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MCLA introduces alumna to the world, non-profits

10/15/2014

As the volunteer program coordinator for the Riverside Park Conservancy, Jordan Pagán ’09 oversees the hundreds of people who maintain Riverside Park, a scenic, 267-acre, public expanse that runs along the Hudson River on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Jordan PaganFrom ordering over 11,000 flower bulbs to be distributed for the park’s upcoming fall planting to working with corporate groups that provide the Conservancy with funding for a variety of projects, Pagán said, “It’s a lot of balls in the air, just making sure everyone’s happy and working within their boundaries, and that everything’s running the way it’s supposed to.”

When Pagán became an arts management major as a transfer student, the program was in its infancy. She jumped in by serving an internship through the Berkshire Hills Internship Program (B-HIP) at the Kolok Gallery, where she worked hand-in-hand with its director, and later was hired as a gallery attendant.

Soon after, as the assistant gallery manager for MCLA Gallery 51, “I had a more administrative role. I supervised other students and staff. I made schedules and worked with volunteers as it was the first year we held DownStreet Art,” Pagán explained. “I learned that I could coordinate large groups of people.”

Because MCLA Gallery 51 operates as a non-profit, she became interested in that sector.

“I’d never considered working for a non-profit. I thought all I wanted to do was art, art, art – and I still do – but every artist has to have a day job, and I’d rather spend that time making something better for someone. I credit MCLA Gallery 51 with getting me on this path.”

MCLA not only introduced Pagán to the world of non-profits, but, in a sense, to the world itself as she traveled beyond the United States for the first time.

Through a travel course, she spent a spring break in Italy with her professor and classmates. That summer, Pagán was selected through a competitive process to travel to Scotland.

The all-expense-paid trip, made possible by a MCLA supporter, allowed her and seven other students to attend the world-acclaimed Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The following spring, she returned to Italy to spend her final semester abroad, and also explored several other countries.

After graduation, Pagán headed back to Europe for her master’s degree in the history of art and design at London’s Kingston University. Although Kingston is a very large university to students from throughout the world, she was pleased to find herself in a small cohort whom she got to know well as they attended classes and went on outings together.

However, life among the British was an adjustment. “But once I got past it, and learned how to navigate in that society, it was great,” she said.

“People say that New York City is a tough city, and it is,” Pagán continued. “As the assistant manager of Gallery 51, I had been there a million times to pick up artwork on business. Then, New York City seemed very big and intimidating. But after London, it was very easy.”

With the lifetime goal of living and working in New York City, Pagán next set her sights on getting a job there, and secured a 10-month, grant-funded contract position with a non-profit organization, Food Bank for New York City, where she was on the volunteer engagement team.

Through her work at the Food Bank, she was involved with the renowned New York City Food and Wine Festival. For this event, she recruited 2,200 event volunteers and placed them at more than 100 events throughout the West Side.

“I got a really great education at MCLA in the field that I wanted, because everything was so hands-on, and I was involved in the community,” Pagán said.