Volunteer Profile: Michael Gamber (SPS ’17)
May 15, 2020
Proud alumnus, Michael Gamber (SPS '17), is passionate about serving his community and helping to build and cultivate NYU’s alumni network through his unique roles as co-president of the NYU LGBTQ+ Alumni Network, adjunct instructor at the NYU School of Professional Studies (SPS), and adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University this coming fall. With former roles in pharmaceuticals and luxury brand management, Michael now heads the Volunteer Relations & Training department at New York Cares.
As the person responsible for overseeing the organization’s efforts around developing health and safety requirements, including providing support resources for over 52,000 New York Cares volunteers, Michael remarks that, “The rigor of working full-time, pursuing a graduate degree at NYU SPS, and being active in the community solidified the skills I needed to perform during such a difficult time.”
Below, Michael shares more of his NYU story, including how his work at New York Cares intersects with coronavirus (COVID-19) relief efforts, the NYU professor who inspires him the most, and his favorite podcast to tune into while social distancing.
How did your NYU education prepare you for the current COVID-19 pandemic?
Inspiring service in a time of crisis is ultimately an integrated marketing effort. I use my education daily—whether by informing messaging to external constituents or developing recruitment plans to convert New Yorkers interested in making a difference to volunteers creating a tangible impact.
My organization, New York Cares, activated our disaster operations plan in early March, and it has been a lot of work responding to the ever-evolving needs of NYC. The rigor of working full-time, pursuing a graduate degree at the NYU SPS, and being active in the community, solidified the skills I needed to perform during such a difficult time.
Describe how you’re involved in COVID-19 relief efforts.
New York Cares is the city’s lead agency designated by New York City Emergency Management for mobilizing volunteers in cases of citywide crisis. As restrictions were enacted, I was responsible for developing our health and safety requirements to keep New York Cares volunteers as safe as possible, while providing essential on-the-ground support to our hunger programs.
Additionally, we’re tasked with adapting our operations to support the unique needs that the pandemic has created, specifically around social distancing. To support those efforts, I’m accountable for developing and deploying remote volunteer opportunities.
Most notably, our Phone Bank Volunteer program currently supports wellness checks for isolated seniors and provides technical assistance to families who’ve received tech from the NYC Department of Education to support remote learners.
Why do you stay active with NYU?
I always say the true value of an NYU degree is one-half education, one-half affiliation. With over half-a-million alumni worldwide, we have a tremendous network that we can tap into.
Making sure this vast network is accessible to alumni and current students takes constant cultivation. Building that type of community is very fulfilling to me and I’m proud to support those efforts as an alumni volunteer.
Why do you give back to NYU?
After my first year of grad school, NYU SPS launched the Dean’s Scholars Program. It was through the generosity of others that I was able to receive this scholarship for my remaining two years.
I’m grateful for the opportunity the program provided me; particularly in how it deepened my connection to the school and the University. I give back with what I can to help provide the same opportunity to current students.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect about serving as co-president of the NYU LGBTQ+ Alumni Network?
At nearly every function we have, I encounter someone who’s attending their first alumni event. Typically, this is an individual who lost touch with the university, and through our programming, was reengaged. Explaining to folks that the programs and services offered to alumni are just as rich and diverse as those offered to students is extremely rewarding.
Did you have any NYU classes or instructors who inspired or impacted you?
Yes, many did! And, I’ll call out one in particular that’s especially pertinent.
As I’ve recently become an adjunct faculty member at NYU SPS, one of my former instructors, Thom Kennon, inspired me a great deal with his Digital Marketing course. While I routinely use content from that course in my work, it was more his teaching style that inspired me.
He showed up to each class with tremendous excitement and enthusiasm for his craft. Ultimately, working a full day and going to class at night is tough. Working a full day and giving an energetic performance as an instructor is next level.
I know what a difference his energy had on me. Now that I’m an instructor, I give the same energy for my students.
As we encourage alumni (and everyone!) to #StayHome, what’s your favorite:
Book? Breaking the Surface by Greg Louganis and Eric Marcus. I read this book during an influential time in my youth and it guided my approach to many challenges in my life.
Podcast? TED Talks Daily. I never get tired of TED Talks!
TV show? Star Trek Picard is my most recent favorite.
Movie? The 2009 reboot of Star Trek.
Song and/or musical artist? Through multiple reinventions and decades, Madonna is a consistent favorite.
Ways to spend a Saturday? Pre-pandemic: Sleeping in until 9:00 AM, an Orangetheory workout, and city excursions until dinner out. During the pandemic, I try to recreate that structure as best as possible.
Place on the NYU campus? Bobst Library of course! I spent nearly every Saturday there during school.