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"I have an inside and outside perspective"

Master's in Public Administration

"I have an inside and outside perspective"

MPA Program at CCNY

Steven Molinari during his State Assembly internship

Steven Molinari discusses his prestigious paid internship in the NY State Assembly

Steven Molinari (MPA ’18) was the first MPA student from CCNY to be chosen for the graduate internship in the NY State Assembly, which comes with a $15,000 stipend. During his time in the MPA program, he interned in nonprofit advocacy groups as well as the city and state government. He found a moment to sit down with us and reflect on his career path as a policy analyst.

What was most memorable about your internship? Being able to impact constituents’ lives was really rewarding. People would call with all kinds of issues - gun control, Uber driver compensation, you name it.

How did you respond? I researched the issue, informed my supervisor, and tried to figure out what we could do. It feels like more than a job; it’s our lives. This person talking to me is from my community, so I want to help them.

Was anything just a personal interest of yours, beyond serving the public? Well, it sounds kind of nerdy, but I really like being able to break down legislation and analyze and summarize it. It’s a challenge that I find satisfying.

You interned previously in D.C., which is a very political city. Is Albany similar? It’s a small political town, like D.C. but smaller. You can walk into any store and run into people who work for the governor or the assembly or the Department of Education. Everyone is very political and connected and talking about policy issues.

And political demonstrations? Yes, definitely. One day from my office I could see the Poor People’s Campaign marching and singing. Another day I sat in on a debate about reproductive health, and the assembly chamber was full of members of Planned Parenthood all wearing pink scarves.

Any celebrity sightings? Sure, pretty often actually. Once I saw Enes Kanter, the Knicks player, who was talking about how he is unable to return to his home country, Turkey, because he spoke out against President Erdogan. Another day Joe Torre, the former Yankees manager, was there promoting a domestic violence policy initiative.

Was this internship a step forward for you professionally? It was a shift from working for an advocacy group in D.C. to working in government in Albany. This was hugely beneficial because I got both an inside and outside perspective on the policy process.

How does having an inside and outside perspective help you as a policy analyst? I know what it's like to walk to the hill to advocate for a cause, and I now know what it's like to be in a legislator's office meeting with advocates and trying to figure out what exactly they are asking for. The bottom line is, what needs to happen to get this from being an idea or proposal to being a bill?

What skills were the most crucial for your success? Communication is the most powerful skill. Leveraging knowledge and information effectively is challenging but essential to make a difference in a policy setting. Knowing how to get right to the point, simplify graphs, and communicate clearly. Sometimes I had to break down 20 pages of policy analysis into half a page of bullet points for the assembly member.

Are you talking about mainly writing, or other forms of communication? I mean interpersonal skills, too, and working with people from all different backgrounds and different ideas. It’s very challenging but also very crucial, because no matter what, you must work with people to get things done, even people you might not like or agree with.

What advice do you have for future MPA students? These internships are competitive, but you can get in if you put a lot of effort into your application. Don’t do it alone; ask for help. Learn from your classmates in the MPA program, and let the program help you get your foot in the door.

And once they’re in, how can they become good analysts? Sometimes you’ll be crazy busy, and other times you’ll have nothing to do. During those down times, don’t wait around – look everywhere to find something to do. Learn all you can. Learn about issues you don't think you're interested in.

Any final thoughts? It's important to have strong beliefs and opinions, but then really listen to others – your supervisor, your constituents, advocates. If you can listen, get things done efficiently, and learn, you'll be able to make a big impact.