March Professional Development Review


By: Kevin Reilly, 2016-2017 Work First Fellow


Fellows completed a 2-day professional development looking at both research methods and different ways to be involved in public policy. Dr. Swati Desai, a career economist, met with fellows in an office hour like setting to work on data analysis. Dr. Desai reminded fellows to led the data to lead the policy and not to let our policy ideologies dictate the data. Integrity in data collection and analyses is vital for a significant policy proposal.


Also on day one, fellows shared the progress in their findings with the new Director of Education and Fellowship, Campbell Glenn. Ms. Glenn expressed her enthusiasm for the variety of topics and progress in research. Fellows are working on subjects sprawling across many fields, including the minimum wage increase, public housing & voucher programs, computer literacy and access to the internet, food insecurity & nutritional education programs, self-efficacy and motivations, and SSDI.


Fellows reconvened for the second day of professional development, which was geared towards careers in public policy.  Craig Caruana led a discussion about networking in your mid-twenties and personalized recommendations for community groups each fellow should consider joining. Additionally, Mr. Caruana shared his experiences running for city council. Fellows also met with Jesse Laymon, the director of policy and advocacy for the NYC Education and Training Coalition. Laymon expressed the different ways to make policy impact through various means of employment and volunteering. He shared stories about working for electoral campaigns, grassroots advocacy groups, and formal lobbying programs.


Following Mr. Laymon, Ashley Putnam, the co-founder of the Work First Fellowship, joined the fellows to discuss why she started the fellowship program. Putnam’s vision combined three fascinating areas of education & training, research, and public policy advocacy. Putnam mentioned success stories about fellows who went onto policy grad schools, lawyers and even those who stayed on to work with clients in the workforce development field. Fellows then spoke with a federal clerk and Columbia Law graduate about the different facets of a legal career and how they could intersect with public policy. 


Lastly, fellows took some time to reflect on their experiences working with clients for the past 10-months. They collected those thoughts in tweet-form and even a video which may surface soon! 


Entering the final two months of the cohort, fellows will work on their research & policy proposals.