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Alumni Q&A: Clifford Chen

Clifford Chen graduated from CIPA in May of 2017 with a concentration in Social Policy, with a specific eye towards health policy.  He currently works for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget as an Analyst on the Health Task Force.

Why CIPA?  There are a lot of MPA programs around—what made you choose CIPA over other programs you were considering?

A major reason I chose to attend CIPA was the dedication of the staff and faculty. Every individual I reached out to during the application process was extremely responsive and thorough, and this level of support persisted throughout my time in the program. While ample schools offer quality education, I felt strongly that CIPA’s commitment to supporting its fellows was unrivaled among the programs to which I applied.

What are your long-term career goals?  How did CIPA help prepare you for these?

My long term goal is to influence health policy and reform at the federal level, particularly with regards to mental health and substance abuse. CIPA helped prepare me for this career path in several ways. First, the program encouraged acquiring consulting experience for credit, which allowed me to examine substance abuse issues in a real-world setting. Second, the flexibility of the program extended beyond a diverse selection of electives; even within core courses, I was able to focus on health policy topics for a number of assignments. Third, CIPA’s core curriculum exposed me to economic and quantitative topics necessary for policy analysis and research.

What would you tell a prospective student who asked you to list the top three reasons that CIPA was a good fit for you?

CIPA has a tremendous amount to offer for students from a variety of backgrounds. One of my major goals as a recent college graduate was to acquire practical experience through the program, and I was able to do so through two different courses (Consulting for Nonprofit and Government Organizations and International Capstone). Upon graduating, I had accumulated a full academic year of consulting experience, which was invaluable to my academic and professional growth.

Another one of my favorite aspects of CIPA was the program’s diversity. Students come to Cornell from all over the world, and it was amazing to hear about their backgrounds and aspirations during my time in the program. My classmates provided a wide range of domestic and international perspectives on various social and political issues, which paved the way for meaningful and informative dialogue. Additionally, the diversity of the program helped us form more global networks of friends and colleagues.

Lastly, at CIPA, I was able to choose from a wide variety of courses offered by other departments. The flexibility of the program enabled me to form a curriculum that suited my interests and engage with students across the university.

Are there any particular “stand out” experiences at CIPA that made a lasting impact on you? 

One of my most significant experiences at CIPA was my time as a teaching assistant for the course Consulting for Nonprofit and Government Organizations. Through this opportunity, I was fortunate enough to be able to learn from the consulting teams I oversaw, as their projects and clients spanned across various sectors and concentrations. Perhaps most importantly, I was able to form meaningful relationships with the faculty members I assisted, which enriched my experience at CIPA even further.

How would you describe the sense of community you find at CIPA?

One of CIPA’s greatest assets is its diverse and social community. My most memorable and educational experiences at CIPA unquestionably stemmed from time spent with my classmates. The community is a melting pot of cultures, and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from my peers, both inside and outside the classroom. Moving forward, I anticipate that the connections we have made will endure and the lessons I have learned will continue to impact my perspective on emerging social issues.

What role did the Capstone play in your educational experience at CIPA?

International Capstone was a valuable opportunity for me to gain practical experience. The course offered a balance of self-directed work, guidance from the instructor, and interaction with established clients and stakeholders. My experience in the Capstone program was essentially a culmination of my other experiences in CIPA; I was able employ the skills and lessons I took away from other courses and apply them in a real-world setting. Most significantly, Capstone provided me the opportunity to gain project management experience, while expanding on communication and qualitative research skills.

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