Alumnus Wraps Up Nine-month Adventure at City Hall

Brooklyn, N.Y.—Matt Vann ’11 is about to finish his nine-month stint in the prestigious NYC Urban Fellowship program, where he works at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

“It was quite the work experience!” says Vann, whose last day at work is May 11. “And now, I can get back to do what I love most with a more informed background.”

Vann is involved in the We Are New York project, which provides language-access services to adult immigrants seeking to develop their English-language skills. He usually works in the office, preparing press releases and opinion pieces, and talking with potential volunteers about the program. But he also, occasionally, visits immigrant communities.

“It has given me a better understanding of the challenges immigrants face and the cultural contributions they have made,” says Vann, adding that one of the greatest moments of his fellowship was when he visited the Bangladesh Society in the Parkchester section of the Bronx. The Bangladeshi immigrants sang their national anthem, and Vann and the commissioner for immigrant affairs sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“It was perhaps the most surreal moment of the fellowship for me,” Vann says. “I remember asking myself, ‘Is this actually happening?’ Some of the participants in the conversation group were quiet, but then minutes later to hear the most reserved participants burst out in song was just breathtaking.”

Besides working at City Hall, Vann and his colleagues had a chance to visit the mayor’s offices in Washington and Albany, where they had even more insight into policy making.

“The D.C. visit was eye-opening,” says Vann. “It gave all the fellows, myself included, a chance to see how policies at the local level can have a national impact.”

The NYC Urban Fellowship introduces recent graduates to local government and public service. This year, 25 graduates from all over the country are participating in the program, for which they receive a $30,000 stipend and health insurance.

“My hope with the fellowship was to expand my body of knowledge so my work as a reporter could be more informed,” explains Vann, who plans to enroll in the master of science program at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in August. “While I’ve learned a lot about government, I still have a strong and abiding passion for journalism.”

Vann has a rich internship history, having worked as a United Nations intern at CNN, a political unit intern at NY1 and an editorial intern at The Economist. As editor-in-chief of the Excelsior, one of the college’s student newspapers, Vann and his colleague Zoe Zenowich were awarded a Vanguard Prize for the Defense of First Amendment Rights.