Tailoring My MPA to Focus on Public & Nonprofit Management

Tailoring My MPA to Focus on Public & Nonprofit Management-image

I could not find a job after college. Even though I had graduated with honors and had done my due diligence in the job application process, two years had gone by, and I was still working a part-time job that did not fulfill me.

Does this sound like you? Well, you're not alone.

I soon realized that I could have the greatest transcript in the world, but it would not matter if my networking skills were lacking. For that reason, I chose to get an MPA at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs because I wanted to fill this gap, learn how to work a room, and get my name out there.

Learn about what internship opportunities would be available you by reading A  Guide to Internships & Externships in the Cornell MPA Program!

More About Me:

My name is Catarina Massa, and I completed my MPA at CIPA in May of 2019 with a concentration in Public and Nonprofit Management. I'm employed by the Finger Lakes Land Trust in Ithaca, NY as a Development Associate. 

My Long-Term Career Goals: 

My long-term career goal is to start a nonprofit organization that serves girls at-risk through therapeutic wilderness programming. CIPA helped prepare me for this by teaching me essential leadership and managerial skills. The faculty and staff were excellent at sharing their wisdom with me in the classroom. But the most valuable lessons I learned about being a good leader came from watching them serve as role models both in the classroom as well as in the Cornell community.

Top 3 Reasons I Chose CIPA:

  1. Diversity — I think it is critical to be surrounded by people who come from all sorts of backgrounds. CIPA does a great job of being as inclusive as possible, which in turn creates a better learning environment for everyone.
  2. Expert Teachers — This is a professional degree program, and a Ph.D. is not necessarily the next step for a lot of CIPA students. That is why it was important for me to learn from experts who have been in the field for decades.
  3. Community Engagement — I am not someone who likes to stay in the campus bubble nor do I recommend such for any other student. I have truly appreciated the opportunities CIPA has given me to connect with folks in the Ithaca and Tompkins County community. 

Also, while I have enjoyed many classes at CIPA, Joe Grasso’s Nonprofit Finance and Management class was by far the best. Everyone should take his class, no matter their concentration. Not only is the content important, but he is a very engaging and thoughtful teacher. In my current role as a Development Associate at Finger Lakes Land Trust, I am applying the skills I learned in his class every day, and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from Joe.

CIPA's Community:

CIPA is not a very big program compared to some of the others at Cornell, but I find this to be very beneficial because it means we have a tight-knit community. This made my experience over the last two years that much better because I knew I had support — academically, mentally, and socially. This community has spanned more than just my cohort, as I have connected with first-year CIPA students as well as alumni. This is how I know my CIPA community will not disintegrate the moment I graduate. I am looking forward to many more years of CIPA as an alumna of the program.

My Capstone Experience:

Capstone was an extremely valuable experience for me.

My partner and I consulted for the Diversity Consortium of Tompkins County (DCTC). Our purpose was to evaluate DCTC’s role in the community, and we did this by interviewing Board members and organizations involved in DCTC. Laurie Miller, our instructor and the Capstone coordinator, was a wonderful mentor; we could not have completed this project without her. Moreover, I learned how to work well in a small team, manage client relations and communications, and provide a solid set of deliverables that a client could actually use to improve their operations. My Capstone experience definitely gave me the skills and confidence I needed to find my perfect job after graduation.

My Advice for Students Getting an MPA:

CIPA faculty and staff are here for you. Use them. I would not have been able to attain such a wonderful post-graduation employment opportunity if it were not for my mentors and supporters — Joe Grasso, Millie Reed, Rebecca Brenner, and many others. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Trust me, great things will happen from there.


For a closer look at the experiential learning opportunities in Cornell University's MPA program, explore our interactive resource: A Guide to Internships & Externships in the Cornell MPA Program.
to learn more! 

Download Internship/Externship Guide

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