From Fellowship to Leadership: Curtis Penn's Journey in Public Service

Author: Bridget McCracken
June 10, 2024
WB Alumnus Curtis Penn

Curtis Penn's professional trajectory from a Willie L. Brown, Jr. Fellow to a Division Director at the Felton Institute exemplifies the transformative power of education and mentorship. Curtis's journey is a testament to how strategic academic choices and robust mentorship can pave the way for significant career achievements in public service.

A Foundation in Public Service

Curtis's educational journey was profoundly enriched by his participation in the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Fellowship and the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at San Francisco State University. The Willie Brown Fellowship is designed to support individuals, particularly those with obstacles like lived experiences with incarceration, in excelling in public service. Through this program, Curtis honed his skills and built invaluable connections that have been pivotal in shaping his career.

Professional Development and Real-World Experience

As a fellow, Curtis interned at the San Francisco Adult Probation Department. This experience provided him with deep insights into the inner workings of government and the complexities of public safety. It laid a solid foundation for his subsequent roles, including his position as Program Director at Project Rebound, where he facilitated the transition of formerly incarcerated individuals into higher education.

The synergy between Curtis's academic pursuits and professional experiences has been instrumental in his career growth. His involvement in the MPA program equipped him with the necessary skills and confidence to excel in leadership roles. Curtis credits the program for providing the tools needed to navigate complex challenges in his field, such as collaborating with community stakeholders and addressing critical issues like homelessness and substance use disorders.

The Power of Networking and Mentorship

One of the most significant benefits Curtis gained from the Willie Brown Fellowship was the opportunity to network with professionals in his field. "The very people that I met through the Willie Brown Fellowship have been instrumental in my career trajectory," Curtis notes. Through mentorship and guidance, he secured employment opportunities and forged lasting relationships that continue to support his professional journey.

Advice for Aspiring Public Servants

Reflecting on his experience, Curtis offers valuable advice for prospective students: “Don't set limitations for yourself.” He emphasizes the importance of remaining open to opportunities and building strong professional networks. Curtis encourages aspiring public servants to uphold professionalism at all times and pursue continuous education to expand their horizons.

Curtis Penn's journey is an inspiring example of how dedication to public service, combined with strategic education and mentorship, can lead to impactful leadership roles. His story serves as a beacon for those looking to make a difference in their communities through public service.