Alumni Q&A: Ouafaa Hmaddi

Ouafaa Hmaddi graduated from CIPA in May of 2017 with a concentration in Environmental Policy. She is currently enrolled in a PhD program in Management Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business.

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

The flexibility of the CIPA program makes it stand out. I have a strong interest in environmental policy, which was my concentration, but I was also interested in the science and technology part of it. I joined CIPA because it is the only program that allowed me to take concentration courses from across Cornell, as long as they were relevant to public policy and added value to my area of concentration. I was able to make good use of this and I think this is what makes CIPA unique.

CIPA also offers many resources and opportunities, but you have to be super pro-active in seeking what you really want. CIPA gave me two years of incredible academic rigor, a wonderful experience and the fortune of working with some of the most brilliant, supportive and nurturing academics.

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

After earning my Ph.D., I would like to pursue research in the areas of technological innovation and environmental performance. My interdisciplinary academic and professional background in engineering and entrepreneurship, and recently public policy at CIPA, has best prepared me for this career.

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

I would say the top 3 reasons why CIPA was the perfect fit for me was because:

  1. CIPA gave me the opportunity to work with renowned researchers in the areas of sustainability and environmental policy.
  2. The Environmental Finance and Impact Investing (EFII) certificate program, offered both through CIPA and the Johnson Business School, is exactly the program I was looking for to deepen my understanding of the role of private capital in moving forward sustainability objectives.
  3. The Cornell and CIPA community.

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

I had three years of social entrepreneurship experience and management consulting before coming to CIPA. I came to Cornell looking for my next entrepreneurial adventure and I found that with the Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) Immersion program.

My team’s immersion client was a clean energy seed accelerator looking for the commercialization potential of a new technology. They came to us with a research paper about the technology and a prototype of what the technology can do.  We had so much to learn from the professors and PhD students who developed the technology. It ended up being an amazing learning experience that shaped my vision about the real world of entrepreneurship and all the risks and rewards that come with it.

Moreover, the SGE Treks to DC and NYC gave me the opportunity to see how the sustainability strategies and philosophies that we discussed in the classroom were being implemented in practice. We visited about 14 very different organizations that were engaging with sustainability issues in a wide variety of ways. The diversity of perspectives that we obtained from such an unexpected mix of organizations was exactly what I was looking for when I joined the SGE Immersion.

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

I found the CIPA community to be diverse, positive and supportive. I have made incredible friends at CIPA. The people here are what differentiates it from other MPA programs. I am sure they will always be there to support their CIPA fellow and vice-versa.

Is there anything else about the CIPA program, about the opportunities here, or about your particular experience that you would like to share with prospective students?

For a proactive student, CIPA is the right MPA program. The opportunities are unlimited and very diverse. During my two years at CIPA, I was part of:

  • the EFII program where we worked on a research project for the Walton Family Foundation
  • The SGE program which was a great journey of learning
  • The Big Red Microenterprise (BRM) where I met the wonderful people of Ithaca who run small businesses with a significant impact on the Ithaca community.
  • The National Policy Challenge where I learned about a new economy based on a local currency and how it can impact the lives of Ithaca independent youth. It was also a great experience working closely with our director of the MPA program
  • And the Rev Ithaca Start-up Works where I learned how Cornell is shaping the future of entrepreneurship in the NY Upstate and Southern tier region.

This is just a modest example of what kind of opportunities related to entrepreneurship, small businesses, and sustainability we had as CIPA students.

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