Monday, October 19, 2015

Alumni Guest Blogger: Benjamin Howe-Maintaining Your Professional Network

GSPIA Career Services is proud to present a NEW feature to our blog: alumni guest posts! 

Our first featured blogger is Benjamin Howe (MPIA '98).

Mr. Howe has worked as a Senior Management Analyst in the Bedford (MA) Audit Operations Division of the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) since January 2009. Since joining the VA OIG, he has worked on several audits and reviews of VA programs and operations. Prior to joining the VA OIG, he spent five years working at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in the agency’s Boston Field Office. While at GAO, he focused on issues related to natural resources and the environment, including reviews of EPA’s lead in drinking water regulations and Federal efforts to address the health effects of exposure to indoor mold. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Spanish from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and a Master’s Degree in Public and International Affairs from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at University of Pittsburgh. Benjamin is a native of Manchester, NH.

Maintain Your Professional Network
By Benjamin Howe

When I was offered the opportunity to write a blog for GSPIA Career Services, the first topic that came to mind was networking and its value to my career development.  I graduated from GSPIA in 1998.  Since then, I have been able to identify opportunities mostly because of my contacts.  Friends from previous jobs, graduate school, college, and even high school have provided me with invaluable advice and support that have helped me to successfully advance my career.  This support has included insights into a position I was applying for, or feedback on a resume I prepared for a particular job opening.

How can you successfully maintain your professional network?  It takes work, but there are a number of ways you can keep in contact with people that were not available when I graduated from GSPIA.  Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms offer easy ways to keep in contact with your former classmates or coworkers.  Visiting somewhere?  See if any of your former classmates or coworkers are in town and schedule some time for a coffee or a meal to catch up with them.

Do what it takes to maintain your professional network.  You will not regret it.  You never know which of your contacts will be able to help you make that next step in your career. 

Best of luck in your pursuits!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Internship Blog: Topher Hoffman, Post #3

Lots of data: plus a bit of party planning

The distinct culture at DOHMH deserves to be mentioned, which I haven’t really done yet. In my building alone, there are thousands of people, spanning 22 stories. Walking through the halls, elevators, and lunchroom, you can hear all kinds of languages spoken by people from different cultures. It’s a great place to work because of this, and because, in my experience, everyone’s attitude comes from a place of dedication, hard work, and passion for the work being done.
My work has picked up and expanded even more since my last update. In the last few weeks, my biggest points of focus have been logging all of the missing HIV testing data for the New York Knows project, and implementing a plan to collect it; updating HIV testing site information for NYC’s 311 list; helping with an evaluation of DOHMH social media outreach efforts; and planning a 200-person event to thank our HIV testing partners in Brooklyn.
The New York Knows project collects five data points pertaining to HIV testing for each quarter since the beginning of the project (see my first post for specifics). For the Bronx, this was 2008; for Brooklyn, it was 2010; and for the other three boroughs, it was this January. What this translates to me is database maintenance. I’m pinpointing holes in these data and collecting data to fill the holes.
Second on my list has been updating the 311 list. Anybody in NYC can dial 311 from their cell phone and be connected to a directory of city services. The webpage also has a services locator for residents to get connected with services they need. The New York Knows team provides HIV testing location information to 311 and the services locator so that when a member of the public wants to know where they can get an HIV test, these services can be resources for them. But remember: this is NYC. Things are constantly changing, and people are constantly moving. My team is currently calling each HIV testing location in our database to verify/update their information so that we are providing accurate information to the public.
To continue, this brings me to another major task that’s picked up recently. Last year, DOHMH promoted free HIV testing events that were occurring in NYC on five CDC-recognized HIV/AIDS awareness days. The promotion occurred using a Tumblr post, which was linked from ads on social networking sites like Grindr, Scruff, and Facebook.
Now we want to know if this worked. We are using data from surveys that each testing site filled out on the days of the events that reported how many people were tested, their demographics, and how they heard about the testing event. This is my first time using SPSS on my own – and outside of a class setting – so hurrah!
Lastly, I am planning a 200-person event to celebrate our testing partners in Brooklyn. Between 2010 and 2014, our partners in Brooklyn conducted hundreds of thousands of HIV tests. That’s a big deal! We want to thank them and bring everybody together to meet each other.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Internship Blog: Cynthia Caul Post #3

The G-Word

Gentrification. The jazz saxophonist Oliver Lake began a residency with City of Asylum Pittsburgh in January of 2014. Towards the end of his residency he, in collaboration with City of Asylum, decided to create a performative piece about the organization’s surrounding neighborhood—The Northside. And so began the makings of what would finally be titled “Stoop is a Verb.” It’s a 60-minute collection of jazz poetry pieces comprised of music composed by Lake and the words of Northsiders who he interviewed in the subsequent year.

                                                                                             Photo Credit: Brennan Maine

If you are familiar with Pittsburgh neighborhoods, it will come as no surprise that when Lake asked people to talk about their neighborhood, the g-word was inevitable. As one interviewee was quoted: “I love the Northside, but I hate the Northside politics.” But love it or hate it, gentrification is a reality in the Northside and a reality for an organization like City of Asylum. As a recent recipient of a CITF (Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund) grant, which will enable City of Asylum to transform the former Masonic Temple into a community literary center in the North Side’s currently dilapidated Garden Theatre Block as a part of the Federal-North Redevelopment project, the delicate dance of making positive contributions to the neighborhood while maintaining its current integrity and indigenous population is one with which the organization is destined to grapple.

                                                                                                     Photo Credit: Brennan Maine

Perhaps one of the best ways to do this grappling is with a healthy sense of self-awareness and objectivity.  I think the project “Stoop is a Verb” illustrates the organization’s willingness to openly dive into that dialogue. Towards the middle of the work, one Northsider is quoted:
But the new people have more resources and more capacity. They are very disrespectful of the indigenous, home grown people in the community and it causes a lot of culture clash and a lot of problems for people.
Culture clash not getting support to make the coalition stronger, instead, help is going to foreign writers.  
The words sparked a knowing laughter in the audience comprised of founders, board members, staff, and the interviewed neighbors themselves. The piece didn’t result in any finite conclusions, but continued the dialogue-- the grappling. In that vein, a few questions to ponder from the text of “Stoop is a Verb”:
“What is the ‘North Shore’?” (The individual challenges the seeming fabrication of a neighborhood to differentiate it from the negative connotation of the Northside”
“But if something happens on the East End, they’ll say Squirrel Hill, Homewood, Point Breeze…14-15 neighborhoods, and every time something happens, you say the ‘North Side’?” (The individual questions how local news stations report stories differently throughout the city.)
“Three crack houses, and we turned them into functioning houses again, and I said ‘We are the bad guy?” (A individual questions his role in gentrification.)      

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Internship Blog: Abraham Kim Post #4

A Week Remains 

Told you I was terrible at blogging. Two months later (already!), my work is finished.
Bright Kids Uganda, the children’s home that I’ve been interning with, has about 100 children now and provides food, shelter, and an education for all kids. In order to have funds for this, they do receive donations majorly from the States, Canada, and UK, but they also have income generating projects. So in addition to the already existing projects, I wanted to bring in rabbits into the mix.


I built a 3 roomed rabbit hutch and a 2 roomed rabbit hutch. I taught the kids, warden, and matron what to feed it, how often, and how to breed and handle the rabbits. I started with 3 rabbits. The two roomed hutch will be used for the baby rabbits. The kids named the whitest female rabbit Snow White. Then the other female, Cinderella. Lastly, they named the male rabbit… Abraham.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Internship Blog: Anthony Griffith Post #1

My name is Anthony Griffith and I am a part-time Security & Intelligence Studies major, Urban & Regional Affairs minor at GSPIA in my third year.  When I first enrolled at GSPIA, I had intentions of working in local government, but as time passed and I took classes that covered a global capacity, specifically those of Dr. Michael Kenney and Dr. Muge Finkel, my interests had changed.  Late in the spring semester, I changed from an Urban & Regional Affairs major to Security & Intelligence Studies.

I am currently employed at the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office detailed to the Investigations Division as a civilian.  My current duties range from administrator of our reporting system, handling the Office's social media platforms and assisting detectives in their pursuit of locating wanted fugitives.

Upon graduating from GSPIA in spring 2017, I would like to pursue a career in counter terrorism with either the CIA or FBI.  Unfortunately, being a part-time student does not leave much time for me to fit in an internship.  I discussed my dilemma with Sheriff Mullen and he explained that I could do an internship with the ACSO, specific to the Investigations Division with whom I work with on a daily basis.

Since beginning my internship at at the end of the spring semester, I have had the opportunity to work with all three of the office's fugitive squads (AM & PM Fugitive and Non-Support), as well as in conjunction with our FBI-detailed deputies and their squads.  We have pursued fugitives of all sorts; including Megan's Law Violators, Firearm Violators and Homicide suspects, to name a few.