Seyron Foo, 2008 Princeton University Junior Summer Institute Fellow
I vividly remember long nights during my PPIA summer working with my cohort to finish the slew of economics, statistics, and policy assignments that never seemed to end. It feels like that was a long time ago but it became very real again as I, and a couple other PPIA alumni, returned to the Junior Summer Institute as program and teaching assistants at the Woodrow Wilson School. We supported their academic endeavors, baked brownies, bought plenty of snacks, and took the students out to New York City and Washington, DC.
Spending this past summer as a program assistant served as an important reminder that PPIA alumni have a duty to mentor incoming classes of JSI students—no matter where we are in our professional careers. The Princeton JSI students that I worked with this summer shared the same questions I had: What do I do after graduation? What does this summer mean for my future? And the constantly popular, Do I have to take a couple years to get work experience (and the answer is still an unequivocal YES! for many JSI students!).
PPIA alumni are in a unique position to serve as mentors to these students. We understand the struggle of the summer. We understand the intensity, the lack of sleep, the academic and social pressure. We also empathize with many of the students’ backgrounds of fighting for an education that serves their needs, and for advocating for our communities. We understand their motivations for wanting to do JSI despite the challenges thrown at them.
All of us should remain committed to PPIA’s mission in achieving diversity in leadership. This could be as simple as reaching out to your local colleges and universities to let the various departments know about this unique opportunity each year during the recruitment cycle. It can also mean taking on PPIA students as your intern so they can develop work experience and prepare for their first few years out of their undergraduate years. The strength of our PPIA alumni network lies in our ability to continue to build a pipeline into public service for underrepresented communities.
Enrique Ruacho, 2008 University of Michigan Junior Summer Institute Fellow
The skills I developed during my time at a Junior Summer Institute prepared me to enter graduate school in public policy, which has had a profound impact on my career. Graduate school is an experience filled with moments of truth and rigorous intellectual attainment that accelerates your abilities to solve problems. For me, these skills have helped me analyze major issues such as: Why is California shifting its low-level prison inmates to county jails? And how is it ensuring a successful shift in state responsibilities to 58 counties? Or how do we create regional economies without compromising the environmental integrity of our natural resources? And how do we tackle the need for affordable housing at the same time?
Public policy school equips you with the skill set needed to develop recommendations and tackle complex social problems. These skills include quantitative analysis, policy analysis, microeconomic analysis and concise memo writing. These skills guide my decision-making and function as a framework to effectively navigate overwhelming challenges, develop recommendations, and create policy initiatives to accelerate impact.
In daily life, the skills you develop in graduate school shape who you are and influence your day-to-day tasks. You may find yourself running correlational analysis on your workouts because you “happen” to have collected data. At work, you start quantifying all your daily tasks and routines, you develop or “suggest” alternative processes that are Pareto optimal, and you write memos for just about every major issue of the day. In meetings, as you apply The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving, you find yourself asking: What is the problem? How do we know it is a problem? And what criteria and alternatives will help us choose the most feasible solution? In truth, public policy school prepares you with a foundation—a public policy toolbox—to use as you tackle major issues and follow your passions. In other words, although you already have all the tools you need, you start understanding how to choose the best tool to solve problems and impact our global community.
But more importantly, these skills are valuable tools that empower you to tackle new challenges in ways you never imagined. In my career so far, I have worked with multiple California state elected officials in both capitol and district offices. I have advised the California Senate Budget Fiscal Review Committee and other clients on policy issues and worked for non-profits like the California Budget Project. These experiences, coupled with my passions, have inspired me to use my public policy skills in innovative ways.
Today, I am the co-founder of ImpACT California, a social impact startup on a mission to democratize state budget data and to create visual analysis of California’s budget and policy landscapes. In this way, the skills I learned as a PPIA fellow have empowered me to expand my conceptions of a public policy career and to develop new avenues to pursue policy change. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the public policy skills you develop through the PPIA program. The PPIA public policy toolbox is your compass as you work to change the global community we live in, allowing you be innovative, to be a catalyst, and to propel a vision that brings truth to power.