Spotlight on Student Experience: Jianing Wu, The Eurasia Foundation, Washington D.C.

12 May

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Jianing Wu is a 2014 MPP candidate, specializing in International Development. He interned at the Eurasia Foundation in Washington D.C. in the Summer and Fall of 2013.

 

 

I spent a wonderful summer and fall semester at the Eurasia Foundation. My major tasks were to assist in monitoring and reporting grant programs. Since it was my first office experience in the U.S, I found everything challenging. Apart from finding friendly-tasting food for lunch everyday, the most demanding part of the internship was about how to familiarize myself with the 13 small-grant projects as soon as possible. That required a lot of reading, exploring and cheeky communication with the supervisor. The most rewarding part of my internship was my interactions with different stakeholders. To fulfill my duty, I engaged in intensive communication with civil society leaders, scholars and a few officials in China. The president would sometimes bring the interns to events held by agencies such as Department of Commerce, Wilson Center, etc. which form valuable connections.  The internship diversified my overseas experience and enhanced my understanding of NGO operation and management.

I am especially grateful to the MSPP community without which I might have spent the whole summer shopping, cooking or playing online games at home. The courses that I took at MSPP not only gave me a better understanding of program management, but also served as a bridge, connecting the Van Munching Hall to great governmental and non-governmental offices in the District of Columbia. I am also inspired by many prominent faculties with decades’ of professional experience working in the front-line of policymaking who have made contributions to changing the country’s fate. In addition, the school has a cocktail culture that blends diversified cultural elements and welcomes different opinions.

As a newcomer in the policy world, I am still exploring the very place I belong. But after my experience at the Foundation over the summer and the fall, I feel more committed, energetic and confident to continue my journey in the world of policy making and international development.

Spotlight on Student Experience: Sara Yousefnejad Gallagher, Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and Calvert Foundation

7 May

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Sara Yousefnejad Gallagher is a 2014 MPP candidate, specializing in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. Through the Philanthropy Fellows program, Sara has interned at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and Calvert Foundation.

I considered several policy schools in the Washington DC region, but I was most impressed with the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy for its innovative and collaborative character, and for its exemplary nonprofit leadership offerings through the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.

The MPP program does a great job of providing formal training on policy, management, and specialized issue areas. It’s a great professional degree because you come out of it with strong writing and communication skills, as well as the ability to think critically, analyze complex situations, and make difficult choices. Despite stellar academics, I think the best part of my graduate school experience has been the ability to practice what we’re learning.

I’ve been fortunate to work as a graduate assistant (GA) for the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. My GA is not just financial aid. I have gained valuable work experience that I have leveraged in internship applications, and applied in the workplace. This year, coordinating the Do Good Challenge (a campus wide philanthropy and social entrepreneurship prize competition) has taught me many valuable management and leadership lessons.

I have also held two formal internships during my time at MSPP through the Philanthropy Fellows Program. This partnership between the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) matches serious nonprofit management students in paid internships with regional foundations.

Last year I worked as a Philanthropy Fellow for The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region on a number of communications and branding initiatives. My work at The Community Foundation gave me an in-depth understanding of how these unique community organizations work (there are over 700 of them in the country and that number is growing). I also learned about the strategies used to collaborate with other regional partners across sectors, to make broad and deep impacts on issues like education, hunger, housing, and workforce development. I actually applied what I learned in my internship for a major school project: a policy analysis for workforce development programs.

This year I am a Philanthropy Fellow with Calvert Foundation, where I work with the Strategic Initiatives team on the development of new impact investing programs and portfolios. I’ve been really challenged by my work at Calvert because of the financial environment. Calvert Foundation is a CDFI(Community Development Financial Institution), and a lot of what they do goes far beyond my school and work experience. Regardless, I’ve learned about program creation and management, as well as how to use impact investing to leverage the financial resources of philanthropists, investors, and ordinary people. Impact investing is a powerful tool for social change, and Calvert has shown me how to use it.

My Fellowships have allowed me to complement my formal education with valuable, relevant work experiences, and the ability to practice and expand on my nonprofit training. When I graduate this May, I hope to work for a foundation that strengthens the nonprofit sector through capacity-building grant making for effective organizations.

 

This week at MSPP: May 5th – May 9th, 2014

5 May

This is the last week of classes for the academic year 2013-2014.  Here is a sneak peak at what is happening at MSPP this week!

Monday

Development Circle- Israel & Jordan: Engaging and Exploring the Complexities of Global Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership

Open Forum

Wednesday

GWiPP- Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day

International Career Club: How to Think About a Career in the U.S. Presented by Robert Daly, Director, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, Wilson Center

Thursday

CISSM FORUM-U.S. Policy in South Asia in the Coming Decade: Presented by Robert Lamb, Director and Senior Fellow on C3, Center for Strategic and International Studies

 

 

Spotlight on Student Experience: Danna Gabel O’Rourke, National Economic Council, The White House, Washington, D.C.

30 Apr

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Danna Gabel O’Rourke is an MPP candidate specializing in International Security and Economic Policy. This Fall she worked for the National Economic Council as a White House Intern.

 

 

As the first person in my family to attend graduate school, the decision process was quite daunting; that is, until I spoke with my mentor at Penn State:

“What do you mean choose? Isn’t it obvious? You have to go to UMD.”

Despite offers elsewhere, what I thought would be a difficult decision was, in fact, quite simple. My mentor was right: MSPP’s location, faculty, class offerings, and career services made coming here an easy – and fantastic – decision.

The best part of my MSPP experience has undoubtedly been the people. I’m learning with and from exceptionally bright individuals – some incredibly accomplished, others with a lifetime of accomplishments ahead of them. Course texts have been informative, but my understanding of policy is largely the product of conversation with the practitioners who teach the courses. From them, I have learned how politics and personalities influence the policy process outlined in the texts.

Without those conversations, I would not have been ready for this one with my supervisor:

“I’m going to put this call through, take over.”
“Sure, but why?”
“Because you do tech policy for the White House. Have fun!”

Though the title “intern” may suggest otherwise, I did real policy work and played a role in the White House interagency process. For over a semester, I conducted policy research, briefed NEC principals, actively participated in numerous meetings with policymakers and stakeholders, and developed ideas that were later pitched to policymakers.

I benefitted greatly from what I had learned at MSPP. Though I lacked background in tech policy, I was equipped with the right tools. Supervisors had mentioned how my practical education was mutually beneficial; experience with writing memos and studying policy (as opposed to theory) allowed me to produce quality work from day one.

The White House Internship Program is formidable in a number of ways. As the NEC Director said, this internship is the best in D.C. because we’re more like junior staffers than interns. Ten and twelve hour days were often more common than not, and every minute was incredible. My supervisor had a vested interest in my professional development and continues to be a remarkable advocate.

What I enjoyed most is that great work was rewarded with great opportunities. I got to be in a room with President Obama twice in the course of three hours: once when he addressed a group of educators and again when he addressed the intern class. We met with Vice President Biden and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, among others. Michelle Obama gave me a hug and told me to say hello to my mother for her (I’m still suspect it was a dream).

Had you told me when I started at MSPP that I would be involved in tech and Internet policy, I would have laughed. Had you told me I would be doing tech and Internet policy at the White House, I wouldn’t have believed it. I certainly wouldn’t believe that I’d write my project course paper on an increasingly important issue that academics and policymakers alike want to know more about. Thanks to MSPP I was prepared for a whirlwind experience. In turn, I hope to contribute to this field just as it has contributed to my professional development.

 

This week at MSPP: April 28th – May 2nd, 2014

28 Apr

Here is a sneak peak at what is happening at MSPP this week!

Monday

IDEV Project Course Town Hall

Tuesday

Research Seminar-Presented by Assistant Prof. Travis St. Clair

Do Good Challenge Finals: Presented by the School of Public Policy Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership

Finalist-FP-Bannner-2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday

Development Circle – On Norms and Agency Conversations about Gender Equality in 20 Countries: Presented by Patti Petesch, International Development Consultant and Author

Spotlight on Student Experience: Katherine McCabe, Achieving the Dream, Washington, D.C.

23 Apr

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Katherine McCabe is a 2014 MPP candidate specializing in Social Policy and Education Policy. She interned with Achieving the Dream in Washington, D.C.

 

 

Ultimately, I decided to attend the Maryland School of Public Policy because its proximity to Washington, D.C. offers both experienced policy professionals on its faculty and many opportunities for policy internships. I was very eager to gain experience in a policy setting and began an internship my very first semester at MSPP. I did not want to waste any time developing skills and exploring my interest in education policy.

Since July 2013, I have been working part-time at Achieving the Dream (ATD), a national non-profit dedicated to closing achievement gaps and accelerating student success at community colleges. I was particularly drawn to ATD’s mission to improve the outcomes of low-income students and students of color because of my interest in expanding educational opportunities and improving outcomes for all students, as well as my passion and undergraduate studies in social justice. Achieving the Dream leads the nation’s most comprehensive college reform network including 200 colleges, 15 state policy teams, more than 100 coaches and advisers, and more than 20 investors. The ATD National Reform Network was founded upon three pillars: 1. a student-centered vision; 2. equity and excellence; and 3. evidence-based decision-making.

As the Data Intern, I analyze college data from annual reports and assessments regarding their compliance with ATD principles, student success, and interventions aimed at closing achievement gaps. I have also worked with colleagues to update and improve our data submission templates and guidelines. In the fall of 2013, the Data Team launched the Interventions Showcase, an interactive tool that allows users to explore the numerous interventions at ATD colleges and learn from others’ innovative strategies. Additionally, I worked with the communications department to create a promotional piece describing the functionality and use of the tool that will be used in a variety of settings, including ATD retreats and conferences.

Over the past year at Achieving the Dream, I have had the opportunity to work with the Data, Communications, and Policy and Programs teams. The projects I work on are determined by the needs of the organization, and I genuinely feel that I am getting real policy experience by working against deadlines. It is rewarding to contribute to work that the organization relies on and values. Currently, I am working on projects aimed at increasing the rigor of data collection from the colleges, as well as streamlining the various reporting processes. I value the opportunities to participate in weekly meetings and share my ideas with the team. Achieving the Dream is an exceptional organization for embracing its interns and entrusting us with opportunities to apply our particular skills and interests.

I began my data internship after completing a year of core coursework at MSPP including Program Evaluation and Econometrics. These classes, in particular, prepared me to work through real process challenges my team and I have encountered. My data internship has also allowed me to refine the quantitative skills practiced in the classroom to produce analyses at the request of my colleagues. Aside from the more technical component of my internship, I have thoroughly enjoyed working in a non-profit setting, and I am appreciative for the opportunity to work in a different professional environment than I had previously experienced. Most of all, it has been a pleasure working alongside passionate individuals who are committed to the success of all community college students. ATD has introduced me to new analytic technologies and higher education policy issues, and they have given me experience managing education programs. My internship experience has reinforced my excitement to pursue my studies and career in education policy.

This week at MSPP: April 21st – April 25th, 2014

21 Apr

The weather is finally getting warm and there are lots of activities happening at MSPP. Here is a sneak peak!

Monday

Career Development-We’ve Only Just Begun Workshop

Tuesday

Tuesday Forum – StateStat and Performance Management. Presented by Matt Power, Director of StateStat, School of Public Policy Class of ‘1997

Wednesday

PSGA Lunch with the Deans

Intelligence Center of Academic Excellence at Maryland Spring Colloquium 2014

Thursday

CISSM FORUM- European and US approaches to the Ukrainian Crisis. Presented by Julianne Smith, Senior Fellow and Director of the Strategy and Statecraft Program, Center for a New American Security

Saturday

Maryland Day