Georgetown University photographed from the Potomac River
Category: General News, Student Experience, University News

Title: Congratulations to the Class of 2021!

Date Published: May 20, 2021

Messages from Faculty and Staff

Graduate Stories

“Where we settle, what schools we attend, and what we learn, have a huge impact on how we perceive life and the path we set ourselves on.”

– Pooja Vora (MPP ’21)

After graduating from Temple University in 2011, Pooja Vora (MPP ‘21) worked as a paralegal for eight years before deciding to step into the policy world.

Following the 2016 political cycle, Pooja decided to take a step forward and gain the skill set and knowledge to push back against the attacks that were being made on immigrants, refugees, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and others by obtaining her Master’s degree at the McCourt School of Public Policy.

As an immigrant herself, it is no surprise that Pooja decided to focus on immigration, housing, education, and racial equity; three areas which she feels play a major role in the socioeconomic trajectory of any country. During her time at McCourt Pooja had the opportunity to have her opinions challenged, her world-view assessed, and her eyes opened. She has found the beauty of policy and the good change it can bring to people’s lives and learned that even though a policy may look good on paper, it is important to critically analyze it from a racial equity lens and to consider unintended consequences.

Pooja will be graduating alongside her classmates this weekend and we cannot wait to see what she does next!


“I loved how my classmates shared their expertise in and out of the classroom and pushed me to see policy issues from perspectives that I would never have considered otherwise.”

– Kei Helm (MPP ’21)

After graduating with his degree in biology from Kenyon College, Kei Helm (MPP ‘21) decided to take a very different path.

Following a semester studying public policy in Copenhagen, Denmark and a brief stint in the consulting world, Kei found himself driven to bring the work of scientists out of the lab and into the public in an accessible way. 

As Kei continued to research the American healthcare system he began to discover a major discrepancy – despite America’s advanced expertise and technology promise there seemed to be an ever-growing gap between the wealthy and the poor when it came to accessible healthcare. This prompted him to focus on health care financing when he came to the McCourt School.

Throughout his time at McCourt, Kei has maintained his passion for issues in the healthcare sector and has discovered that the American health system we have today is a product of a series of intentional decisions that resulted in the existing structure. While these policies may have made sense at one time, Kei has made it his mission to utilize his background in biology and skills developed at McCourt to create evidence based, people focused policies that can adapt over time.

As a Presidential Management Fellow Kei will be joining CMS’ Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) in their Oversight Group this summer. We cannot wait to see what you do next!


“I was constantly inspired by my peers’ work ethics and commitment to think outside of the box – they taught me to go beyond the status quo and think bigger.”

– Ravneet Kaur (MPP ’21)

Originally from the Bay Area in California, Ravneet Kaur (MPP ‘21) completed her undergraduate studies with double majors in Economics and International Relations at UC Davis in 2015. After graduation she began working in healthcare consulting, but soon found herself wanting more. 

After three years working in an industry that she was not passionate about, Ravneet took the leap of faith and quit her job to recalibrate and reconsider what was important to her. During her gap year, Ravneet worked as a program specialist at a local International Rescue Committee office supporting refugees and asylum seekers with asset-building and financial literacy. This role solidified her desire to utilize a policy lens to effect change for underserved and marginalized communities and attend McCourt. 

During her time at McCourt, Ravneet played a major role in the Policy Innovation Lab and learned the importance of developing community-oriented policy. Through group projects, extracurriculars, and conversations in the hallways of Old North, she had the privilege of engaging with peers from different countries, backgrounds, and perspectives. 

After graduating, Ravneet will be starting a job as a California Executive Fellow, where she will have the opportunity to work as a professional staff member of the California Executive branch and implement and develop policy across the nation’s largest state. We cannot wait to see what you do next!


“I feel so lucky to have been around so many individuals who are terribly accomplished in their respective fields at my time at McCourt, and know that many of these relationships will be long lasting, both professionally and personally.”

-Hannah Spengler (MPP ’21)

After graduating from George Washington University with a degree in criminal justice, Hannah Spengler (MPP ‘21) decided to take a step out of DC and join the Teach for America program.

While teaching high school math to students in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Hannah began to realize limitations of  what could be accomplished in the classroom due to systemic issues that plague the American education system. It was then that she realized that transformational change had to come from a policy level, and she was ready to become part of that.

During her time at McCourt, Hannah took a more generalist approach to learning, understanding the value of uncovering different passions and interests that may have otherwise remained elusive. However, after completing her capstone, focusing on racial reconciliation plans in a school setting, she chose to reinforce her commitment to working for students everywhere, and fighting for the education they deserve.

While on the hilltop, Hannah was a major participant in GU Politics events and even had a chance to meet Hillary Clinton somewhat unexpectedly on a GU Politics Discussion Group Zoom!

After graduation Hannah plans to work in politics in her home state of Ohio and continue her mission to reform our education system from the inside- out. We cannot wait to see what you do next!


“From math camp and orientation, to the first classes we all had together on campus, nothing made me happier than getting to know my fellow students and hear their stories.”

– Vasilisa Smith (MPP ’21)

The daughter of a Georgetown Law graduate, Vasilisa Smith (MPP ‘21) grew up knowing she wanted to become a Hoya one day.

Originally from Moscow, Russia and raised in Portland, Oregon, Vasilisa has been interested in politics and advocacy work since high school and decided to pursue her Masters in Public Policy shortly after graduating from college. 

Currently, Vasilisa is focused on education policy, specifically special education policy and has learned that taking a holistic approach to education, one that accounts for all areas of policy that impact students, is best. She plans to utilize this mindset at the state or local level here in DC following graduation so that she can make an impact in the lives of students with disabilities across the country.

We cannot wait to see what you do next!


“Coming to McCourt brought about a positive change in my life. I believe that the past two years have made me grow as a person, and the collaborative environment has just aided the process.”

– Digvijay Ghotane (MS-DSPP ’21)

Digvijay Ghotane (MS-DSPP ‘21) took a slightly different path to McCourt than most. After completing his undergraduate degree in telecommunication engineering, he decided to make a shift and study public policy. He was determined to find a program which allowed him to make use of the quantitative skills he had acquired during his undergrad while also giving him the opportunity to learn more about the policy world. McCourt’s Data Science for Public Policy degree offered him just that.

While at McCourt Digvijay has worked on projects that have involved South Asian security and political violence, climate, and energy, among others. He has had the opportunity to hone his quantitative skills while also learning more about how holistic quantitative analysis can help to strengthen policies.

After graduation Digvijay will be continuing his work as a Data Science for Public Good fellow at the University of Virginia. We cannot wait to see what you do next!


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