by Zoë Linder-Baptie, Candidate, MPP-MCRP ’18
A civilian analyst for the New Jersey State Police, Raymond Bisogno BS ’06 (Public Health) recently completed a Master of Arts in Security Studies from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. After a year and a half in his most recent assignment as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Superintendent of Homeland Security, he is transitioning back to the Office of Emergency Management to assist with several initiatives there, including liaison work with their homeland security partners.
Reflecting on his time at Rutgers and Bloustein, he noted that many professors and fellow students enriched his time here, but of course, several stand out as exceptionally influential.
His first professor at Rutgers, Julie Traxler, greatly challenged his critical thinking skills, and Ray continues to carry some of the lessons from her class with him to this day. The late Professor Richard Heffner forever changed his approach to important literature and ideas about public discourse, and several of Dr. Heffner’s books line his shelves in his home.
Professor Fereydoun Nikpour—currently an Associate Teaching Professor at the Bloustein School and still teaching Basic Statistical Methods—was arguably one of the most engaging teachers he’s ever ever had, noting that Dr. Nikpour was pivotal in changing the way he approached data-based issues. Finally, Dr. Dona Schneider, who served as Ray’s primary advisor and who still teaches in the school’s undergraduate program, pulled him through the completion of his undergraduate studies with a combination of academic rigor, sound advice, and tough love that few could pull off as effectively as she did.
“Unless you’ve had Dr. Schneider peer at you over the top over her glasses,” he remembered, “You haven’t fully experienced EJB.”
He also credits his time at Rutgers and Bloustein for preparing him for his career and advanced studies by helping him develop a set of reasoning and analytical skills he could build on. His foundational knowledge in public health greatly informs his work in emergency management and homeland security, enabling him to collaborate in a much more meaningful way with partners from state and federal health agencies.
This foundation also informed his approach to topics in his graduate studies as well, allowing him to contribute the public health perspective to class discussions with his peers from the Naval Postgraduate School. This extended to national-level dialogues when, in September 2016, he was invited to participate in a White House Roundtable on Preparedness.
As he reflected on his career, he noted that, “Throughout various assignments in the Navy and with the New Jersey State Police, the most fulfilling and engaging positions I’ve held have been the ones that afforded me the opportunity to write, to impact policy, and to employ creativity and diplomacy to find solutions to organizational challenges. By earning a place as a trusted advisor, I have been fortunate to affect outcomes over time and to explore new approaches on my organization’s behalf.”
His advice to current students? “Seek out the connective tissue between things your organization is grappling with to understand how they are interrelated and interdependent,” he said. “And, look for ways to help colleagues accomplish their objectives, ways that they may not be seeing. Empathy is incredibly important.”
Finally, he said, they should consider appreciative inquiry; it is not necessary to always begin in the problem space and work your way out. Examine successful models in completely unrelated fields and systems to look for new ideas. Take intellectual risks and be innovative—nothing ssever grows in a comfort zone. In John A. Shedd’s words, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”