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An interview with Seneca Park Zoo Society Executive Director Rachel Baker August

Question: Why did you decide to pursue a masters in Public Administration at Brockport? What appealed to you about the program?

Answer: I appreciated the timing and flexibility of evening and weekend classes. Importantly, the curriculum was very relevant to my daily role and responsibilities as Executive Director of a not-for-profit.

Question: What were your favorite aspects about your Brockport experience?

Answer: During class discussions we reviewed authentic case studies which gave me an opportunity to hear diverse opinions and conclusions contradictory to my own. Also, I could directly relate those case studies to situations in my own work environment to suggest alternative processes and make selective but critical changes.

Question: How have you been able to apply the skills you learned at Brockport on the job? Can you site examples where you've thought "Hey, here's a spot where I can put these skills to use?"

Answer: Absolutely, I carry empowering phrases with me like "celebrate the tries not only the triumphs" when a new idea doesn't quite pan out. Or when there is ambiguity in my work environment, I think of Dr. Prather asking "What does the policy say?" When negotiations need to take place or we are searching for a suitable compromise, I think about enlarging the whole pie vs. taking a bigger slice. And finally, having been in class with a diverse student population, I now see how important the younger generation is in effecting the workplace.

Question: What advice would you give to someone considering an MPA here?

Answer: I suggest incoming students develop a structured schedule to ensure they have time available to reap and retain as much as possible from the readings, assignments and class discussion. They should be in a management position to leverage the course assignments to directly impact their institution.

Question: What were the biggest challenges about the Brockport program?

Answer: I don't dispute forgoing my weekends for reading text and writing papers was a challenge. However, I have to say it was worth the time because my understanding of the role of management in a not-for-profit is now much more comprehensive and the Zoo has benefited from me being back in the classroom.

Question: You work for a non-profit, and a unique one at that- What about that environment made having a master's degree important?

Answer: Meshing the diverse cultures of a government entity, in this case, (Monroe County) with a 501 c 3 not-for-profit (Seneca Park Zoo Society) with shared responsibilities in one facility can be a challenge. Together we need to provide a seamless experience for our visitors, design and build new exhibits, ensure a healthy and diverse animal collection and keep our employees motivated. The SUNY Brockport MPA program helped me brush up on a variety of skills, hear varied opinions and work on case studies which involved negotiations, conflict resolution and team building. All this has helped me be more equipped at managing my position, embracing the diverse needs of staff and leading the team to improve the Zoo.

Last Updated 3/20/12


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