By Robert Bruce Slater
As a budget analyst for the City of New York, Vanessa E. Youngs ‘07 has the opportunity to participate in policy decisions that can better the lives of city residents. “The most meaningful part of my work,” reports Youngs, “is the opportunity to participate in issues that have an actual impact in the neighborhoods where I live, work, study, and play.”
In the future Youngs wants to play an even larger role in public service. This May she will complete a master’s degree in urban policy at the New School for Management and Urban Policy. She has been nominated for a 2011 Presidential Management Fellowship and would like the opportunity to work for the U.S. Department of Justice. One day she plans to run for political office because as an elected official “I can most effectively serve the community.”
Youngs is part of the Miscellaneous Revenues Unit of the city’s budget office. This division tracks and forecasts city revenues from all sources other than taxes, including parking tickets, license fees, and permits. She has responsibility for the budget of city agencies such as the Taxi and Limousine Commission, Department of Buildings, and Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Working with members of the City Council and their aides, Youngs also reviews pending legislation to see how it will impact the city’s budget and analyzes how new technology can reduce costs and increase productivity. “For example,” she says, “when the Department of Buildings wants to upgrade its inspection system, it’s my job to establish new inspection fees and to make sure the department has the resources to implement the program.” Each time she rides in a New York City taxi, Youngs takes pride in the automated passenger information screens and credit card payment devices, both projects that she helped develop and implement.
Youngs’ current graduate work gets her even more involved in social policy projects that hold a special place in her heart. One assignment was to design an outreach program for the NYC Department of Homeless Services that seeks to reduce mortgage foreclosures. A pilot program based on the graduate school project is currently being tested in some neighborhoods of the city. Also, as part of her master’s thesis program, she is developing a community-based organization of legislators, clergy, nonprofit agencies, and local law enforcement that has the goal of reducing gun-related crime in Harlem.
“These programs are great way for me to find workable solutions for some of the city’s most pressing challenges,” Youngs states. “They feed my passion for social justice and the government’s ability to implement strong policy solutions.”
Youngs is also involved in the Girl Scouts of America, Young Professionals for Change, and the National Action Network. In addition, she donates her time to New York Cares, the city’s largest volunteer organization. In her commitment to public service, Youngs is continuing to follow a path that began on College Hill. At Lafayette she was a member of Students for Social Justice and served as secretary for Nia, a women’s support group.
Youngs also was a standout sprinter for the Lafayette track team. A four-year varsity letter winner, she maintains the College’s third best all-time performance in the 200-meter dash. Her fastest time in the 100-meter dash was only three-tenths of a second off the College record.
At Lafayette, the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native “fell in love” with sociology while taking her first introductory class. She majored in sociology and added a minor in economics and business. “Lafayette professors are passionate about their subjects, and they made them relevant for me.”
When Youngs began her job search, she took a two-pronged approach. One resume was geared toward her goal to find a research position at a public policy think-tank. But she prepared a second one that emphasized her minor in economics and business. During a career fair at Columbia University, she left the second one with a representative of the New York City mayor’s office. Shortly after, she was hired by the Office of Management and Budget where her first role was the development of budgets for the offices of city clerk, district attorney, and public advocate.
Youngs credits the strong liberal arts curriculum at Lafayette with fine-tuning her interpersonal skills that enable her to communicate effectively in a business setting. Her supervisor in the city’s budget department said one of the reasons she was hired was that during her job interview she conveyed a strong ability to relate to others.
“I had a good time at Lafayette in and out of the classroom,” says Youngs. “But most important, I realize now that the college prepared me for the road ahead.”