Founded more than 40 years ago to get more minorities and women in leadership positions within local government, National Urban Fellows combines a master’s degree in public administration with a nine-month work assignment. As one of only 45 people nationwide selected in 2010 to participate in this prestigious 14-month leadership development program, Charisse Price (MBA ’08) says it may feel like her true calling, but it took a hurricane, a recession, and a radio commercial for it to become a reality.
Only five years ago, Price was a year into her job with the Coca-Cola Co. and setting her sights on an MBA. She had never considered a career in government until Katrina hit her hometown of New Orleans. Although Price was fortunate that her family evacuated two days before the storm reached the Crescent City, its destruction took its toll.
“It’s hard going to a place where you have all of these warm memories and it looks like a war zone,” says Price, whose family lost their homes and her community was wiped out. Although her family had the insurance funding to rebuild, the governments’ contributions to the early chaos and slow recovery frustrated native Orleanians like Price. It also sparked a desire to do more. “When I saw how inefficient they were...I asked God to show me the best way that I could help the rebuilding process.”
Although Katrina’s aftermath weighed heavily on her as the years passed, Price’s career remained corporate-focused as an associate brand manager with Nioxin Laboratories Inc. by day, and a Terry Evening MBA student at night. It wasn’t until the 2009 recession triggered a wave of layoffs that an opportunity materialized for her to take action. “When I got laid off I did a lot of soul searching, and I was determined to change career paths,” says Price, who heard about the National Urban Fellows from a radio commercial and immediately knew this was it. “I felt like everything in my life prepared me for this opportunity.”
Price will spend the summer in Manhattan taking classes at the Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs, then she’ll begin her work assignment in September. She will then return to New York the following summer to finish the program.
“This is a way for me to use what I have learned from the working world and the Terry MBA program while learning more about public administration so I can get my foot in the door,” says Price, who notes that New Orleans is not one of the available work assignments, but she intends to bring what she learns back to her hometown. "I always said that one day I would come back and rebuild, but I just didn’t know what that path would look like. For me this is the first step to get that education and experience to help bring new ideas and the thinking of [my] generation into local government."