Alumni Profile: Mykal Urbina '11
By Jessica Corbett '15
Perched on an office desk in Phoenix, Arizona, is a photo of a little girl posing with Mickey Mouse. On the framed photograph is a Post-it note: “This is why I am here.”
Park Scholar alumna Mykal Urbina ’11 interned at the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s national headquarters in the summer of 2009 after her sophomore year of college. A colleague kept the photo of the little girl, a leukemia patient, along with the sticky note on her desk at all times.
Urbina shared this story as the senior speaker for the Welcome Dinner during Park Scholar Finalist Weekend in March 2011.
“That was kind of a turning point for me in terms of thinking about my life and my career — about what my purpose is, what reason it is that I am here,” she said.
Spending a summer at Make-A-Wish as the corporate alliances and sales intern, Urbina said, “was the perfect combination of my IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications) skills with my passion for nonprofit work, so I realized I wanted to continue down that path.”
The following summer, Urbina interned at Cone Communications, a cause-marketing and PR agency in Boston. There, she worked with for-profit companies to create partnerships with nonprofit organizations.
Today, Urbina works at DonorsChoose.org, a New York City–based online charity that works to provide public school teachers in the U.S. with classroom materials and other resources. As a member of the partnerships and business development team, Urbina’s tasks are similar to those of her college internships. She develops pitch materials for major corporate partners, which include Google, Disney, Chevron, Kia and J.Crew.
One of her job responsibilities is organizing the annual partner summit, a two-day event for DonorsChoose.org’s top corporate and foundation partners. The summit includes presentations about cause marketing as well as panel discussions featuring speakers like Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, “Give and Take” author Adam Grant, and Caterina Fake, the chairperson of Etsy.
Urbina has also been able to step out of the traditional office space in her time at DonorsChoose.org.
“I’m fortunate that DonorsChoose.org is very encouraging of professional development activities,” she said. “I’ve been able to do two really awesome things with their support.”
One of those activities was in the spring of 2012, when Urbina participated in a 12-week course about sales and business development through General Assembly, a professional development organization. The program focused on public speaking, crafting a pitch, networking and maintaining professional relationships.
She was also accepted into the Fellowship for the Emerging Leaders and Public Service at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
“It’s a leadership program that teaches leadership and management skills, and brings in public service leaders from the New York City area to discuss everything from philanthropy to public service, to career planning, to personal and professional development,” Urbina said.
Outside of work, Urbina is involved with volunteer projects in the city. She has participated in New York Cares days, which are events every spring and fall where thousands of city residents come together to volunteer in parks, public spaces and schools. She is also a leader within the women’s organization of her church and helps organize group service projects, which have included some New York Cares activities.
Urbina’s passions for leadership and service trace back to her to high school during her college search.
“I had been looking for something where I could continue to be involved in service opportunities and have leadership positions and a combination of all of those things. That’s what I was looking for in a college,” she said.
Sifting through the thousands of pieces of mail that nearly all high school seniors receive during college application season, Urbina’s dad picked up a flyer for the Park Scholar Program and said to Urbina: “‘This is it. This is academics. This is service. This is community. This is leadership. You need to take a look at this,’” she recalled.
Urbina attended Finalist Weekend during the spring of her senior year of high school. After falling in love with the program and the college, she decided to make the cross-country move from her hometown of Gilbert, Arizona, to Ithaca, New York.
After serving for two years as her high school newspaper’s editor in chief, she thought her heart was in journalism. But through a conversation with a then-student Caitlin Castle ’09, Urbina learned about the Integrated Marketing Communications major.
“It was all of the pieces I loved most about being editor of my high school paper, which was telling stories and managing people, and doing layout and design, and just being involved in the whole process, and I realized that the IMC major took all of that and had a full program devoted to it,” Urbina said.
She changed her major to IMC the summer before she even came to Ithaca College.
After finding her calling in cause marketing through summer internships, Urbina spent her senior year of college learning about grant writing through the writing department’s capstone course, Proposal and Grant Writing. Her group worked to develop a comprehensive grant proposal to bring arts education to imprisoned youth.
During her senior year, Urbina also served as the co-chair for Ad Lab on the J. C. Penney account — which came in second at the national competition — as well as the coordinator for Megaphone Media Productions, a Park Scholar group service project. For Megaphone, Urbina led a group of Park Scholars in providing event planning and advertising services to Ithaca’s Community School of Music and the Arts.
While it has been three years since Urbina graduated and moved to New York City, she said she stills feels a sense of community as part of the Park Scholar Program, and stays in touch with many scholars from her class year — most of whom have also settled in the Big Apple. While they often meet for dinner in the city, last spring a group of them came back to visit Ithaca.
“Our first stop and our last stop were Collegetown Bagels,” she said. “That craving never goes away.”