Profile | Alumni News

Alumni Voices: From BPI to MBA – A Bard Graduate Degree First

In May Stacy Burnett became the first BPI alum to earn a Bard graduate degree. In this quarter’s newsletter to BPI students inside, Stacy described her educational journey. It is replicated here.


I earned my first degree—an MBA in Sustainability—in May 2023 from Bard‘s Graduate Programs in Sustainability. I could not have foreseen this when I sat in my first L&T class more than six years ago. Much of my pre-BPI life is unrecognizable to me today because of the opportunities afforded to me by my education. Two things happened at BPI that changed the trajectory of my life.

First, I discovered—and fell in love with—JSTOR. I spent hours in the computer lab researching

Oscar Wilde. My interest in all things Oscar wasn’t related to an assignment. I was curious about a quote attributed to him, and I was able to use JSTOR to learn everything about the life, times, and tragedy of Oscar Wilde. Today I work at JSTOR to make sure every person incarcerated has the ability to pursue their own intellectual curiosity – just like I did.

Second, I studied public health at BPI, and completed the BPI Community and Public Health

Fellowships. When COVID-19 tore through NYC, BPI encouraged me to apply as a contact tracer. I differentiated myself early, earned the title Public Health Advisor, and went on to lead investigations in the NYC DOE Situation Room that reported directly to the mayor’s office. Whenever making career decisions concerning NYC government, Emmanuelle St. Jean and Jed Tucker gave me solid advice. The Situation Room placed me in proximity to power, and I was able to influence policies.

The fact that Rikers Island, which was in our jurisdiction, was the first jail in this country to offer the COVID vaccine to people who are incarcerated was due in no small part because I was in the room when NYC created its vaccine rollout plan. I wasn’t on the vaccine team, but because I happened to be there during the discussion, I could ask why Rikers, the largest congregate setting, wasn’t on the list. When I saw that most of the decision-makers planning strategy had MBAs, I realized I wanted one too. I nearly talked myself out of applying to graduate school—I hadn’t yet completed my undergraduate degree—but the work I did as a BPI Public Health Fellow demonstrated I could do graduate-level work.

Bard MBA took a chance admitting me with such thin academic credentials, but the support from BPI gave me the confidence to even try. The Financial Aid office at Annandale helped me figure out student loans, and were incredibly patient. So many members of the Bard community worked to get me here, and as I think about what is next, I know I can tackle the next big thing with Bard behind me.

—Stacy Burnett, MBA ’23

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