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A day in the life of a Rockefeller student

Sumaiyya Ali. Source: Rockefeller College of Public Affairs

What’s it like to study at one of the best schools for public affairs in the US? One international student shares her perspective on why Rockefeller College is the place for this course of study…

Do you have an interest in serving or improving society? Are you genuinely concerned about matters such as legislation, the policy process and public administration, and how all these things affect society? Do you see yourself potentially going into public service, civic engagement, political and government careers, public communications, international affairs or non-profit service in the not-so-distant future, or are you currently employed in public service and want to strengthen your understanding in the area for career advancement?

If so, you may want to consider postgraduate study at Rockefeller College.

Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, SUNY, offers a Master of Public Administration (MPA), and is rated among the top institutions in this field. As a testament to Rockefeller’s strengths, the college was ranked the 23rd Best Public Affairs Program by US News and World Report.

Its comprehensive curriculum in public affairs and its diverse selection of electives makes it an attractive course for leaders, managers and advanced analysts to develop their skills for public service within government and other sectors. Students gain valuable real-world experience through internships in both the public and private sector, while the program itself prepares them to solve difficult administrative and policy problems in local, state, national and global communities.


International student Sumaiyya Ali, a first-year student in the MPA program, said her interest to pursue her graduate studies in the US was sparked during her first visit to the country in 2016.

“Coming from a developing country with imperfect public policies, I knew I would learn tremendously in the US, which would later allow me to contribute effectively to my country’s public policy debate,” said the Pakistani student.

Rockefeller College’s MPA appealed to her for numerous reasons; the extensive range of concentration areas available was chief among them, giving her the flexibility to specialize in areas that supported her future goals.

Some concentration areas offered include Environmental Policy & Politics, Global Affairs, Government Information Strategy and Management, Healthcare Policy and Management, Homeland SecurityHuman Resources Management, Local Government Management, Nonprofit Management, Policy Analysis and Public Finance and Economics.

“Research experience and expertise of the faculty was another major factor that played a role in solidifying my decision. The location of the college is also a big bonus; as an MPA student, it is great to be in the capital of New York State with plenty of opportunities to engage with the public sector,” she enthused.

Ali is also a Fellow at the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and works in the Office of Health Insurance Programs in the Division of Program Development and Management in the Bureau of Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Policy.

For the uninitiated, the NYSDOH Office of Health Insurance Programs is tasked with managing Medicaid in New York. It’s a jointly-run state and federal government health program that bases eligibility on income rather than age or disability, seeking to help people and families with limited financial resources receive the healthcare they need. Medicaid in New York serves over six million members and has a budget of more than US$63 billion.

“As an aspiring policy analyst, I understand the importance of professional working experience along with the study of theoretical subject matter. I wanted to gain firsthand experience working with a public agency and applied for the NYSDOH fellowship; I was thrilled when I found out that I was selected.

“At the bureau, we work on various initiatives under the Medicaid program. Currently, the focus is on an initiative called the First 1000 Days which 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,” she said.

Source: Rockefeller College of Public Affairs

Ali’s classes have proven to be valuable with her experience in NYSDOH. Her coursework has equipped her with the basics of what working in the public sector entails, including the ways public managers are challenged, how to behave strategically in 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,” adds the student.

Balancing work and school is a challenge, but what makes the MPA so unique is its ability to complement classroom study with hands-on experiences to boost employability. Some key skills Ali has gained thus far include learning the role of various stakeholders in the public sector and how a proficient manager can bring everyone together to reach a common goal.

“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,” Ali concludes.

In addition to the esteemed MPA, Rockefeller provides professional education through its Master of International Affairs (MIA) program.

The MIA’s multidisciplinary curriculum draws from the knowledge and expertise of the College’s Departments of Public Administration and Political Science. Rockefeller’s acclaimed faculty members offer innovative skills-based courses, policy-focused research opportunities and personalized academic and career guidance. Many international affairs courses incorporate student interaction with practitioners, whether in person or through synchronous distance learning.

Rockefeller College interns have found exciting opportunities for work and study abroad including assignments in Africa, Asia, and South America, and graduates learn to navigate complex transnational issues and manage organizations in an increasingly globalized world. Rockefeller’s MIA, the first of its kind in the SUNY system, offers one of the best tuition values among international affairs programs.

No doubt, at Rockefeller College, prospective students gain the skills they need for the career they want.

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