student Spotlight

January Student Spotlight with Juan Carlos Nordelo, MPA '16

January 16 Student Spotlight

To say that Juan Carlos Nordelo (MPA '16) is curious, bright and hungry would be an understatement. Juan Carlos tells us about his experience with the Puerto Rican Association for Human Development, what the Washington Semester program means to him, the excitement of fundraising, and his favorite classes at the School of Public Affairs.

How did you get involved with the Puerto Rican Association for Human Development (PRAHD, Inc.)?
My professor and mentor at Rutgers University had worked with PRAHD, Inc. previously and informed me that the organization was in need of a grant-writer. After graduation, I interviewed for the position and was hired as a part-time grant-writing consultant and then became the Program Development Specialist. PRAHD's Executive Director, Yvonne Lopez taught me the ins and outs of the non-profit sector, grant-writing and other development skill-sets for a period of two years. I learned quickly and after my third year of work, I was promoted to the Director of Development, my current position. Working at the Puerto Rican Association for Human Development, Inc. has been a wonderful experience thus far and has allowed me to help create a sustainable social impact for children, families and individuals throughout New Jersey's Middlesex, Union and Hudson counties.

What's are the most interesting classes you've taken at the School so far?
Every class I have taken at the School of Public Affairs thus far has been interesting, however for me Introduction to Public Affairs (PAF 9100), Budgeting & Financial Analysis (PAF 9140), Selected Topics in Public Affairs (PAF 9199) and Political Dynamics (PAF 9115) have been the most engaging classes thus far.

Introduction to Public Affairs with Professor Neil Sullivan remains one of my favorite classes because it provides a historical backdrop to the MPA degree. The class was interesting because Professor Sullivan guided me through U.S. history with a contemporary context, which created a fascinating juxtaposition. Similarly, Professor Jarvis explained the organization of the U.S. government and allowed me to have a feel for what real-world decision-making would be like. She would often ask the class to pretend to be the President or any other number of high-ranking officials and then challenge us to come up with a policy. Classroom exercises were extremely thought provoking.

The remaining two classes were interesting to me because of their practical value. I have always been a bit shy about mathematics, however Professor Odell Mays gave me an appreciation for budgeting and financial analysis. After every session, I was able to take a lesson from the classroom to the workplace, which helped me to develop a useful skillset. In Professor Carla Robbins' class, I learned how to investigate, synthesize and condense complex issues into a briefing memo or polling paper format, a talent that will be an asset to any employer.

What's the most exciting thing about fundraising?
The most exciting thing about fundraising is the process of guiding an individual from prospect to donor. Fundraising is a profession built upon relationship building/management and as you can imagine, individuals do not donate immediately. I use the analogy of asking a stranger for $100,000. Can you imagine how frightened you would be and more importantly can you imagine the stranger's answer? For a fundraiser the prospect is the stranger, who we guide to becoming a donor. During these talks, the real excitement happens because we are able to impart our passion for an organization or cause onto the prospective donor. Once the prospect is convinced, they become a donor and more importantly a crucial piece of the organization or cause. I find this process to be most exciting because it is both nerve wracking, and at the same time, extremely rewarding. Remember, if you are looking for a jolt of excitement try convincing an individual to donate to an issue or organization that you are passionate about and you'll feel the biggest thrill of fundraising.

Tell us about your experience in the Washington Semester program.
My experience in the Washington Semester program has been both memorable and personally fulfilling. In all most every class at Baruch there is a mention of Washington D.C. because in the world of public affairs and administration it is the most important location. Policy, legislation, debate and other issues of importance ebb and flow out of Washington and thanks to the Washington Semester program, I was able live and study in D.C.

I was placed at the Department of Commerce where I interned for William Ramos the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and was given the title of Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist. Over the course of the semester, I worked with Mr. Ramos to promote President Obama's and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker's policies, programs, and initiatives with state and local elected officials across the country. As an intern it was great to feel that my contributions were making a difference for the Mr. Ramos and the entire Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Secretary. Some of my work included attending Senate/House hearings, conducting legislative affairs work, meeting with officials/stakeholders and attending a meeting at the Whitehouse.

Aside from my amazing work experience, the classes offered in the Washington Semester program are some of the best that I have ever taken at Baruch. Clinical Professor, Carla Robbins, Distinguished Lecturer, Sonia Jarvis, and Distinguished Lecturer, Michael Feller led me through rigorous and engaging coursework. Thanks to these classes, I now have transferrable skillsets that I will undoubtedly be able to use in my future career path. The Washington Semester program also allowed me to expand my network to learn from professionals living in Washington D.C.

I would highly recommend this program because living in Washington D.C., especially on Capitol Hill is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and being inches away from President Obama wasn't too bad either.