This year five public policy graduate students participated in the annual Spring Break Trip to Washington, D.C. This trip, which is funded by the Public Policy Department, gives participants the opportunity to engage with policy leaders who focus on some of the most pressing policy issues in the United States and around the world.
We began our trip with a short visit to the National Archives to view the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Two of our participants had never been to Washington before so we wanted to take advantage of the local sights in between our meetings. Our first meeting was with Jong Hwang, a Senior Policy Adviser at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Jong spoke with us about his experiences at his treasury, his advocacy of an open source financial risk model, and general advice about how to remain true to your values while working in the federal government. After meeting with Jong, we crossed the Potomac to our next engagement with RAND. At RAND, we met with the head of their Washington office, Rich Moore, and two other senior researchers, Eric Landree and Rebecca Anhang Price. This insightful trio spoke passionately about their work in policy research and RAND’s mission to give objective empirical policy analysis to policy makers. From this conversation, we walked away with a general understanding of RAND’s work and skills needed to be successful in policy research.
Our second day in Washington was jam-packed. We began with a conversation with Alexis Bonnell at USAID. Alex is the Acting Director of the Office of Engagement and Communications at U.S. Global Development Lab. Our conversation was an overview of the work at the Global Development Lab and general advice about work in the federal government and networking effectively in Washington. Our next meeting was with Bill Gale at the Brookings Institution. Bill is a Senior Fellow at Brookings and an expert in tax policy. He and his two research assistants spoke with us about the research cycle and how policy research can take advantage of political moments for maximum impact. After meeting with Bill, we walked a few blocks to the Urban Institute where we met with Senior Researcher Martha Galvez and Senior Fellow Carlos Martín, both experts in housing and urban policy. Martha and Carlos talked about Urban’s approach to studying communities and families and answered our questions about working in policy think tanks. Our final meeting of day two was with Alberto Ruisanchez, a Deputy Special Counsel in the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. Alberto spoke with us about the history of the Civil Rights Division and the function of the DOJ in the federal government. He also gave us a tour of the historic building. Even after a long, productive day, we still managed to squeeze in a trip to the Smithsonian. We spent the evening walking by the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the White House and ended the night with a half-smokes from Ben’s Chili Bowl.
Before heading our separate ways, our group met with Molly Cain a recent Stanford Public Policy grad and Senior Researcher at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. As a recent alum, Molly gave us a perspective on working in Washington as a young person and stressed the importance of reaching out through our networks and keep professional connections fresh. This last meeting was an appropriate way to end our time in Washington and reminded us of the value of all the connections we made during our trip. We are so grateful to everyone who took the time to meet with us and to the Public Policy Department for funding the trip. It was an invaluable experience for all of us as we reflect on how we can each personally impact the policy world.