Trying times for public service organizations
By Steve Seepersaud
People who work in public service are attracted to the field because it offers the opportunity to make the world a better place. That's not an easy task as nonprofits face similar financial and human resource challenges to their for-profit counterparts. And, the change public servants want to see happen is often not big enough or fast enough.
Binghamton University alumni who are leaders in nonprofit and government service in the New York City area recently shared insights on the professional challenges they face. The Alumni Association, Metro New York Chapter and accounting firm BDO co-sponsored "The Challenge of Managing and Leading Public Service Organizations in the 21st Century," a networking event held March 26 at the SUNY Global Center in Manhattan. About 75 alumni took advantage of an opportunity to network with Binghamton graduates in their fields and to hear from an esteemed panel.
Eric Henry '05, legislative and budget director for New York City Councilmember Andy King (12th District - The Bronx), says one of the biggest challenges he faces is trying to build a sense of patience in constituents because change won't happen all at once.
"I see this a lot when facing people with a certain need or issue," Henry says. "When they advocate to elected officials, a lot of times we have to temper their expectations because change at the city level can be incremental. It will come eventually and I want to make sure they are not discouraged by the process."
Cora Greenberg '70, executive director of Westchester Children's Association, says nonprofit organization leaders, while committed to their causes, can feel zapped of energy needed to keep fighting the good fight.
"[Our society] is anti-community," Greenberg says. "It's everybody for themselves. In actuality, we are all here for each other. What happens to people matters to all of us."
Nancy Wackstein '73, HD '13, executive director of United Neighborhood Houses of New York, says, despite the challenges, she feels inspired by newcomers to the field of human service.
"The people I hire are so passionate about wanting to make change," Wackstein says. "They remind me of me when I was 25. That's exciting to me. I take my job as a mentor seriously."
The event was part of the Metro New York Chapter's goal to provide opportunities for alumni to engage in industry-specific networking. David Campbell, associate professor and chair of the Public Administration Department in the College of Community and Public Affairs, was the moderator for the panel. Meredith Belle '06; Matthew DeSaro '09, MPA '11; Jackie Fishman '08' Quintin Maidment; Jane Rosales '09; and Geraldine Toussaint '08 organized the event.
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