Tiffany Kwark, Public Health Advisor (Contact Tracer I) at New York City Health and Hospitals
Graduated from Binghamton University in 2019 with a degree in Human Development and a Master of Public Administration and Disaster Management.
What activities and clubs/organizations did you participate in at Binghamton?
- Korean-American Christian Fellowship
- Promise Zone Volunteer
- Public Service Learning Community
- American Red Cross Southern Tier Chapter
- New Student Programs Summer Orientation Staff
- TAPS Student Information Assistant
- BU Emergency Management Social Media Outreach
- Bear Necessities Food Pantry Volunteer
- Upward Bound Math & Science
Tell us about your internships: I served as a Social Work Intern with Upward Bound Math & Science, a Disaster Program Intern at the American Red Cross Southern Tier Chapter and completed an Internship with Promise Zone at Jennie F. Snapp Middle School all over the course of three different semesters.
How did your experience at Binghamton help prepare you for your first position after graduation? It was not until my last year of undergrad when I realized my passion for emergency management during one of my classes in human development and one of our requirements for that program is to do an internship with an organization that fit within our career interests. This is how I found out about the American Red Cross in Endicott and my time with them helped me develop technical skills such as inventory, data entry, and program development as well as personal skills related to my field. My early years of undergrad when I came in as a psychology major was not a good fit for me so I switched over to human development and found myself thriving in this major, allowing me to focus more on social skills and injustices that catered towards my career interest. Emergency management was also a discipline not known to many people until COVID-19 occurred so I viewed it as an area with great potential for me to put my major to good use by focusing on the social injustices different populations face in the midst of disasters.
For a career in your field, what skills do you think are most important right now? My current position will hopefully not be permanent depending on the severity of COVID-19. However, the skills needed for a career in emergency management include a balance of social skills (active listening; adaptability; empathy; remaining calm under pressure; teamwork; conflict resolution; leadership; and public speaking) and technical skills (data entry; basic computer software knowledge; program analysis; and research). Out of all of these skills, adaptability was the one I utilized the most as emergencies evolve everyday and sometimes these situations involve thinking outside of the box in very stressful incidences.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates for your company? I would look more at graduate’s experiences in community organizations. For a career in emergency management, I do not think anyone can succeed in this area unless they know the community – not just geographically but also the people who occupy the area and what their needs are. I want to see moments when students were able to adapt to their situations that posed challenges for them and use their creativity to find a solution to an issue they faced whether for themselves or for the community. Emergencies are dynamic and we face new ones everyday on varying scales that are important for preparing communities. Knowledge in various software programs is a plus as technology in emergency preparedness and response is also evolving.
If you could do college all over again, what would you add to your college experience? I would, first, not have graduated in three years. It was not even intentional but since I took classes every break, I ended up finishing earlier than I originally expected. I could have used my breaks as opportunities for other internships, job positions, learning new skills, and creating memories with friends. Second, I would have started my interest in emergency management earlier as it was in my grad school term when I developed a course for the university on general emergency preparedness teaching undergraduate students how to properly prepare for, respond to, and recover from various emergencies. It makes me wonder if a course like this could have prevented multiple emergencies that occurred on campus during my last two years at Binghamton. Lastly, I would have added more recreational time with friends whether it was watching TV shows, cooking meals with them, or just talking. I neglected having that balance of work versus social life and my mental health took a toll in my first few weeks on the job.
What is one thing you think a student can do before senior year to be ready for the job search? Do not procrastinate on making a resume and continuously build on it through critiques and varying experiences from volunteer work to internships to job positions.
What is the best piece of career advice you would give to current students? Do not make your career decision based on your perception of what others think is best for you or for the sake of others’ interests.
Want to learn more about Tiffany: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanykwark/