Q&A with Sumaiyya Ali, MPA '19

Why did you choose to attend UAlbany to pursue your MPA?
My interest to pursue graduate studies in the U.S. sparked during my first visit here in 2016. Coming from a developing country with imperfect public policies, I knew I would learn tremendously in the U.S., which would later allow me to contribute effectively to my country’s public policy debate.

While applying to U.S. colleges, I came across UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy which instantly appealed to me for multiple reasons. Among these, the primary would be the extensive variety of concentration areas available that really allow me to specialize in areas according to my future goals. Research experience and expertise of the faculty was another major factor that played a role in solidifying my decision. Furthermore, the location of the college is a big bonus; as an MPA student it is great to be in the capitol of New York State with plenty of opportunities to engage with the public sector.

What sparked your interest in applying for the fellowship position with the NYS Department of Health?
As an aspiring policy analyst, I understand the importance of professional working experience along with the study of theoretical subject matter. For this very reason, I wanted to get firsthand experience working with a public agency. In my search for such an opportunity, I came across the NYSDOH fellowship. I applied for it instantly and was thrilled when I found out that I was selected.

How have your Rockefeller classes impacted your experience with the NYSDOH so far?
During my first semester at Rockefeller, I am taking the core courses, which are the foundations of the MPA program. These courses are equipping me with the basics of what working in the public sector entails, including the ways public managers are challenged, how to behave strategically in certain decision-making situations, what different stakeholders mean to an organization, how to act professionally and ethically, the financial management concepts of public management, and the use of computer software. At NYSDOH, I witness public managers make use of these mentioned skills and it reassures me that my learning experience at Rockefeller will be valuable in transforming me into a future public manager.

What is the focus of your fellowship position?
I am working at the NYSDOH, Office of Health Insurance Programs in the Division of Program Development and Management in the Bureau of Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Policy. At the bureau, we work on various initiatives under the Medicaid program. Currently, the focus is on an initiative called the First 1000 Days. This initiative focuses on the early development years of children. The initiative is further broken down into work groups; among these I am involved with the Home Visiting & Dyadic Therapy work plan group. The group is currently working on the effective implementation of the said initiatives.

What key knowledge, skills and/or abilities have you learned throughout this position and how do you think this experience will impact your future career goals?
The most important thing I have learned so far is the role of various stakeholders in the public sector and how it is the job of a proficient manager to bring all of them together to reach a specific common end goal. In addition to that, I am learning how to conduct myself professionally, how to be a valuable team player, how to deliver timely expectations, and how to manage and balance the various priorities at work and school. My experience here at NYSDOH is playing a huge role in my personal and professional growth and I have no doubt it will show pronounced effects on my future career as well.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 Rockefeller College News Magazine.