Monique Gibbs started out her professional career working for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, as a political organizer in New York City, advocating for budgetary and legislative issues that affected union members and working people. She then joined the New York Public Library’s Office of Government and Community Affairs where she connected library programs to local elected officials, promoted community engagement, and supported budget and legislative advocacy.
Wanting to deepen her knowledge of urban planning, development, and design, Monique enrolled in Northeastern University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the Graduate Certificate in Urban Studies. She graduated in May 2018 and is now working for the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development as a housing development officer.
This is Monique’s Northeastern story…
When Monique started looking into MPA programs, she knew she wanted a challenging program that would expose her to a new environment.
As part of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA), Northeastern’s nationally accredited MPA program stood out because of its rigor and community partnerships.
“I was immediately attracted to the Myra Kraft Open Classroom series. At the time of my research, the Open Classroom topic was ‘Imagine Boston 2030.’ I liked that the university was part of an integral community planning process for the city. I also liked that SPPUA offers a variety of graduate certificate programs that can be taken as a specialty to master’s degrees. I felt ecstatic the day I received an email stating I had been admitted into the MPA program.”
Monique wrote a reflection of her first semester of graduate school that captures her challenging courses, the rich cultural diversity of her cohort of students, and experiential learning opportunities.
Monique says two courses were particularly eye-opening:
“The ‘Contemporary Community Development’ class really opened my eyes to the interconnected network of housing, education, economic development and the different actors involved in shaping the health and well-being of a community. This class helped me decide to enroll in the Urban Studies certificate.”
Monique took the “Metropolitan Policy Making” course in the summer 2017 while completing a fellowship at the Housing Innovation Lab. She said she enjoyed linking current challenges and opportunities in Boston to her class readings.
In May 2017, Monique Gibbs received a public policy summer fellowship from the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, a university-wide entity housed at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government that strives to improve governance by strengthening connections between the region’s scholars, students, and civic leaders.
As a fellow, Monique managed two exciting projects for the Housing Innovation Lab at the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The projects focused on improving constituent access to affordable housing resources in the midst of a contentious mayoral election and housing crisis. In this column, Monique explains how her MPA degree helped her improve access and knowledge of affordable housing resources in Boston.
“Through this fellowship, I was paired with two Rappaport alumni mentors, Jessica Casey and Abudar Rahman, who are also SPPUA alumni. They both gave me great advice for succeeding within the fellowship, in my academic program, and finding career opportunities post-graduation.”
For Monique, having a community is important, and she has found it right here on campus through the Northeastern Graduate Students of Color Collective (GSCC). The GSCC is a mission driven student organization dedicated to building the capacity of graduate students of color on Northeastern campus and the local community.
Through this group, Monique participated in a service project for underserved communities in Greater Boston, as well as a minority- and women-owned business expo. She has also participated in various campus activities including GSCC’s monthly Coffee and Conversation series and the group’s annual Multicultural Mixer.
Monique says her fellowship and internship with the Massachusetts Area Planning Council have allowed her to build a professional and personal network in the Greater Boston region. These experiences, she said, have given her the confidence to pursue career opportunities in Boston. She wants to educate people on the political process. “It is disheartening to meet people who don’t understand how much power they hold with a single vote in all elections,” she said. “I want to change that.”
Monique is now working for the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development as a housing development officer.
“Studying and working in public administration has never been more important than it is now. This past semester, professor Len Albright reminded me that it is important to focus on the small wins. The small wins often go unrecognized or are deemed insignificant, but they are necessary for continued progress. I know that if my classmates and I can continue to produce small wins in the public sector, it can amount to big changes for all.”
School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs—Northeastern University