Yvette Clairjeane is determined to succeed. And with a Master’s degree in Urban Studies from SLU, that is exactly what is happening.
How did she arrive at SLU? “I was working (and still am) at the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP), and I was looking for a program with evening classes so I could improve my skills. I discovered the Advanced Certificate program through SLU’s partnership with the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). I thought the courses would help me in advancing my career. So I started out in the public policy certificate program.”
The certificate jump-started Yvette’s career progression. “I started out at the DCP as a research assistant in Counsel’s Office (legal division). After getting my certificate from SLU, I was given additional responsibilities and joined the business improvement team, which works to improve DCP’s business processes and make the agency more efficient. What I studied at SLU was really helpful in learning how the city runs, not just at my agency, but through all the services the city provides to its residents.”
Yvette subsequently enrolled in the MA URB program, and finished her degree in two years. “I did it at warp speed. I took two classes each semester, and one semester I took three—all while working full-time. I knew that this degree would advance my career.”
And just how did SLU contribute to her career advancement? “The majority of my classmates were professionals and we were all very focused and able to apply the concepts we were learning to our careers. ‘Urban Public Management’ and ‘Delivery of Urban Public Services’ with Prof. Bettina Damiani were particularly relevant,” Yvette said. “They were connected, and there was a real-life application to them because most of my classmates were city employees and we learned to understand how managers facilitate the delivery of services.” She added, “I also really enjoyed ‘Classical Approaches to Urban Studies’ with Dr. Kafui Attoh. “Although they were long-standing approaches, they were also pertinent to current life. I used Zuccotti Park and the Occupy Wall Street movement for my photo essay project. Zuccotti Park is a POPS, a “Privately Owned Public Space.” The project connected with the work some of my colleagues at DCP engage in, as POPS were introduced through the City’s zoning regulations which DCP maintains. The Occupy movement was a pivotal time in NYC’s history as thousands took to the to the city streets and made their voices heard.”
Yvette added praise for SLU’s student support services. “The Writing Center was also exceptionally vital to my academic experience. Michael Rymer worked with me in virtual sessions during my lunch breaks, as I worked during the day. His support and second pair of eyes, really got me through that whirlwind two-year program.”
So where is Yvette’s career trajectory at now? “This March, I joined DCP’s Human Capital Team, and I am now the Recruitment, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager. This is a great job for me. I am really passionate about diversity and equity and inclusion, which are all issues that are growing in recognition and are a big topic of the current conversations in our society, particularly around justice and equity. I want to be a part of the change in creating more equitable avenues for all our communities, particularly communities of color.”
And Yvette is still striving to learn more and reach higher. “I’m currently participating in the Coro Leadership New York, a 9-month program that brings together mid-career professionals from the public, private and non-profit sectors,” she said. “We are working on developing our leadership skills, understanding different perspectives, and learning how to impact the city. The first part is leadership training, and then there is an opportunity for us to participate in City Issue Day. You select a topic you’re not very familiar with, and then spend time with a group to examine those issues. We are all interested in creating and strengthening a fairer city.”
Does Yvette have any advice for current SLU students? “My first piece of advice is to connect with the amazing professionals at the Writing Center. They can help take your writing to the next level. Second, make connections with your professors, because they have a wealth of knowledge and a wide network of colleagues,” she said. “And also with your classmates—especially if someone is working in a different sector or agency, because sharing different points of views expands your own thinking and understanding. So you can build your own network. That’s how you get ahead.”
Clearly, when it comes to her career trajectory, for Yvette Clairjeane the sky is the limit.