New York City has nearly 8.3 million residents, but it’s only got one mayor. That’s where the Community Affairs Unit – and proud St. John’s University alumnus Samuel Pierre ’07CPS – steps in.
“We are the eyes and ears of the Mayor,” said Pierre, who currently works as the North Brooklyn Borough Director. “Our job is to basically be him in the community, to serve as liaisons, attend board meetings and know exactly what’s going on. If an incident occurs in downtown Brooklyn, it’s our responsibility to make sure the Mayor knows the ‘who, what, where, why and how’ before his press conference. That way he’ll know all the names and pertinent information.”
The job is a dream come true for Pierre, who discovered his passion for government and politics as a student at St. John’s, primarily thanks to his experience in Student Government, Inc. (SGI). An incredibly active student, Pierre served as SGI’s Chair of Research and Development and found the opportunity life-changing.
“The funny thing is,” Pierre joked, “I didn’t know a thing about research or development! But I had become friends with Fabrice Armand ’04CPS, ’07G, the outgoing President, and he sort of took me under his wing. Before I knew it, I was involved in the By-Law Committee, I joined Haraya – St. John’s Pan-African Students’ Coalition – and I founded the Communications Club. I was pretty involved.”
The experience convinced Pierre that a career in real-world government would be best, and he landed a job with U.S. Congressman Ed Towns only a week after graduation. He later worked as Deputy Director for New York Assemblyman Alan Maisel and eventually found himself where he is today in the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.
“I always tell people: SGI and real government are the exact same thing,” he explained. “If you turn on CNN or C-SPAN, you’re basically watching an amplified Student Government meeting, which is why I always say that SGI was such an eye-opening activity. It teaches you how to interact with others, how to lobby for what you need and how to endure those Budget Committee meetings that take hours and hours and hours.”
Additionally, Pierre currently serves as the Community Affairs Unit’s Director of African American and Caribbean Affairs Citywide. To this end, he is responsible for covering and briefing the Mayor on major issues that happen in predominantly African American and Caribbean neighborhoods throughout all five boroughs.
“Whether it’s the neighborhoods of Harlem, Jamaica, Brownsville – I’m the one who handles certain unique situations that may arise there,” he explained. “All in all, the unique thing about my two roles is that you never know what’s going to happen at any given moment, so there is no such thing as a ‘typical day.’ One minute, I might find out that I need to attend an unexpected board meeting or even a funeral. Every day is different and challenging in its own way.”
Fortunately, Pierre is prepared for anything thanks to his time at St. John’s, and he loves to talk about his student days. He remains great friends with many of his fellow alumni, frequently attends Men’s Basketballgames and, whenever he speaks with St. John’s students, he encourages them to join SGI.
“St. John’s gave me an incredible opportunity, one that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” he said. “We were 19 or 20 years old and managing an SGI budget of $1.8 million – that’s impressive to employers and speaks volumes about what you can do in the real world. So my advice is always this: get involved and stay involved. That’s the trick.”