Brooke Hansson won the Milano School's Thesis of the Year award in 2011 for her analysis of the gang prevention efforts of Friends of the Lifers, a Jersey City organization providing services for former prison inmates. A month after getting her master's degree, Hansson landed a job as program coordinator at Friends of the Lifers. In her early days on the job, she won funding for a project in which she supervised at-risk youth in creating an oral history of Jersey City through audio interviews with residents—a program she had proposed in her thesis.
"The incredible range of skills I developed at The New School allowed this magical experience to take place," says Hansson. "After I researched the idea and designed the program, I made a business plan, budgeted, wrote a grant proposal, and led the kids in creating oral histories."
Hansson came to The New School for Public Engagement after earning an associate's degree at a New Jersey community college, where she realized that her interest lay in "the intersection of race, class, and gender in an urban setting and the broader impact on the individual." She was attracted by courses offered on subjects such as narratives of black women, suburban sprawl, and the sociology of shame, as well as the opportunity to develop her own curriculum in the School of Undergraduate Studies and work toward a master's degree while completing her BA.
Hansson was accepted to a bachelor's/master's dual-degree program and took graduate-level courses offered by the School of Media Studies, The New School for Social Research, and the Milano School, applying the skills she gained to projects outside the classroom. After receiving her bachelor's degree, she went on to complete an MS in Urban Policy Analysis and Management at the Milano School.
"The real strength of Milano," says Hansson, "is the rigorous teamwork in the field. Milano pushes you out there and, as in the real world, you have to learn to work together with your peers to make a project a success."