student Spotlight

April Student Spotlight with Cortney Byrne-Mitchell, MPA '18

April 17 Student Spotlight

Every year Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) brings together graduate students from NASPAA schools to work together to solve a complex public policy problem by using a simulation method. In our April spotlight we are speaking with Courtney Byrne-Mitchell (MPA '18), who was part of the runner-up team of the 2017 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition on Food Security. She shares with us her experience from participating inthe competition, thoughts about the Marxe School MPA program, and talks about community service and volunteering.

Congratulations on 2017 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition on Food Security Global runner-up place! What was your experience like participating in this competition?

Participating in the competition was a memorable experience! The 2017 simulation was focused on global food security and the second United Nations Sustainable Development Goal: Zero Hunger, “to end all forms of malnutrion and hunger by 2030.” At eight sites around the world, students from different universities teamed up to develop both global and regional strategies to increase food security. During the competition, teams adopted a multi-sectoral approach, combining health, agricultural and environmental development programs. Each team was given a budget, and we chose specific programs to fund based on thirty region-specific indicators, such as amount of arable land, malnutrition rates and available infrastructure. After each section of the four-round program, teams calculated program impact and strategized to optimize funding options. Coming into the simulation I had a basic understanding of global hunger, but throughout the competition my knowledge base both broadened and deepened. In the final challenge of the day, each team submitted memos and presented our food security strategy. Our strategy emphasized the importance of involving and employing local communities during project planning and implementation. We wanted to ensure that all key stakeholders were involved and onboard, an important lesson that was covered in Brooke Richie-Baggage’s PAF 9151 and Michael Seltzer’s PAF 9152 course.

Would you recommend your fellow Marxe students to participate next year?

Yes, I highly recommend participating in this competition for multiple reasons. First, it provides students with an opportunity to delve deeply into a specific policy issue, whether or not you have background experience in that field. Secondly, working with data-based simulation software is a useful competency-building experience for future organizational leaders who will need to analyze and evaluate program data. Also, it is just really fun to meet other students who are studying international and public administration!

What is it about the MPA that attracted you to apply to Baruch College?

I was drawn to Baruch’s MPA program because of the high percentage of students who are already actively working in the public and nonprofit sectors. I appreciate that classroom discussions are a combination of theory and on-the-ground life experience. Professors encourage students to connect lessons with their daily work experiences, fostering a deeper and practical level of learning. I enjoy how professionally connected Baruch professors and students are to the NYC nonprofit world, and each semester I meet new classmates with interesting careers and advice to share.

What's are the most interesting classes you've taken at the school so far?

So many! Each class I take provides a new perspective and allows me to see my professional choice and path through a new lens! It is difficult to choose which classes have impacted me the most, but here are a couple lessons that stand out. Nonprofit Management (PAF 9120) with Professor Stark pushed me to explore my own personal management style and preferences for organizational structure. I will take this heightened self-understanding with me throughout the rest of my professional future. Marxe School has also helped me to become a better informed citizen. After taking Economics and Research Methods classes, I am a much savvier consumer of news and research findings. (A skill that is becoming more important each day as alternative facts and unreliable information spread rapidly.)

Tell us more about your volunteering experiences and what inspires you to serve as volunteer?

Community service and contributing to the welfare of society are two of my core values. Each person has the potential and responsibility to make a positive impact, and the nonprofit sector relies heavily on volunteerism to function and thrive. Additionally, one of my primary work responsibilities is to manage a 40-person volunteer team. Volunteering at various organizations throughout New York City is a great way to learn more about the city we live in and to explore new places! One of my favorite New York Cares projects is composting in Red Hook at Added Value Farms. While volunteering there you are helping to convert food scraps into nutrient-rich compost. The food scraps are from local people, businesses and nonprofits, including some NYC Greenmarkets! I love helping to decrease the waste going into landfills while bringing community members together! I actually just passed my 175 hour mark!