If you took a snapshot of the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Master of Policy Management (MPM) program 10 years ago, you’d see a classroom full of mostly male, mostly white U.S. Army officers. Today, that picture has changed.
Military and civilian students now fill the seats, and the program has grown to include students from nine countries and four continents and a variety of professional arenas. Last summer the program also welcomed students from the National Urban Fellows (NUF) program, an organization committed to supporting people of color and women who are pursuing careers in public service. This shift was intentional, says Lynn Ross, faculty director of the MPM.
“In graduate school — certainly in our program, where we have all seminar-style classes — students get a lot of information about how their peers deal with specific issues,” says Ross. “Over the years, the more diverse each class gets, the more fulfilling it is for the students because they think, ‘Oh, wow, I’ve never thought of things that way,’ or ‘I’ve never dealt with that problem that way.’ ”
This was true for Alex Boroff (MPM ’20), an Army officer and fellow in the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Intern Program who started the MPM in the summer of 2019.
“Hearing about issues in South America, Korea, Japan and China, listening to what those students consider to be problems was particularly eye-opening,” says Boroff. “The experience gave me [a perspective] that I would not have gotten outside of this program.”
‘It’s OK to Be Different’
For Jenny Chen (MPM ’20), a student from Beijing, China, the experience of being in a classroom with students from unique backgrounds provided a significant personal insight. “This was the first time that when I considered a question, I thought, ‘It’s OK to be different,’ ” says Chen.
Chen’s appreciation of greater diversity within the classroom wasn’t limited to the student body. She recalls a comparative-policy class that examined policy issues in China, Brazil, India, Germany and the U.S. “That was a valuable experience to think about things in a totally different way,” says Chen, who hopes to focus her career around food-policy issues after graduating this May.
A Transformative Experience
While MPM students spend only one summer together, many are grateful for the experience. “It was all new, and I wanted to explore everything and learn everything,” says Annette Raveneau (MPM ’20), a member of McCourt’s inaugural NUF cohort. “Those four classes were very valuable for me, and I really, truly appreciate having that opportunity.”
Says Ross: “These students are going to go out and try to change the world, and if you don’t understand how others feel about certain issues or how policies affect others beyond your own community, you’re not going to be very effective at making positive change.”
Boroff, for one, acknowledges that the experience provided him with a greater appreciation for understanding other people’s points of view.
“We may not agree on everything, but speaking to each other in a civil manner and learning why I have my viewpoints and why others have their viewpoints, it’s something that can’t be understated,” he says.
“This has been one of the most rewarding years of my professional career, given that I’m being exposed to views and opinions that I may not have touched on had I remained in the Army proper.”
This post originally appeared in Policy Perspectives, the annual alumni magazine from the McCourt School of Public Policy. Click here to view the full digital magazine.