alumni Spotlight

Marxe Alumni Spotlight with Kathryn Howard, MPA ‘14

jan20alumnispotlight

MPA alumna and Director of Plan Management at the NYC Emergency Management Department, Kathryn Howard tells us about the role’s challenges, her volunteer work with Animal Care Centers of NYC, and her Baruch Marxe experience.

Tell us about your role as Director of Plan Management at the New York City Emergency Management Department. What are your biggest challenges? What initiatives are you working to implement?
The NYC Emergency Management Department is responsible for coordinating emergency planning and response for New York City. As Director of Plan Management, I facilitate the citywide emergency planning process, which includes identifying emerging issues, coordinating with other city agencies, and ensuring that all of our planning documents are actionable.

The most important part of the planning process is often not the actual plan itself, but rather the conversations and agreements made along the way. These are often complex and extensive discussions involving many city agencies and other stakeholders. A result of these conversations is a planning document that details how the City coordinates and responds to specific hazards and impacts. It can be challenging to make sure that these documents do not just exist on a shelf, but rather are useable in real-time. Collaboration, both internal and external, is crucial for effective emergency planning. To enhance this process, my team and I are developing a comprehensive toolkit that will standardize and streamline procedures, allowing for increased transparency and utility among planners.

You volunteer with Animal Care Centers of NYC – tell us about your experience working with them and what drives your feeling of purpose and responsibility to lend a helping hand.
I believe that each one of us has the profound responsibility and privilege of supporting those around us. Helping our local and global communities looks different for everyone, and I never in a million years thought that I would help by volunteering with an animal shelter! As a kid, my only experience with pets was a short stint with hermit crabs, tadpoles, and an ant farm. While fascinating to watch, they definitely were not the cuddliest companions. Fast forward to a few years ago and the realization that I had more pictures of my friend’s cats on my phone than anything else, and that maybe, when I least expected it, a love of animals had crept up on me after all. Unable to add an animal to my already-too-crowded NYC apartment, I decided the next best thing was to volunteer with my nearest shelter: Animal Care Centers (ACC).

Over the past two years, I have helped take care of cats in the shelter, gone out in the community and encouraged folks to get involved, and have fostered a cat in my home. I absolutely love spending time with the shelter cats, and am in awe of how resilient and adaptable they are. Many of them are just looking for connection and love, and I am so happy to be able to help them on their journey. ACC has about a dozen different ways you can support the animals and the community, and you do not need any prior experience (they will teach you!), which is what drew me to the organization. Whether it’s taking photos, writing bios, tabling at outreach events, sorting supplies, or walking the shelter dogs, there really is something for everyone. It has definitely opened my eyes to the ways in which lending a hand is a whole community effort and can involve everyone and every skillset.

Why did you decide to come to the Marxe School? What did you get out of the MPA program?
When I graduated from Binghamton University with my bachelor’s degree, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to help. Not knowing who I wanted to help or how I wanted to do it, I decided that I should pursue my MPA while I figured out my next steps. The Marxe School ended up being the perfect combination of great professors, convenient location, and affordable enough that, with some additional side jobs, I could pay out of pocket.

Upon enrolling, I was at a point in my life where I felt like there were an infinite number of possibilities for my career, but none had really stood out to me. I used my time at Baruch to explore and test out different interest areas. In addition to the core classes, I really pushed myself to take classes that covered a wide variety of topics – including some classes in the Higher Education program and at the Zicklin School. Between information from classes and getting to know my colleagues and their careers and passions, the MPA program ended up being the perfect place for me. I believe that figuring out what you want to do when you “grow up” is truly a lifelong process, and I know that the Marxe School definitely helped me on that journey.