The great value of an alumni network

Andrea

Andrea Lomanto currently serves as Director of Alumni Relations at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a pretty cool job. I get to work with alumni of Rockefeller College every day. I plan fun alumni events, and coordinate alumni volunteer opportunities. Those events and volunteer opportunities involve connecting alumni with our students in any number of ways. Our alumni love it because they have the opportunity to give something back to the College…for free. Our students love it because at minimum, they receive great advice from well-connected professionals. And at best, those alumni-student encounters result in students landing awesome internships, job interviews and, actual, salary-paying jobs!

The beauty of Rockefeller’s alumni network is that it is at every single student’s fingertips. The network is not accessible only to some ultra-exclusive insider’s club. Here at Rockefeller, a student — any student — needs only to call me up, email me, drop by my office or show up at an event or panel to get face-time with alumni who are ready, willing and able to chat about career aspirations, who they know in the student’s field of interest, and the best way to chart a course in that direction.

So, the accessibility and strength of the alumni network is yet another factor to consider when choosing a graduate program. Find out if, as a student, you will have ample opportunity to interact with alumni. It is vital that you do.

Allow me to toot the Rockefeller College horn for a moment. We have countless alumni panels, luncheons, classroom visits and special events to offer our students. And for those students interested in one-on-one time with an alum, no problem. I can play match-maker for you, connecting you with alumni doing whatever it is you hope to do someday. We can arrange for a face-to-face meeting, informational interview or job shadowing.

Alumni are wonderfully generous and eager to share their wisdom. Students who take advantage of this will be light years ahead of those that do not. Access to alumni is crucial and will surely provide you with great insights and opportunities, so make sure that you tap into that network early and often!

Selecting the right PhD program – it’s all about fit!

Ashley Davis-Alteri is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy.  She holds a JD and MA in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota.

Ashley Davis-Alteri is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Public Administration and Policy. She holds a JD and MA in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota.

Choosing the PhD program that is the best fit for you is a time consuming process, but the effort will definitely pay off in the end. Unlike selecting a graduate or professional program, when you are selecting a PhD program you cannot rely on the U.S. News & World Report rankings to tell you everything you need to know. Instead, when you are deciding on a PhD program you should focus on whether the program is a good match for your research interests and whether a member of the faculty would serve as a good mentor.

In order to determine whether a member of the faculty would be a good mentor, it is helpful to spend some time reviewing different faculty profiles. After you have narrowed your search to a few faculty members that look promising, scan their CVs to find research papers that look interesting. Select a few of these papers to see if their recent research interests match what you would like to study. Finally, take the time to meet with a few faculty members to see if they are a good match your personality and interests.

When I was applying for PhD programs, I visited Rockefeller College to see what classes were like and met with several members of the faculty. The visit was a wonderful opportunity to really see what Rockefeller College was really like. I found that the students were welcoming and helpful, and the faculty was bright, but very approachable. These impressions were confirmed once I began the PhD program. While the education you receive as a student at Rockefeller is outstanding, the greatest treasure is the people that you are surrounded by.

If you find that the PhD program at Rockefeller and the faculty who teach here are a good match for your research interests, I encourage you to come visit. It’s worth taking the time to do your homework!

Good luck on your search!

The Big Decision: Choosing the Right MPA Program

Matt Lowney

Matt Lowney is a second-year MPA student. He is originally from the Rochester, NY area.

Accepting my admission to Rockefeller College’s Master of Public Administration program was, at the time, one of the most important decisions of my life. So trust me when I say that I understand how you feel when it comes to having to choose between the many great programs you’ve been accepted into.

But, how do you get to your final choice?

And, how do you know if you are making the right decision?

First things first, if you go to a top program and perform well you are going to be just fine. If you work hard and constantly strive to learn and network, you will go on to have a tremendously successful career in whatever field you choose.

My decision ultimately came down to one thing: value. Understanding that any top program was going to position me to be successful, I focused on how much each program had to offer me.

The way a school “fits” or aligns with our motivations or interests has a lot to do with how we perceive value. This of course means that we have to figure out what’s most important to us, and better understand what we aim to get out of our graduate school experience, outside of just a master’s degree. Once we’ve refined our own idea of value, arriving at the right choice gets a little easier.

For me personally, I needed a school that was affordable and located in an area that would allow me to expand my professional network. I was looking for a program that matched my interests and one that would give me the best opportunity to add meaningful professional experiences to my resume. I also paid close attention to a school’s job placement rate and where its most recent alumni are employed. After getting a better understanding of what I wanted out of a graduate school, it became clear that Rockefeller College was the right choice for me.

In the year and a half I’ve been at Rockefeller, I worked as a Graduate Assistant at Rockefeller College, and interned with the New York State Department of Health in Albany and the Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C. Furthermore, I have met countless alumni and public service professionals in both cities, allowing me to expand my network and acquire real time information about how to succeed in today’s job market.

I am glad that I took the time to “rank” different programs based on what I considered important. This led me to choose Rockefeller College, which has given me the opportunity to obtain an elite education, and grow professionally, at a fraction of the cost.

I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of a graduate education! And just remember to pick the right school for you.

Winter in Upstate NY: it’s not just cold and snow

So, I posted on Facebook the other day asking my friends for suggestions to help me write a blog post about why living in Upstate New York in the winter isn’t so horrible. They had some great ideas and opinions to offer, so I thought I’d just share their thoughts with you. It’s only about 7 degrees here today, but take heart: if you’re thinking about moving to the Albany area from warmer climes, there are plenty of reasons to love NY in the winter!

Erin: The Saranac Lake ice castle!

Saranac Lake ice castle

Frank: As someone who moved to upstate NY for the weather, it’s not that bad. Plus, Albany actually has a fantastic snow removal system. As someone who has lived in 9 different cities/states, all of which experience snow issues, Albany is able to remove snow fast allowing for me to not be “trapped.” I could go skiing, snowboarding, and tubing at Gore; I could go ice skating at the park right next to my apartment; I had massive snowball fights in Washington Park; and with the cold weather comes a lot of indoor trade shows and festivals.

Renee: I can’t believe Frank left out the most important selling point. Should we be faced with a zombie apocalypse, the ice and snow would clearly slow them down.

Christina: Snow bums love it here! The best way to de-stress from college work is a good snowboard run! And ask my brother about snow shoeing through Albany. It is fun!

Gore mountain ski resort

Nikki: I agree with Christina! In addition, if you drive 1/2-2 hours in almost any direction, you can hit a major city, a major historical landmark, or incredible natural beauty. This is one of the best areas for microbreweries and wineries due to the climate, plus apple, pumpkin, and berry picking.

Stacy: Gorgeous fall weather and scenery, which means you can wear cute boots and scarfs!

Marcy: I miss having 4 seasons. Believe it or not, 80 and sunny gets old. Upstate NY summers have variety. Not 94 every day. The fall is crisp and the leaves are beautiful. And Christmas isn’t the same without snow and cold weather! It’s so beautiful.

Asking the RIGHT questions of career offices

When choosing your graduate program, it is vitally important to look at the career outcomes for any given program. Hopefully by now, you know the difference between an academic program and a professional program. Just in case, I’ll give you a quick primer – an academic program is designed to prepare students to find jobs in the academe (or university setting), such as a professor, while a professional program prepares students for jobs in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. If you are hoping to end your formal education after completing a master’s program, then you should choose a professional program.

Even though you may be only hoping to gain admission to graduate school now, you should be really concerned about getting a job afterwards.  Any program worth its salt will have career statistics or outcomes, and it’s really important to look at these and figure out how to ask, not just questions, but the RIGHT questions. Here’s a couple of questions to ask:

  1. Do graduates receive jobs related to their field of study? Career reports will typically list the industries where students go on to work. Public Administration/Policy schools will often categorize jobs by federal, state, and local government, nonprofit organizations, international, and private industry. But….remember that statistics can sometimes lie. A graduate might be categorized as working in private industry, but they could be doing retail work, and doing nothing related to their degree. While they technically have a job, and can be included in the statistics, it’s not a professional job that requires a degree. Make sure that you dig a little deeper and ask about the types of positions that graduates are obtaining and if they are related to your desired degree. At Rockefeller, we have an extremely high rate of graduates finding jobs in their field. In my 5 years of working in career services at Rockefeller, there has been 1 student that did not go on to work in her field after graduation; I have categorized this as an “other” category on my report. To be honest, I’m slightly irked by this one exception to the rule; however, I feel as if I can get an asterisk on my record – the one person categorized as “other” got a job as a professional volleyball player overseas immediately after graduation, and has since returned back to the states and is working as a development officer for a nonprofit organization. Personally, I feel justified in saying that we have a pretty clean record of getting students jobs in public affairs, despite this small mark on my record. But, you must beware because not all schools are as forthright with their information; law schools are particularly notorious in tweaking their statistics in their favor.
  1. Can I get a PAID internship? Almost every professional school has a career or internship requirement associated with their degree programs; therefore, they will flaunt their extensive internship opportunities. But, you should ask what percentage of their internships are paid vs. unpaid. At first glance, major metropolitan areas may appear to have a lot of internship opportunities, but large cities are also flooded with perspective students looking to intern. When there is a large supply of students seeking positions, internship sites do not necessarily need to pay students in order to get the best candidates. The same can go for rural schools without a lot of internship opportunities. Mid-size markets (like Albany) are great for students to find internship opportunities. Located in State capital, there are tons of opportunities between local, state, and federal government, lobbying firms, and nonprofit organizations. In fact, there is a high demand for interns, as we are the only MPA/MPP school in the area, and I often have to educate employers that if they can’t offer pay, then they may not get a quality intern. Approximately 85% of internships are paid, with an average pay of almost $15/hour, which is more than enough to pay for an apartment and have some fun on the weekends (another great follow up question is to ask how much interns are paid). Note that most unpaid internships are at nonprofit organizations, who across the board, typically cannot pay their interns.
  1. Do graduates receive a salary increase after graduation? If so, what is the average increase? Again, most schools will give you a sense of salary ranges for individuals. But for prospective students with either little to some work experience, you need to ensure that you are getting a return on your investment. Who wants to go to graduate school only to experience no change or a decrease in salary?!! Most schools track the jobs and salaries of incoming students (or at least they should…) and compare that to jobs and salaries after graduation. On average, Rockefeller students who come in with some work background experience a 56% increase in salary by the time they graduate. Actually, we have many students who earn a salary increase as they progress through the program because they are applying their education to their work. In over 5 years at Rockefeller, I’ve only had 1 student who had a decrease in salary as a result of earning a degree, and again, I feel like I get an asterisk here – the student was an investment banker who wanted to go into the public sector, and while the post-graduate salary was extremely lucrative, it didn’t compare to that of an investment banker… I feel justified in saying I have a pretty good record of success.

So – make sure you check those career statistics and ask pointed questions! Also, be nice to your friendly career professional – your behavior towards him/her is an indication of how you’ll act in a job; you’ll attract more bees with honey than with vineagar.

Deadline season is upon us… Here are some tips for making sure your application is complete!

With deadline season upon us… it’s important to know what you can do to make sure your graduate school application is complete. The following items are the most common materials that delay review of an application… which means they also delay your ability to receive an admissions decision!

• Official transcripts of all graduate and undergraduate work to date
• Letters of recommendation

• GRE scores (if applicable)

One of the biggest reasons these materials can cause a delay is the fact that YOU do not submit them. Your school(s) must submit the official transcripts, each individual recommender must submit your letter of recommendation and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) submits your official GRE scores. While you are able to upload unofficial transcripts, indicate who your recommenders will be and provide your unofficial GRE scores on your application… it will not be formally reviewed until the official documents are received.

What can you do to make sure these items are received by the deadline?

PLAN IN ADVANCE! Even though you do not submit these materials, it is your responsibility to make sure they are submitted on time!

Each school has a different process for requesting official transcripts; it also takes each school a different amount of time to process such requests (in some cases it can take several weeks). Contact your Registrar’s office and find out how long it will take them to submit your official transcript(s) and make sure you keep that timing in mind when you make your requests. If you made a mistake and did not allow enough time for your official transcript(s) to be received, some schools have rush options (an extra fee is usually involved). You should contact your Registrar’s office to see what options you have.

You should be giving your recommenders plenty of time to write letters on your behalf (preferably, at least a month’s notice). Once they have agreed to write letters of recommendation, you should plan to follow up with your recommenders and make sure they know when the letters need to be submitted. If the deadline is approaching and you notice the letters have not been submitted, it is absolutely OK to contact your recommenders and politely remind them of the deadline.

When you take the GRE, you can indicate which institutions you would like to receive your scores. Official scores are typically available in your MYGRE account, and sent to the institutions you select, about 10-15 days after your test date (for the computerized version of the exam)… so plan accordingly! If you already took the exam and need to send us a copy of your official scores, you will need to request an additional score report from ETS. You should contact ETS directly about the quickest way to send your scores. For more information, please visit: http://www.ets.org/gre.

Finally, remember to submit the application materials you have as early as possible. Even if you’re waiting on one piece of your application (like your GRE scores or a letter of recommendation), you can – and should – submit your application right away. That way, we will know you are applying and can offer assistance if problems arise.

Please visit http://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/admissions.shtml for more information about our deadlines and requirements. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at rockadmissions@albany.edu.

What makes a good letter of recommendation? Here are some tips for making yours stand out!

Jimmy2

Jimmy Johnston is a first year MPA student, and graduate assistant in the admissions office, at Rockefeller College. He hails from Morrisville, NY.

An application for graduate school has five main components: GPA, GRE scores, Personal Statement, Resume, and letters of recommendation. Today we’re going to cover the letters of recommendation. While you may not have a say over what your recommenders write, I’ll go over a few guidelines to ensure that you get the most benefit out of your letters. For this post, I’m going to focus on 4 points: Who, What, When, and How.

WHO:

For graduate school applications, unless you have been out of school for several years, at least two of your letters should be from academic sources (unless stated otherwise). That means two letters should be from professors (or Teaching Assistants), and one could be from someone who knows you professionally outside the classroom (a boss, internship supervisor, a faculty/staff member who works with you on an extra-curricular activity, etc.). A letter from a high school teacher, family member, neighbor, or friend would generally be seen as inappropriate.


Remember: Relationship > Title

This is very important. Some applicants think that if they get a letter from their elected representative (assemblyman, senator) or another notable member of the community, their letter will somehow hold more weight. This is not true. What’s important is what the recommender has to say about you.
Let’s say that you’re in a 250-person lecture class. You score high marks, but do not interact directly with the professor. For most of the group work and projects, you’re working with a Teaching Assistant. The TA gets to know you and understands your work ethic. The professor knows you scored high marks, but couldn’t put a name to your face. We would much rather see a thoughtful letter of recommendation written by the TA who can speak to your abilities and tell us about you, than a letter from a professor that says “Jimmy scored high marks in my class. I’m sure he will do well in your program.” An average letter that shows you’re “satisfactory” doesn’t really add to your application.

WHAT:

While you don’t get to write the letter, more often than not your recommender will ask you for your thoughts. This is your chance to help guide your recommender to submit the best possible letter.
Your letters of recommendation should show two things:
1. Your academic ability – that you are ready for graduate-level coursework
2. Your fit for program – that you are interested in and would succeed in the given program
A common myth is that a recommender should regurgitate your resume in order to tell us about all of the things you do outside the classroom. This is NOT necessary, as you are submitting a copy of your resume with the application. Your letters of recommendation are supposed to illustrate your academic ability and fit for the program. It is a good idea to let your recommender know why you decided to ask them. For example, if you want your professor to talk about the research project you worked on together, let him/her know that!

WHEN:

Ideally, you should give your recommenders at least a month to produce your letters. Remember, you are not the only person who has asked them to write one, and they are also likely swamped with other responsibilities. It’s good to approach your potential recommender when the deadline is more than a month away to ask if he/she would be willing to write a letter for you. Follow up with them regularly, but understand they have many other commitments. Remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they have enough time to write the letter, are aware of the deadline, and are planning to submit on time.

HOW:

When approaching a potential recommender, you should ask: if they feel they would be able to write a satisfying letter of recommendation for you, if they (honestly) have time, and if they would be willing. Let them be honest. If they decline, it’s for the better. It’s best to find out now that they don’t have time or don’t feel that they know you well enough, than to have your application submitted late or have a lousy letter.
If they agree to write recommendation, follow up with them regularly to remind them of the deadline. After they submit your letter, send them a hand-written thank you note, because they took time out of their schedule to help you out. When you are accepted to schools and decide where you are attending, follow up with them to let them know, and thank them again.

So that’s letters of recommendation in a nutshell. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us at rockadmissions@albany.edu. Thanks for reading our blog, and stay tuned for future posts!

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