University at Albany
 

Rockefeller College Welcomes New Students and Faculty

View images from the week's activites in our Welcome Week Photo Gallery.

Contact:  Mary Hunt (518) 442-5264

Albany, NY (September 8, 2010) - August 30 may have been the first official day of school at UAlbany, but for more than 60 new and returning Rockefeller College graduate students, class was already in full swing on the downtown campus 10 days earlier. From August 21 through 28, Rockefeller MPA students took part in Welcome Week, an intensive academic “boot camp” designed to help students brush up on important skills they’ll need during the upcoming semester.

(At left) Peter Finn, Deputy Commissioner for Finance and Administration for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation chats with Rockefeller College MPA student Phillip Suruda during the Welcome Week Advisathon.
Deputy Commissioner Peter Finn
(left) and MPA student Phillip
Suruda

Over the course of the week, they had the chance to take refresher classes in Access, Excel, Power Point, math, and writing. They even had the opportunity -- and the added challenge -- of taking part in a budget cutting exercise involving the fictitious “Parks Department of Stratton County.” Students were asked to trim the imaginary county’s parks budget by 15% and prepare presentations regarding the public policy implications of their cost-cutting measures.

Peter Finn, Deputy Commissioner for Finance and Administration at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and an adjunct professor at the College, worked with Rockefeller’s MPA Program Director Bob Purtell to create the “Stratton County” case study activity. A department of parks was selected as the focal point of the study because it provided a topic area that students could relate to easily and quickly. “Parks was used as a reference point for lots of different things,” explained Finn, himself a Rockefeller alumnus. Through this case study students could talk about community development, revenue, historic preservation, and personnel.  It’s intended to be a window on issues they’ll see over and over again in their work in public administration.”  

“It was very beneficial,” said Cyndi Mellen, a first year MPA from Castleton-on-Hudson, New York specializing in financial securities markets and homeland security. “We had a mission and we had to accomplish it.  I think it was great way to acclimate us to the kind of environments we’re going to be working in.” 

Assistant Professor Yvonne D. Harrison joined the Rockefeller College faculty for the fall 2010 semester.
Welcome Week students enjoy 
a break between classes.

Rockefeller College’s Director of Admissions Kara Pangburn was the principal organizer for Welcome Week.  “We had three major goals,” said Pangburn. “One was for cohort building. We wanted the students to make friends and feel like they were part of a group going into classes.  The second goal was to help with academic deficiencies and, more importantly, to point out to the students where they have deficiencies and help them understand what they need to work on going into the core program.  Our third goal was to familiarize them with our program, and with the faculty and staff, so that they had a leg up when they began the core.” 

Silvia Sommariva, a double-degree student in public administration and international institutions from Bocconi University in Italy, is spending her second year of MPA study at Rockefeller College through a cooperative program between the two schools. “Welcome Week was great! I had the chance to meet most of the people I will be working with, and I had the chance to review skills that I’ll need. The U.S. is a great place to study,” noted Sommariva.  “You have a totally different approach here which I feel is really great. There is less interaction in the classes at home. You study a lot and you have to do exams but in Italy and Europe you don’t have the same connections between teachers and students that you have here.”  

(At left) Peter Finn, Deputy Commissioner for Finance and Administration for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation chats with Rockefeller College MPA student Phillip Suruda during the Welcome Week Advisathon.
Students team up during
Welcome Week.

This year’s incoming MPA students weren’t the only new kids on the block. Assistant Professor of Public Administration Yvonne Harrison had barely unpacked her bags when she was called into action to participate in the Welcome Week Advisathon alongside colleague Judith Saidel.  Professor Harrison, an expert in nonprofit leadership joined the Rockefeller faculty from the Center for Nonprofit and Social Enterprise Management at Seattle University, in Seattle, Washington this August. “I thought the week was wonderfully designed for students to get a general overview of the entire program but also the complexity of what it is that they are getting themselves into in terms of the type of work that public administrators do,” said Harrison.  “The policy issues are complex and often take teams of many people to think through them and rarely is there one right or wrong answer. This was a wonderful opportunity to open their eyes to the world of public administration and policy.” 

Assistant Professor Yvonne D. Harrison joined the Rockefeller College faculty for the fall 2010 semester.
New faculty member Yvonne
Harrison settles into her office.

“The most important thing is that the students have gotten to be friends,” added Kara Pangburn.  “I would come down to the cafeteria and they’d all be sitting together eating. There’s none of that walking into the classroom with a panicked look and stopping to look around for someone they know anymore. I actually heard one of the students say that she feels going into classes she is going to know people and have a support system. That tells me Welcome Week was a huge success.”