L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

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Future Focused: Gennaro Milo helps set the stage for a safer future

Gennaro Milo poses with Jill Biden when he volunteered with Joseph Biden's presidential campaign.
Gennaro Milo poses with Jill Biden when he volunteered with Joseph Biden's presidential campaign.

by Rachel Zeeve

For Gennaro Milo, “business as usual” means preparing for events that are just the opposite. As a master of public administration student at the Wilder School, Milo is gaining real-world experience both in and out of the classroom to pursue a career in emergency or risk management. 

By formulating and analyzing disaster prevention measures and strategies Milo is helping assist communities and organizations before, during and after emergencies. Ensuring effective and equitable responses requires flexibility when the unthinkable occurs — from natural disasters like earthquakes to terrorist attacks and cybersecurity breaches. Inspired by a strong desire to help others, Milo’s ultimate goal is to set the stage for a safer, more secure tomorrow.

From the classroom to the policy world

With a bachelor of arts in political science from VCU, Milo was originally drawn to the Wilder School by the MPA program’s flexibility. Thanks to a dual degree option, he was able to begin the master’s degree while as an undergraduate. 

Throughout his journey, opportunities at the Wilder School have created opportunities to build a solid foundation of practical experience. “My coursework has prepared me to think outside the box when it comes to planning for a disaster,” said Milo. “Classes like Public Administration Theory, Public Policy Analysis and Social Equity, and Public Policy Analysis gave me the opportunity to analyze how other communities faced emergencies and where they failed. Specifically, we looked at the government's failures when it came to Hurricane Katrina.”

In reflecting on the past, Milo takes a proactive approach to planning. “What I took away from these exercises was that it is important to be prepared, no matter the circumstances,” he said. “Government organizations can easily become overwhelmed during an emergency without adequate planning and well-tested response procedures.” 

The MPA program’s Qualitative Methods course was a standout for Milo because it allowed him to merge a passion for equity and history with the data analysis skills vital to his career aspirations. “I decided to analyze data about American Indian youth to see if there was a relationship between their religion and their Native American identity,” he said. “My approach to this project was to study a demographic that has a lack of research about it. Since its inception, the United States has attempted to erase indigenous culture, and I thought it was important to see if there were lingering effects of this erasure.” 

Milo’s commitment to advocating for marginalized communities will be critical to formulating disaster responses that represent the evolving needs of diverse populations.

“What I took away from these exercises was that it is important to be prepared, no matter the circumstances. Government organizations can easily become overwhelmed during an emergency without adequate planning and well-tested response procedures.” –Gennaro Milo 

Helping the community through hands-on learning 

Milo’s wealth of recent experiences has further supplemented the practical skillset he has developed in the classroom. As the community recreation intern with Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation, he assisted in planning and implementing summer camp programs and other recreational initiatives. Additionally, Milo served an administrative role with Chesterfield County. Tasked with helping to update and plan for a 2023 reaccreditation process, he reviewed the department's policies and procedures. 

“I learned how specific policy, planning and procedures have to be in order to meet not only the county government's standards but also state, federal and accreditation standards,” said Milo. “As the administrative intern, I met with both risk management and emergency management teams to ensure that our policies and procedures aligned with their standards so that we can continue to be effective. I was very fortunate that my internships allowed me the opportunity to interact with the two fields that I am most interested in pursuing.”

Milo has taken a comprehensive dive into the multifaceted policy and public service realms. He also interned with the Democracy Summer Leadership political action committee, Virginia Victory 2020, and the Democratic State Central Committee. “In these roles, I truly learned the ins and outs of the campaign process,” he said. “I gained experience in volunteer management, volunteer recruitment and social media management.” These valuable leadership opportunities continue to build toward his career aspirations.

Graduation is now just around the corner, and Milo will complete the MPA program in the fall of 2022. By planning to avoid and respond to a spectrum of worst-case scenarios, he is paving the way for a future of best-case scenarios.