About a month ago I received an email from the faculty at SPS inviting me to join a few of my fellow students to attend a dinner in the city. The dinner was organized to give this year’s commencement speaker, Ms. Tanya Fields an opportunity to meet with the students she will be talking to in a few weeks at graduation. Prior to receiving the email I’d never heard of Ms. Fields and at the time, overwhelmed with class work, I did not have time to Google her. Nevertheless, I eagerly accepted the invitation and a week later found myself seated with a few students and staff from SPS at a table in the middle of a candle lit restaurant in mid-town.

When Ms. Fields arrived we took turns going around the table to introduce ourselves. Hearing the diverse exchange of personal and professional stories reminded me just how unique the SPS community is. From students who attend class via the web to those, like myself, that attend in person, SPS brings together students from all backgrounds and ages to a single learning environment. Finally it was Ms. Fields’ turn to share with us her story. She began by telling the table about her current role as director of The BLK ProjeK, a Bronx community food justice campaign.

Tanya Fields has been extremely successful in using social media to bring attention to her social work and community building projects. Over the course of our evening the conversation covered food justice, new media, higher education and politics that included a spirited debate on the social cost of corn commodities between Ms. Fields and myself.

I soon discovered Tanya Fields is a vibrant and energetic young social entrepreneur. Her personal commitment to creating a positive change in her community is a noble act worthy of recognition. In a city as big as New York, it is easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and overlook social problems like poverty, reductions in high school graduation rates, and youth unemployment. It is easier to simply regard these issues as the problem of someone else and turn a blind eye. However, simply ignoring these issues will not make them disappear.

As New Yorkers we enjoy the benefit of living in a great city that encourages us to be ambitious go-getters. Yet in doing so we often forget that we still live in a communal society where a negative impact to any one segment of the population will eventually affect all of us in some manner. Because of this we all have a social responsibility to each other and Tanya Fields’ work reflects this. Her food justice project, which educates young children on good dieting habits, is raising a new generation of New Yorkers that won’t have to shoulder the burden of increased taxes to address obesity related health effects and the increased social cost they place on the public. Ms. Fields’ mentoring and outreach program is empowering young girls by teaching them the importance of education. I believe Ms. Fields’ work is true a benefit to not just her community but also our entire city.

The night concluded with the students sharing their thoughts on what a good graduation speech should touch on with Ms. Fields. I left the dinner feeling truly inspired by the work Tanya Fields does. So much so I thought it only right I use the power of social media to share with the SPS community our commencement speaker and her story.

Following our dinner, I asked Ms. Fields if she would be interested in doing an interview for the SPS Community Blog, which she eagerly accepted. I spent a morning at Ms. Fields’ office in the Bronx chatting about every thing from the future of social media in education to the Jedi mind trick Celie plays on Albert in the end of The Color Purple (her favorite movie). My interview with Tanya was both informative and lighthearted and provides some insight into the life of Ms. Tanya Fields.

Brandon M. Chiwaya is a current SPS student studying Public Administration and Public Policy at the Murphy Institute. He is a member of the school’s 2013-2014 Technology Budget Fee Committee, and was recently awarded the CUNY Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Leadership Award. Below is an excerpt from Brandon’s interview with Tanya Fields.

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