RISE 2019 Conference

Transforming University Engagement In Pre- and Post-Disaster Environments: Lessons from Puerto Rico

Curtis Dann-Messier

University Director for Workforce Programs

City University of New York


havidan rodriguez photo

Curtis Dann-Messier is the university director for workforce programs at the City University of New York (CUNY). Curtis oversees experiential learning programs for 1,000 students and 200 employers a year, including the CUNY Service Corps, CUNY Cultural Corps, and Service Corps Puerto Rico. These programs support students in life-changing internships in the non-profit sector. Service Corps Puerto Rico was established in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. CUNY sends 250 students each year to help rebuild the houses and the community of Puerto Rico. Students work in partnership with non-profits during the day and participate in cultural exchange activities at night and on weekends. To date, CUNY students have helped to rebuild 71 homes, repair 600 miles of trails in El Yunque, and clear 2 acres of farmland. Beyond his leadership of experiential learning programs, Curtis is one of the university’s healthcare workforce experts who has helped to establish a host of new human services programs across CUNY. He also oversees a 120-unit supportive housing program in Hollis, Queens, which seeks to end the cycle of homelessness by connecting tenants to education and workforce development opportunities. Prior to working at CUNY, Curtis was a science teacher, education coordinator for the Central Park Conservancy, and ran an afterschool center. He holds a BS in ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the wildlife management department established by Aldo Leopold. Curtis holds a Master’s degree in education from CUNY’s Hunter College.