MPP Speaker Series

MEC Policy Director James Clift Shares Insights on Energy and Policymaking

jamescliftLast Tuesday, the MPP Speaker Series featured James Clift, Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental Council. The MEC is a nonpartisan coalition of organizations that have an interest in influencing environmental policy in Michigan. Its members are diverse and represent a broad range of groups and associations.

Mr. Clift has spent 18 years at the MEC and has also worked as a lawyer, university instructor, and as a policy director at the Michigan Senate. He originally studied Business Administration and later graduated from Wayne State University with a law degree. His career illustrates the many different paths that lead individuals to policy work.

Among other activities, the MEC and Clift educate legislators about environmental and energy policy issues. They also keep track of passed legislation and administrative rules to ensure that they are being implemented as intended.

As Clift explained, the Michigan Environmental Council has cultivated a reputation for pragmatism, nonpartisanship, and solution-oriented work. He emphasized to students the value of building relationships with many people, particularly across party lines.

Earlier in the day, for example, Clift had given a presentation on energy issues to the Michigan House Energy Committee. Activities like this are an important of the MEC’s work. Clift noted that policymakers and others involved in industry and political decisions come from a variety of backgrounds. As a result, he explained, it is important to be able to listen to different perspectives and understand how they think about issues.

The energy industry is changing rapidly and involves many challenges as well as opportunities. As Policy Director, Clift makes it a priority to emphasize shared goals to his audience.jamesclift2

Three of the MEC’s major interests are protecting ratepayers, environmental protection, and securing a strong energy economy. Clift sees renewable energy as a way to both achieve environmental health and reduce costs to Michigan’s citizens. He explained that new technology, like advanced meters, can give more control to consumers while also benefiting the company and the state as a whole. This proposal involves a range of policy matters that MPP students have studied, including economic practices, policy trade-offs, and program evaluation.

Clift pointed to waste reduction as another way to reduce harm to the environment. He described how those working in any policy field may need to wait for the right political timing and work on getting public support in order to have their ideas heard. Given their limited resources, he said, organizations must choose what to spend their time on carefully. At times, it may be  easier to try to do things through the executive branch administratively under current law  than trying to get new policy adopted by the legislature.

He also noted that in Michigan it is very beneficial to relate issues to the health of the Great Lakes given their near universal importance and the concern the public and legislators have with preserving them.

Clift’s presentation was an interesting look at how those working with legislators can approach their work both at the Capitol and around the state. His expertise in this area gave the students valuable information about the workings of the energy and environmental policy fields.

The Michigan Environmental Council offers internships throughout the year. Interested students should visit their website at http://www.environmentalcouncil.org/.

 

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Hire An MPP, Student Profiles

Hire An MPP: Xiao Niu

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Many of Michigan State University’s second-year Master of Public Policy students will be graduating this May. They have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion that will allow them to put the skills they’ve acquired to good use. We’re posting profiles of all our soon-to-be graduates so you can get to know them—and maybe find the next addition to your firm or organization!

Name: Xiao Niu

Ideal Job Location: United States

Ideal Job: Xiao would enjoy working at a think tank or consulting firm because his ultimate goal is to perform timely research and give sound advice to enable policy makers to make good decisions. He is also interested in applying his skills to a policy research project, as he does at his current internship.

His studies and skill set enable him to do thorough policy work in a variety of topic areas, but he is especially interested in economic development strategies and higher education policy.

Work Experience: Currently, Xiao is completing an internship with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. He is researching and writing a thorough literature review, performing data analysis, and conducting interviews for a project focused on dual enrollment policies. Dual enrollment programs allow high students to enroll in college-level courses that are often transferable to four-year institutions at no cost. This is also the topic of his upcoming MPP capstone project.

“This experience gives me a chance to improve my research skills as well as communication skills,” he says.

Skills and Academic Training:

Xiao has enjoyed the MPP program immensely. He notes that policy intrigues him because society and its needs are always evolving. He also appreciates the rigor required to perform sound, complex policy research.

The most valuable part of the MPP program for Xiao was the opportunity to engage and learn with classmates. He explains, “Your classmates are part of your education. We learn from each other, and realize that there are so many other perspectives on the same issue.”

For this reason, he has most enjoyed courses that involve discussion. This reflects his interest in the way policy findings and advice can be communicated to policymakers.

“In the near future, I want to learn from working. I want to learn more research techniques, learn more about the world and society, and learn more about myself. Then I may come back to the school to pursue a PhD.”

Xiao concludes, “My ultimate career goal is to become a successful policy researcher, whose insight and research could influence critical decisions.”

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Hire An MPP, Student Profiles

Hire An MPP: Zach Polselli

Many of Michigan State University’s second-year Master of Public Policy students will be graduating this May. They have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion that will allow them to put the skills they’ve acquired to good use. We’re posting profiles of all our soon-to-be graduates so you can get to know them—and maybe find the next addition to your firm or organization!

blogzachName: Zachary Polselli

Ideal Job Location: Detroit, MI

Ideal Job: Zach aims to use his considerable knowledge of the policymaking process to improve program development and implementation in a large city or county in Michigan. Ultimately, he would like to become a city or county manager.

Through the MPP program and his experiences, Zach has developed the skills and understanding necessary for these demanding roles.

Work Experience: Zach has performed valuable policy work related to both program planning and legislative processes. Over the last three years, he has completed four internships with his state representative. As he explains, “I have seen all steps in the process of turning policy into law. This has helped me see what is politically feasible when trying to implement a policy. The policy content is as important as the political environment in which it is introduced.” He believes he could use his knowledge of the state legislator in his future policy work.

Last summer, Zach completed another internship in Detroit with the Wayne County Health, Veterans & Community Wellness as part of the InnovateGov internship program. This was one of his favorite and most valuable experiences in the MPP program because he was able to assist with policy from creation to evaluation.

Skills and Academic Training: Zach’s training in the MPP program has allowed him to combine analytical skills with his insights into the real world of policymaking, as he did when making plans to fulfill the needs of Wayne County’s citizens. He credits MPP faculty members Dr. Valentina Bali and Dr. Josh Sapotichne with inspiring and strengthening his knowledge and passion for policy.

His Policy Evaluation course was particularly valuable in helping him understand how to design and conduct sound program assessments. This type of work requires the thorough understanding of politics and policy that he has demonstrated in his previous roles.

Zach is well-prepared to take on the challenging policy needs of Michigan’s urban areas.

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Alumni, Event

Successful Career Networking Event Helps MPP Students Make New Connections

The Master of Public Policy program began March by holding another successful Career Networking Event. This annual event is an opportunity for students to make new connections, get valuable career advice, practice interviewing, and learn more about the policy world from knowledgeable practitioners.

Five individuals with substantial and diverse experiences chatted with students over coffee and desserts at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. This informal style allows students to sharpen their professional networking abilities while generating real conversation about some of the state’s biggest challenges and opportunities.

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The MPP program was fortunate to welcome these expert guests:

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Cameron Mock is an MPP alumnus and currently serves as Director of Fiscal Policy & Analysis at Chicago Public Schools. Previously, he worked as an analyst for the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. Mock’’s knowledge of fiscal policy, financial analysis, and educational issues give him a holistic view of a number of important policy issues.

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Kyle Jen is a graduate of the MSU-MPP program’s precursor, the MPA program, and is currently a Deputy State Budget Director for Michigan. Previously, Jen earned the title of Deputy Director at the Michigan House Fiscal Agency. He uses his impressive analytical and communication skills to make important decisions about how to responsibly plan for the state’s future.

 
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Karen Phillippi is an MSU graduate with over two decades of experience working with immigration-related policies. Her knowledge of these issues serves her well as Deputy Director at the Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA). Phillippi assists in planning and implementing policies that strengthen immigrant communities and attract global talent to the state.

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Bret Marr is an MSU-MPA alumnus and a lobbyist with Muchmore Harrington Smalley & Associates, one of the state’s top lobbying firms. Marr’s work allows him to use his diverse skill set and deep understanding of Michigan’s policy making process to meet the needs of a diverse group of industries and organizations.

 

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Larry Merrill is an MSU-MPA alumnus and Executive Director of the Michigan Townships Association. As Executive Director, Merrill not only serves as administrator but is also highly involved in much of the MTA’’s policy work, from education to advocacy. His many experiences in local government helped him develop a thorough knowledge of Michigan’s governments.

 

Thanks to these participants, our MPP students were able to broaden their networks and gain valuable insight into career and internship opportunities. If you are interested in participating in a future Career Networking Event, please contact the Master of Public Policy Program and let us know.

 

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MPP Speaker Series

MPP Speaker Series: MSU Professor Dr. Amita Chudgar Shares Research on Education and Development

img_0616Dr. Amita Chudgar was the featured presenter at an engaging session of the MPP Speaker Series last Wednesday. Chudgar is an MSU specialist in education policy, particularly in the context of international development. Her open presentation style encouraged participation from our MPP students, who took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and comment on her ongoing research.

Dr. Chudgar’s work focuses on educational access and attainment in areas facing serious resource constraints. She utilizes both national and cross-national datasets to uncover how different environments and policy factors affect educational participation and achievement outcomes. Her academic training in economics and methods complement her knowledge of policy and social contexts.

Chudgar noted that, over the past two decades, primary school enrollment has risen dramatically around the world. Now that access has been improved, however, communities, teachers, and policymakers must face the challenge of ensuring that children receive quality instruction and attain learning goals. Keeping students enrolled in school as they move on to the secondary level is an additional difficulty.

Many countries lack a sufficient pipeline of students interested in becoming teachers. chudgar1Chudgar’s research has uncovered several reasons why this is the case. Attempts at solving any of these problems often affect other aspects of the educational environment. For this reason, education policy in the developing world is a complex and interesting field of research.

A recent project funded by UNICEF examined the demographics of those who teach the most marginalized students. As in other studies, Chudgar and her fellow researchers found that experience level among other factors is important in understanding teacher distribution.

In many countries, younger teachers are assigned to more rural or less desirable locations. As they gain experience and expertise, they transfer to more attractive positions. This leaves many marginalized students with the least experienced instructors. Many promising students are discouraged from becoming teachers and are instead pushed to enter other fields. Some countries, Chudgar explained, have reduced requirements for becoming a teacher in order to address shortages, but the tradeoff is that educational quality may suffer.

MPP students added to this discussion by sharing their own experiences with teaching and learning in North America, Europe, and Africa. Questions were raised about the role of technology in improving educational outcomes. This is connected to tendencies to package education in a uniform manner in hopes of more efficient delivery. Chudgar noted that this may raise ethical and pedagogical issues.

chudgar2One research note that students can take away from Chudgar’s presentation is the availability of large-scale databases that can be used to examine interesting policy questions. Making good use of existing data, often in the public domain, has been an important component of several of her recent projects.

Chudgar’s research brings to mind the fundamental policy question of balancing cost efficiency, equity, and quality. She believes that research can inform policy and that research on educational policy should also be responsive to ongoing policy debates and questions.

Dr. Chudgar is currently teaching a course on Economics of Education. This course focuses on American domestic issues and shows how economic tools can inform education. She encouraged first-year MPP students to consider taking this class next spring and to explore other special topics courses in MSU’s renowned Education Policy PhD program.

 

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Hire An MPP

Hire An MPP: Vinny Szczerowski

MPP photo.pngName: Vinny Szczerowski

Ideal Job Location: Michigan; especially Traverse City, Detroit, or Grand Rapids

Ideal Job: Vinny has a passion for health policy and is deeply engaged in how different entities are involved in its development.

“I would ideally like to work in the government relations branch of some health related entity, whether it be a hospital, insurance company, health-related association, or any other provider or deliverer of health care services,” he says.

Vinny is interested in working for an organization as a health policy lobbyist or advocate. He would also enjoy using his statistical skills and substantial knowledge of the field as a health care policy analyst. Ultimately, he hopes to become head of a lobbying firm or another association that serves clients in the health care industry.

Work Experience: Last summer, Vinny excelled at an internship with Northern Strategies 360, the government relations consulting firm for Munson Healthcare. He examined laws and regulations affecting the Munson system. As he explains, he also “crafted policy briefs and whitepapers that could be presented to both the administration of the healthcare network and the general public.”

Vinny has also contributed to the Michigan Policy Network, an online research and reporting center at Michigan State University. In this role, he was able to further develop his understanding of Michigan health policy and politics.

“This opportunity allowed me to learn a great deal about current topics being discussed and debated at the state level,” he says.

Skills and Academic Training: Vinny developed his interest in health policy as an undergraduate. He has directed his analytical MPP program work towards gaining a deeper understanding of this complex topic. Combined with his internship and work experiences, this has enabled Vinny to learn to effectively analyze issues, but also importantly to be able to clearly communicate them to his audience.

Vinny has the skills, knowledge, and communication expertise to assist any organization involved in the health policy field.

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Hire An MPP

Hire An MPP: Cassie Richard

Many of Michigan State University’s second-year Master of Public Policy students will be graduating this May. They have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion that will allow them to put the skills they’ve acquired to good use. We’re posting profiles of all our soon-to-be graduates so you can get to know them—and maybe find the next addition to your firm or organization!

Headshot_Cassie_Richard.jpgName: Cassie Richard

Ideal Job Location: United States

Ideal Job: Cassie plans to work in a role that involves program and policy evaluation in the nonprofit or public sector. The MPP program has helped her gain valuable skills for an evaluation position in state or federal government or at a philanthropic organization. Eventually, she would like to obtain an executive role or run for public office.

Work Experience: Cassie is a former AmeriCorps Vista member. She explains, “I contributed to a grassroots driven policy initiative. Seeing the way in which all the cogs moved in this machine from the community advocates to the local City Council members to the city administrative departments fascinated me.” This experience and the desire to understand more was an important motivation for applying to the Master of Public Policy program.

Throughout her time in graduate school, Cassie has worked as a graduate assistant for the Global Urban Studies Program. Her work involves research and data analysis that requires interpreting complex information.

Last summer, Cassie was selected for a highly competitive Oregon Summer Fellow position through the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. She successfully completed an enriching experience in local government.

Skills and Academic Training: Cassie appreciated the MPP program’s Policy Evaluation course as well as the policy issues course Poverty, Inequality, and the Social Safety Net. These courses have sharpened both her quantitative and qualitative skills.

She is applying what she has learned through coursework and her experiences to her capstone project. This project is an evaluation of the implementation of a financial education program. This program is part of the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps, hosted by Community Economic Development Advocates of Michigan (CEDAM).

Cassie states, “I hope to work in a position that is challenging and allows creativity. I am very interested in pursuing an evaluation position where I can assist the organization determine the impact of their programming, resources, or policy.”

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