? Particularly when discussing skills in an interview.

Mr. Travis says to know one thing very, very well rather than being too broad. Tell the employer what you can do better than anyone else.

Mr. Ursua concurs.


Prof. Allison says to not let job descriptions scare you.  Use your networks, intelligence, and skill-set to your advantage.


Question on the floor: Are there particular courses students should take to pursue a career in urban development?

Ms. Laurie says to take the community development finance lab and/or financial analysis.

Mr. Travis says to take a finance course as well. Also learn about zoning and land use.

Mr. Cook says that, if you can, know the scale at which you want to work in international development – it will guide you in selecting courses.


Question on the floor: Focus on one skill just for the interview, or for your studies/career too?

Mr. Travis says to focus on one thing for the interview, but your career can take many twists and turns. The key is to be able to explain what you learned at Milano in a very succinct way.


Okay folks, that’s it for live blogging the event. It’s not too late come get some cookies and join the  speed network. We’re at 66 West 12th Street on the 7th floor.

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