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Alumni credit Suffolk to governmental success

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By Maggie Randall

Notable alumni gathered on Thursday to discuss the effect Suffolk had on their current success in government and public service at a Moakley Breakfast Forum, “Changing State Government: What is the Alumni Impact?”

Former Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader, and Assistant Professor in the Sawyer Business School, Lina Melconian, serving as masters of ceremony for the event, explained that the purpose of the Moakley Breakfast Forum is “a way to continue the legacy of the fine public service of Joe Moakley.”

“He was a wonderful person committed to the community,” reflected William J. O’Neill Jr., dean of the Sawyer Business School. On Moakley’s devotion to public service, O’Neill said, “It was ‘What can I do to make people’s lives better?’”

The forum itself represented those who work in public service with an alumni panel from very diverse backgrounds: Brendan Crighton, state representative from the 11th Essex; Lalana Gunaratne, deputy strategic sourcing services lead of Operational Services of A & F Operational Services Division; Carol Mici, assistant deputy commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections; and Laura Piscopo, project manager of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services.

The alumni all graduated between 2009 and 2014 with either a Master of Public Administration or Master of Political Science.

Melconian asked the panel to explain how Suffolk prepared them for their careers. Gunaratne advised to “take advantage of everything you possibly can,” explaining how Suffolk created opportunities for internships that helped to build her resume.

Mici, explaining that she went back to school with her 22-year-old daughter, said that they would compete for who could get the higher GPA.

“I won, of course,” she said.

Crighton’s top priority to change in state government is what he called the opiate epidemic, while Gunaratne said she wants to work on efficiency in government, especially between different departments to create “better lines of communication.”

Mici said she hopes to change the culture of the Department of Corrections, saying that a lot of her colleagues carry the “old school” mentality. Piscopo also spoke of her department; she said she hopes to find a home for every veteran by working with Chelsea and Holyoke soldiers homes.

Panelists also explained differences between the administrations of  former Gov. Deval Patrick and Gov. Charlie Baker.

Both Gunaratne and Mici spoke to the “minimal contact” their department had with the Patrick administration and how that had changed with a new governor in office.

Crighton mentioned certain disparities himself.

“There’s some philosophical differences we’ll have to get through,” he said in comparing the administrations.

Piscopo  further illustrated these differences using the example of a women’s professional program that was cut by the Baker administration.

“It wasn’t a priority, so it’s not being continued,” she said.

When asked if the alumni had a mentor, both Mici and Piscopo explained that their roles as single mothers had prepared them to forge their own path in their careers. Furthermore, Mici spoke to the lack of women in her department, and said she “developed [her] own way of getting through [her] career.”

In closing, Melconian said “public service is all about helping people,” which she said the alumni, in the likes of late Congressman Moakley, had done.

The next Moakley Breakfast Forum will be held in March.

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Alumni credit Suffolk to governmental success