Alumni Q&A: Jen Nerby

Jen Nerby graduated from CIPA in May of 2017 with a concentration in Economic and Financial Policy. She is currently working for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations as a 911 Quality Assurance Analyst.


Why CIPA?  There are a lot of MPA programs around—what made you choose CIPA over other programs you were considering?
I really liked the flexibility of the CIPA curriculum.  I came to CIPA with some prior experience and had a pretty good idea of the skills I wanted to develop in graduate school. I was able to tailor my coursework at CIPA towards my career goals and adjust my curriculum when my career goals shifted a bit during the program.

What are your long-term career goals?  How did CIPA help prepare you for these?
I plan to work in disaster preparedness and management.  I came to CIPA hoping to learn more about natural resource management and development.  While at CIPA I developed an interest in emergency and disaster preparedness as part of the Cornell-Nepal Earthquake Recovery Partnership.  CIPA was really supportive in helping me get a FLAS Fellowship to study Nepali and sending me to Nepal for my summer internship.  I came to CIPA after spending three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia and I really appreciated the opportunity to explore a new culture and language as part of my MPA.

What would you tell a prospective student who asked you to list the top three reasons that CIPA was a good fit for you?
1) Curriculum flexibility
2) Small program size
3) Contact with faculty

Are there any particular “stand out” experiences at CIPA that made a lasting impact on you?
My work with the Cornell-Nepal Earthquake Recovery Partnership definitely stood out for me.  I was so grateful for CIPA’s unending support in our student organization’s work.  Professor Tennyson and the rest of the core faculty helped us come together and build a group to respond to an ongoing crisis. I learned so much through the experience and I can’t imagine that other programs would provide the same support to a new student group.

How would you describe the sense of community you find at CIPA?
I’ve loved being part of CIPA’s community.  I feel like I have much closer relationships with faculty than many of my friends and colleagues at other degree programs.  I love that I know most of the people in my class, where they come from, and what they’re interested in.  It’s a diverse, interesting group and I’ve learned a lot from my cohort.  I’ve definitely met some of the smartest people I know at CIPA, and I’m excited to see what they do in the coming years.  I also really like having so much contact with the faculty.  I feel like most of them know me and I know them.  I’ve learned so much from the faculty and I really appreciate the time they take to get to know the students in the program.

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?
CIPA is a great place for students with a bit of real world experience who know what they need and want out of a graduate degree.  CIPA’s flexible curriculum gives students the chance to build a unique skill set around their individual career goals.  I loved being in such a small program because I got to know more faculty members than I did as an undergraduate student.  I feel like the faculty can really take an interest in students here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *