“Never Give Up… in the End, It’s Going to Be Worth It” - CCNY Alumna Johanna Urena on Helping Students Succeed at Her Alma Mater


A moment with Johanna E. Ureña, the Project Manager for President Boudreau and The City College of New York.

What brought you to City College and the Colin Powell School? 

I was working for the American Red Cross of Greater New York and always knew that I wanted to continue my college career in International Affairs. I had conducted research throughout New York City to find which University will be a perfect fit for me, especially monetarily as I was paying out of pocket. I found the City College of New York and it’s growing programs. They provided evening courses which was convenient for me as I worked during the day. My experience with all of my professors were welcoming, optimistic and caring.

How did you start working for the International Relations program?

While I was finishing my thesis, I was working as an assistant director for a non-for profit, after school program in Astoria, Queens. I was looking for an opportunity where I could complete my degree not far from home and continue assisting students on a college level. I had met with then thesis advisor and now Director of the International Affairs Program, Professor Jean Krasno. Professor Krasno communicated that there was an opening at CCNY working as the Program Coordinator of the Master’s Program in International Affairs. Just the year before, I had taken an internship with Professor Krasno and worked with her during the entire summer. She was able to see my work ethic and dedication to helping the programs succeed. During my time working in the IR program, my main role was more focused on logistics, planning, recruitment, graduation and assisting graduate students. I believe that is what prepared me for the role I have now.

What do you think is special about City College and the Colin Powell School?

The Colin Powell School provides students a sense of community and dedication to them. For a lot of the students here, I was able to relate to their stories, and I was able to help them in the way that I would have wanted to be helped in their positions. This also made it easier for me to talk to students on a level to where they felt respected and listened to, which I think is very important in an educational institution like City College. Also, being able to see and help with internships, job placements, and study abroad opportunities is what also makes this place very special. To help students graduate takes a lot of dedication but it is very rewarding to watch them cross the finish line. Also with CCNY as a whole, you receive a quality education and it’s cost-efficient. With this combination of community, dedication, and cost efficiency for students, this abled me to pursue my passions and obtain my goals.

As the project manager for the CCNY President, what do you currently do? 

I manage different projects that assists the president and his executive cabinet to better understand the campus as a whole. Being in the IR program has allowed me to enhance my skills in communicating, negotiating, and acclimating with different people across the different platforms as well as the various levels at CCNY.

How do you think the Colin Powell School has helped you in your current career? 

From the beginning, the Colin Powell School has not only taught me but has mentored me as well. I started working with undergrads, then graduates, staff and faculty, and now I am working directly for the President of City College. The Colin Powell School trained me in taking stepping stones to pursue my career and now, my ultimate goal of managing projects to help others. What I received from the Colin Powell School aside from a quality education was growth in all of my experiences. I have the opportunity of working with the founding Dean of the Colin Powell School, who is now the CCNY President, and because of his dedication to the Colin Powell School, I was able to see how processes should run to make this place, as special as it is to him, work well for the faculty and staff and most importantly for the students. The Colin Powell School has taught me to never give up on what I want to pursue, no matter how big or small the idea is.

What advice can you give to students reading this interview?

My advice to students would be to never give up and to always strive for more because in the end, it’s going to be worth it and it’s going to be worth the experience.