Wednesday, February 13, 2008


In the last few days, I have been assigned to write two biographical statements: one for the commencement booklet for the university and one for the website of my new employer. This should be a straightforward process. Report on the most salient details of your academic and professional career. And yet, it is a tad more complex. Sound smart, but not arrogant. Project experience, but do not inflate. Seem accomplished, yet humble. Overall, be authentic. Ok. Right.

The first bio went fairly quickly. After all, it is only an account of my four years pursuing the doctorate. There is a note about the dissertation, research projects, awards, and future employment. One concise paragraph. The second assignment is more public, accessible by GWB’s “the Googles” and other search functions, so it should be more…more…something. Not sure. Looking at those of my esteemed colleagues, I’m impressed and overwhelmed. For one thing, on paper, it seems that most folks have taken a fairly direct route to what they do now.

I began as an artist.

Not a dark and disturbed artist, but a graphic designer, painter, flower arranger, cake decorator. That last one was my life’s ambition as a nine year old. I would stand on tiptoes to peer over the glass bakery case at Wegmans where a woman, swathed in a smudged white apron, carefully shaped sugary goodness into exquisite roses.

What does that have to do with urban social policy? Over the summer between my junior and senior year of undergrad, I interviewed with a hunger relief agency to be their public relations intern. Little did I know where that internship would take me. I began doing their newsletter, simple flyers, some speech writing, but then realized how much I preferred the advocacy/research side of their work. That internship turned into a ten year relationship with the agency, part-time work, full-time, consulting, and put me on the road to a masters degree contesting the imbalance between many university/community partnerships (often more weighted to the university) and then a national service stint in inner city Philadelphia followed by the doctorate in urban affairs and public policy. Rather than a clear career trajectory, I have been following a winding path. That story seems to be the sort better told over a glass of CabSav than streaming from a blinking cursor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are our paths ever straight? That would be too boring...