MPA student profiles

Robert CohenRobert Cohen, MPA '14

I work for New York City Emergency Management as an After Action Report Coordinator, working with teams from NYC Emergency Management and other city agencies to identify what went well and why and what didn't go as well as they had hoped in the City's emergency responses and drills.
I always wanted to volunteer. I was sixteen when I started with my local fire department but I was interested in volunteering even before that. Volunteerism is something that is really important to me. It's an important force in the community and that's not just emergency services, any volunteer provides an important service in the community. Part of my interest in looking at how governments and nonprofits can provide services to people was from my interest in volunteerism.

I came to the MPA program at Binghamton because I did my undergraduate studies here, which I loved, and I had heard good things about the MPA program. I'd been active as a volunteer with Harpur's Ferry Ambulance on campus and a few of our alum from Harpur's Ferry came through the MPA program, were successful, and found it a really positive experience. I applied to several different programs but Binghamton struck me, more so than the other places, that it was a more open. I thought that the courses had great material and were structured in a way that wasn't rigid, it felt like I could come here and research what I wanted to research and I could be involved in different extracurricular pieces of the program as well. It looked like a good balance: academic rigor, involvement outside of the classroom, and rigor with enough flexibility that I could make my MPA into "my" MPA.

Both local government classes I took inform the work that I do now. One was planning for disasters and the other was recovering from disasters, floods in particular. The local government class in planning and in recovery solidified a concept in me, that the whole community approach is real. It has to be real. That was important to me.
I had a great experience in the MPA program at Binghamton. I would do it again.

Arsen Stepanyan, MPA '14


What are you doing now?

I am currently the Country Director for Save the Children Armenia. With my 30-member team, I work to create lasting change for children in need in Armenia and around the world. We work to improve child protection systems, education infrastructures, and children's rights throughout the country. My work has included administering programs in the organization and I am engaging more into policy. The Armenian office has a rich history of working in service provision and community development. We are now expanding into sustainability and accountability issues. I am expanding our policy work in Armenia and the 6 nearby offices in Eurasia. Our lead agencies are Save the Children United States and Netherlands.

Why did you come to the MPA program at Binghamton?

In 2005 I made a life-changing shift from working for the Armenian Parliament to becoming a nonprofit sector architect. Back then, my bachelor's degree in Economics and MA in Political Science seemed to be a strong combination. Working the next eight years in the nonprofit sector I realized that successful nonprofit leaders need a select set of knowledge, skills and connections to lead their organizations. That understanding brought me to Binghamton's MPA program.

Were there particular courses, faculty, or projects that were helpful in the work that you do now?

In my job at Save the Children, it did not take much time to appreciate the value of the MPA program. I cannot name a single class that I would not take if starting the program again. Today, I use a lot of content from Dr. Appe's policy analysis class, including the policy cycle and policy analysis, Dr. Campbell's nonprofits class, and Professor Brennan's human resources class.

Have you always had an interest in nonprofits or public service?

My undergrad years were the first years of independence of Armenia from the Soviet Union. During that time the concept of a nonprofit sector, or the civil society, was not common. My early obsession was with politics and legislatures. When working for the Armenian Parliament until 2005 I became a true advocate of civic participation, and I was very upset about the level and quality of participation of nonprofits in policy work. 2005 was a turning point for me, when I decided to work from "the other side of policy barricades" and started my policy advocacy career. Was the shift easy? Not at all! I am happy I had the support of my family, particularly my kids, for whom my decisions to change my job or go back to grad school affected often. I have always believed that everyone should enjoy what he or she does. Today, looking back at my career, I can see that I have a proof of that. I even have my bonus. Working with Susan Appe together in Armenia to inspire the next generation of change makers is something I could have not dreamed even in my most far going dreams. Thank you! (In March 2015, Professor Appe traveled to Yerevan, Armenia through the support of Muskie Mentor/Advisor Exchange (MAX) Program, funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and implemented by IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board) and implemented by IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board), Save the Children International's Armenia Country Office and Department of Public Administration of Yerevan State University).

Zhanna Harutyunyan, MPA '12


What are you doing now?

Since November 2012, I have been the Project Expert of Women in Local Democracy (WiLD) project in the United Nations Development Program in Armenia. We work in close cooperation with the Republic of Armenia Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situation to increase women's representation in local governance in all ten regions of Armenia. We also support communities to develop and use strategies to ensure residents' participation in decision making processes at the local level.

Why did you come to the MPA program at Binghamton?

By the time of application to the program, I already had 8 years of project management experience. I wanted to take a break from the practical work in the field and enrich my theoretical knowledge about nonprofit management.

Were there particular courses, faculty, or projects that were helpful in the work that you do now?

For my current position as a Project Expert, it requires a lot of research and proposition of new solutions to old issues! I definitely use knowledge from Research Design & Methods, Managing Information and Technology, and Issues in Nonprofit Administration, in particular, topics related to social entrepreneurship. The 21st Century Governance class changed my perspectives to approaching management and the importance, and challenges, of collaboration.

Have you always had an interest in nonprofits or public service?

Yes. The nonprofit field is very young in Armenia and when for the first time I attended an English club at the YMCA in 1998 in my small town I realized: "This is what I want to do" even though at the time I was a student at the teaching university. Since then I am very much engaged in nonprofit work in Armenia!

(Pictured: Zhanna Harutyunyan, L, with Susan Appe).


Stephen Capobianco

Stephen Capobianco, MPA '12

Spanish Language and Literature and Public Administration, BA-MPA

“I hope to affect public health policy in innovative and effective ways.”

Stephen Capobianco is ambitious. As part of Binghamton University's combined BA-MPA program, he expects to complete both a bachelor's degree in Spanish language and literature as well as an MPA degree. Students typically complete the combined degree program in five years, instead of the usual six. Stephen enrolled in the MPA program to broaden his perspectives on public policy and build a solid foundation for his future endeavors. “The smaller size of the program,” he says, “allows students to develop their own academic and professional interests while receiving attention from multiple faculty members.” Stephen’s work focuses on public health and the connections between health policy and government. As an MPA student, Stephen participated in a study-abroad course in Shenzhen, China, where he researched the effect of the hukou system on Chinese public health. He also interned at the United Way of Broome County as a health program officer, where he helped develop several evidence-based decision-making tools for the organization.

After graduating from the MPA program, Stephen plans to attend medical school. He aspires to integrate his “passion for serving the public good with the clinical practice…of a physician. In the future, I hope to affect public health policy in innovative and effective ways.”

Sebastian Lippez De Castro

Sebastian Lippez De Castro, MPA '12

Public Administration, MPA

“It is not easy to find a program with a strong emphasis on local government, which is exactly what I found at Binghamton University.”

A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Sebastian Lippez De Castro came to Binghamton University’s MPA program to deepen his understanding of the opportunities and challenges involved in local government management. He already held a bachelor’s degree in political science (with an emphasis in public management and a specialization in municipal government), and he had teaching and research experience related to the decentralization process in Columbia and other countries, but he wanted more. “It is not easy to find a program with a strong emphasis on local government, which is exactly what I found at Binghamton University. My courses…have given me a valuable opportunity to enhance my understanding of local government systems in the U.S.” Using this comparative perspective, Sebastian hopes to propose changes, foster initiatives, and advance the study of local government issues and the decentralization processes in Columbia.

Sebastian appreciates the practical experience he gained during a summer internship at the Schuyler County Department of Planning and Community Development. The internship was “priceless, because it allowed me to practice what I have learned in class while supplementing such education with the knowledge of experienced practitioners. I met dedicated public servants facing the challenges of a complex intergovernmental system.”

Lucia Esposito

Lucia Esposito, MPA '12

Public Administration, MPA

“The MPA program has exceeded my expectations and has challenged me both academically and professionally.”

Lucia Esposito joined the MPA program in order to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue a career in local government. As a full-time employee of the Broome County Office for Aging, Lucia found that the flexible structure of the MPA program was able to accommodate her busy schedule.

“The MPA program has exceeded my expectations and has challenged me both academically and professionally,” Lucia says. As a student, she has had the opportunity to apply theory to practical problems, working with the Center for Applied Community Research and Development as well as the Broome County Gang Prevention program. She has also appreciated the diversity of the MPA student body. “I have especially enjoyed taking classes with students pursuing their MPA degree after years of public service, as they are a great source of practical knowledge.”

Lucia, who came to the United States from Slovakia, is following in her parents’ footsteps: both had lifelong careers in public service. “I have always found this career path to be exciting and challenging. I therefore hope to…continue to serve the public in whatever capacity possible.”

Tamaria Kelly

Tamaria Kelly, MPA '12

Public Administration, MPA

“At Binghamton University, I learned more about myself and how I can use my MPA degree to effectively make a difference.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Buffalo and dedicating a year of service as an AmeriCorps member, Tamaria Kelly enrolled in Binghamton University’s MPA program. “I knew I wanted to take the social aspects of what I experienced in the public sector to the next level,” she says.

Tamaria praises the MPA program’s positive atmosphere. “There is a strong sense of community in the department…Faculty genuinely care for the success of students. They are well-rounded in their knowledge, experiences, and passion for public service. Students work beside one another and bring a diverse set of professional and life experiences to the classroom.” Tamaria also appreciates “the program’s commitment to enhancing students’ professional development.” Because MPA classes often partner with outside organizations for class assignments, she has participated in a team project with students from Shenzhen University in China and has worked on a grant proposal for the local Catholic Charities. Her Capstone project will build on the internship she completed at BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, a Brooklyn, NY-based nonprofit that seeks to empower young women of color.

Tamaria looks forward to pursuing a career related to her interests in education policy and urban and nonprofit management. “At Binghamton University, I learned more about myself and how I can use my MPA degree to effectively make a difference and accomplish my career aspirations.”

Last Updated: 4/8/15