Student and Alumni Spotlights

Alumni community economic development

Many graduate students at the Bloustein School pursue their degrees with a focus on community and economic development. In early November alumni with professional experience in this area were invited to sit on a panel discussion to offer perspectives on the current and future trends in this area.

Moderated by Professor Julia Rubin, alumni James M. Zullo MCRP ‘96, Michael Cassidy MCRP ‘12 and Staci Berger MPAP ‘04 participated in a conversation to give their personal and professional stories from before, during and after attending the Bloustein School. They also discussed what they thought were effective strategic initiatives and the skills and abilities they believe students needed to be successful.

Students from both the planning and public policy programs heard valuable advice on how to prepare for careers in this community and economic development. Suggestions included networking and getting out into the field, and explaining how learning about organizations like NJ Future and attending APA conferences to understand what was going on currently in the field. All of the panelists stressed the importance of practicing writing as much as possible, even if it is just for oneself. This was highlighted especially for those students who are hoping to work at nonprofit organizations that depend on funding from the grants applications.

The panelists all stressed that important skills in this field including understanding financial feasibility and economic and real estate trends, being able to visually represent data through GIS or Excel, and having strong problem solving and communication abilities. Students interested in this field should take courses such as state and local public finance, community and economic development, nonprofit management, budgeting, and other public policy or real estate finance courses.

Following the discussion, students were able to speak with panelists one on one.