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Alumna Spotlight: Tracey Capers, Exec MPA '17

March 28, 2017

Tracey Capers, Executive MPA '17, is currently the Executive Vice President of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the nation’s first community development corporation. Fels student Meghan Pierce, MPA '18, sat down with Tracey to discuss Restoration, her career, and Fels.

Please describe your organization and its mission: 

Created in 1967, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation was founded through grassroots activism and the bipartisan support of then Senators Jacob Javits and Robert F. Kennedy at a time of racial unrest, segregation, and major disinvestment. The nation’s first community development corporation, our mission for half a century has been to improve the quality of life in Brooklyn. Toward this end, Restoration serves 50,000 annually through programming spanning affordable housing, workforce development, financial literacy and counseling, benefit enrollment and social supports, health, education, and the arts and culture.

Please describe your position and the duties it entails:  

I am the Executive Vice President for Programs at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, where I oversee initiatives in health and financial stability operating out of our Economic Solutions Center and Center for Healthy Neighborhoods. I see my role as that of promoting equity- whether facilitating access to jobs that pay living wages and removing barriers to upward mobility or addressing health disparities that disproportionately impact low income and communities of color. In the rapidly changing Central Brooklyn community, I strive to create a community that works for all. On any given day, I am meeting with city agencies and/or funders, leading stakeholder meetings,  or planning events and engaging community residents.

How did you become interested in this work?  

I have always been interested in community development and the promise of creating opportunities and a path forward for less fortunate neighborhoods. I grew up in public housing in White Plains, a community marked by a strong divide between the haves and the have nots. I later went on to Yale, which is one of our richest institutions but ironically is located in one of the poorest cities of the nation. This dichotomy always bothered me, and has shaped my commitment to equity and the field of community development.

I was drawn to Restoration as I knew it was the nation’s first community development organization. When I joined, the organization had a new CEO who was embarking on an organizational turnaround. I jumped on the opportunity to be part of this transformative moment. I started at Restoration first as a consultant and then full time heading up programs.  

How has Fels helped you in your career?

Fels has exposed me to great people who have remained valued colleagues. I actually work with someone I met many years ago at Fels! I also partner and work with Fels alumni across city government and nonprofits. It’s an important network and one that I leverage throughout my work. Furthermore, when I first came to Fels, I didn’t know whether I wanted to pursue a career in the private sector or public sector. Fels opened my eyes to the possibilities out there and prepared me for the professional responsibilities I have had since.

What was your favorite Fels course and why?

Frankly, I consider every class to be a favorite. The first class that I took at Fels was Negotiations. I was immediately able to apply the strategies learned to real life situations in my work with colleagues and partners across city agencies, nonprofits, and the community. I’m currently taking the Performance Imperative course; in real time, I’m similarly applying what I am learning in designing, refining and scaling initiatives.  

What advice do you have for current Fels students? 

I would advise Fels students to soak up everything. The lectures, the networks, and the readings all provide invaluable lessons learned and best practices that they will take with them throughout their professional careers. Fels students have the unique opportunity to learn from leading practitioners in their fields. In essence, the experience is priceless.  

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu