Alumni Spotlight

June Alumni Spotlight with Lisa Gesson, MPA '13

June 16 Alumni Spotlight

Though regarded with little pageantry or fanfare, skillful nonprofit/public/organizational management can increase the efficacy, standing, and outcomes of any organization. Lisa tells us what drove her to get an MPA focusing on this skill-set and describes her role as National Program Director at Youth Service Opportunities Project.

So you were an MPA graduate with a focus in nonprofit/public/organizational management. Can you tell us what drove you to that specialty?
Like many middle managers, I was promoted because I knew how to be a front-line worker. Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP) offers service learning styled programs to middle school, high school and college students working with homeless and hungry people and relies on an impressive cadre of part-time, intermittent staff to lead programs in the evenings and weekends and I used to be one of them. While Ed Doty and Jean Sommerfield, the Executive Director and Associate Executive Director of the Youth Service Opportunities Project gave me a lot of guidance and support, I knew I could do a better job of being YSOP's New York Program Director if I knew some theory behind the practice of what I was doing.

What were some of the most vital things you learned that bridges theory and practicality?
One of the things I learned at Baruch was that just saying I need more help isn't so helpful. I need to know what kind of help I need. Now I am excited to have an assessment of YSOP's New York Program to determine what kind of staffing would best enable us to move forward, what other kinds of adjustments we need to make, etc.

Tell us about your role as National Program Director at Youth Service Opportunities Project. How did your MPA prepare you for it?
I was promoted to the position of National Program Director while I was in my MPA studies at Baruch, so that could not have been timelier! I went from supervising YSOP's New York Program [and in addition had my responsibilities expanded to remotely supervising our Washington, D.C. Program, and [providing personal, on-site support running a temporary program we tested in Philadelphia at the time.

What initiatives are you currently working on? Some new projects and goals for the coming years?
Now, I'm looking assessing the needs of our New York Program to determine what we need to do build on its success and to grow its future. In the future, I'd like to try to establish a Philadelphia Program, using much of what I learned there and know about YSOP's successful programs in New York City and Washington, DC, but this time beginning with Philadelphia based staff, office and program space. This appraisal, too, was informed by things I learned from professors and classmates at Baruch.