Born and raised in New York City, Samantha Alcalá returned home from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, ready to take the next step in her career. She worked for five years in the postsecondary readiness field supporting youth of color before deciding to return to school. Alcalá ultimately chose the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College to dive deeper into the theoretical foundations behind her career. “I had worked in two different spaces,” she said. “And in both, I felt frustrated by similar patterns — the inequitable access to resources and barriers to students’ trajectories and pathways. I wanted to process this and figure out how I can bring these reflections and lessons into other spaces in a deeper way.”
Along with the theoretical landscape, Alcalá was grateful for the different perspectives offered by the Education Policy & Social Analysis (EPSA) department. “It was through the political lens in my classes that I gained both knowledge and confidence to get further involved in the political landscape,” Alcalá said, which she has been doing more and more in her current role at The Opportunity Network (OppNet)—a national postsecondary readiness organization that specializes in supporting students’ college and career journeys through their own NYC programming and country-wide partnerships. As the Assistant Director of Partnerships and Advocacy, Alcalá focuses on supporting partners with their postsecondary programming and growing the organization’s advocacy efforts.
Although not mandatory for her program, Alcalá participated in fieldwork that allowed her to “bring a bit of the practical component into such a theoretical program,” while also figuring out how to apply the reflection she was getting from the program. She interned with the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness, a position she found through the EPSA listserv, and consulted at College Access: Research and Action (CARA), where she worked until the summer after graduating. In addition to this, Alcalá also held a research assistantship with Professor Carolyn Riehl, where she helped expand a course to include more DEI resources.
Alcalá also got involved with student organizations, becoming one of the five co-chairs of the Coalition of Latinx Scholars. She credits this experience with learning more about leadership and building communities at TC. “That was another learning experience that I think was just as valuable as my other spaces,” Alcalá said.
When she was graduating, Alcalá had a lot to consider when looking for a new job. She knew she wanted something that aligned with her values and would allow her to use her master’s degree meaningfully. She was able to find this at The Opportunity Network. In addition to building OppNet’s advocacy efforts, her education has impacted her role through her Integrative Project. Alcalá used the sociological framework from her project to write a new professional development workshop at OppNet. It has since been adapted for continual use and has been presented at multiple conferences.
For incoming and current students, Alcalá advises exploring all the possibilities that come with TC. “There is so much to do, so many people to connect with, and so many fascinating stories in this community. I am grateful for wonderful conversations with everyone — custodians, security guards, professors, and peers — to name a few groups. Explore and connect with everyone in the way that works best with your style.”