This summer, eleven MPP students will take the skills learned in the first year of the Michigan State University Master of Public Policy program and apply them to summer internships. The students will be interning all over the world, including Detroit, Washington, D.C., China, and Africa. Internship sites include United States Department of Commerce, Governmental Consultant Services, ITC Holdings, the Citizens Research Council, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, the City of Detroit, and YouThink. Throughout the summer, our student interns will be profiled on their experiences and what they’ve learned through their internship. Good luck to our students!
This summer, 26 MSU students, including 5 MPP students, participated in the InnovateGov Service Learning Internship Program, and played a key role in changing the way the City of Detroit addresses a complex set of issues. Jordon Newton, second-year MPP student, was placed with Data Driven Detroit (D3), and spent his summer using data and delving into analysis to drive informed decision-making.
Jordon is originally from Spokane, Washington, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Gonzaga University. Now at MSU, he is an assistant coach on the MSU Debate Team. Jordon has always enjoyed working with numbers and data, so being placed with Data Driven Detroit was a perfect fit.
D3’s mission is to provide accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision- making across our communities. Their primary focus is in the Detroit area, with a few projects spilling over to the rest of Wayne County. D3 works with community partners to help improve the availability of information and helps provide analytical services to help drive those decisions.
The primary project Jordon worked on is the Turning the Corner project. The Turning the Corner project is sponsored by the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, in cooperation with the Urban Institute and the Federal Reserve, to find a way to better track neighborhood economic shifts across cities in the United States. Their effort is to help find datasets that are predictive of when a neighborhood is close to experiencing a drastic shift so policy makers can act to prevent potential negative effects, such as economic displacement or the collapse of a neighborhood, from those changes. Detroit is being used as a test case to build a national model. For this project, Jordon researched a few dozen potential data sources that could be used in this effort, and collected data.
In addition to the Turning the Corner project, Jordon also worked on data research and analysis for a local neighborhood’s application to receive Promise Neighborhood status. The vision of the Promise Neighborhood program is that all children and youth growing up in a Promise Neighborhood have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career. Jordon also worked on visual data development for a variety of projects (using ArcGIS), background research for a project to improve neighborhood outcomes, and surveyed housing parcels for a neighborhood organization to help prevent blight and clean up abandoned properties.
Through his internship, the most eye-opening lesson was the difficulties in coordination and communication among the organizations within the community. According to Jordon, this problem goes far beyond individual actors, as there are dozens of organizations looking to help on any given issue, but in many instances they keep their actions uncoordinated, which can decrease the effectiveness of each organizations action.
Upon graduation from the MPP program, Jordon would like to do academic policy research, either as a faculty member at a research institution or for a primarily research-based organization, and would like to enter a PhD program in the future.
James Laney is a second year Master of Public Policy student, and one of the five MPP students that participated in the InnovateGov Service Learning Internship program this summer. James attended Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomathematics. Before arriving to East Lansing, he was a math and science tutor at his university and privately around the city. He also led the tutors at the university tutoring center and graduated as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar.
Upon arriving to MSU, James was a grassroots coordinator for the Climate Reality Project and a legislative intern for Michigan House Representative LaTanya Garrett. This summer, he was placed with the Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans, and Community Wellness (HVCW), where he worked in a team of three interns to design a method of optimizing service delivery to county residents. Wayne County HVCW was established to coordinate and administer health, educational, youth, veteran, senior and social services to residents and communities in Wayne County in order to address the social determinants of health and community wellness. Their vision is to reduce and ultimately eliminate disparities and inequities related to social and environmental justice by focusing on financial education, healthy living and healthy neighborhoods.
During his internship, James had two main projects. The first was designing a method of service delivery in the parks, which the intern team dubbed a “Wellness Zone.” The system developed required a comprehensive health needs assessment of the communities surrounding all the Wayne County Parks as well as an assessment of park resources that counter the negative trends in health in the host communities. These park resources may include a community garden to provide physical and social wellness, walking trails, and park-based festivals and farmers markets to specifically provide any dimension of wellness that may be lacking in the host community. After spending the summer researching and visiting the various parks in Wayne County, James and the other interns created a business plan and presented it to the Director of HVCW, Dr. Mouhanad Hammami. The business plan has now come before County Executive Warren Evans for final approval.
The second project James was tasked with was working in the community garden and beautifying the campus of the Health Administration Building. James found working in the garden to be one of the most satisfying experiences of his internship, and he enjoyed the days where they spent the entire day in the gardens.
According to James, his participation in InnovateGov was a defining experience and one that he will continue to look back on and draw inspiration from. Through his internship, he learned how to share his ideas and better manage his time. Professionally, he learned how to delegate responsibility more efficiently and tactfully resolve conflict before it arises. He also discovered a connection between what he is learning in the MPP program and the work he was doing through his internship, which was a great moment of insight for him.
Adaptability is a strength of James’, and he is open to all opportunities that are available. When he graduates, James would like to work for a local government or a think tank. He is also interested in teaching, and giving students a different perspective to public policy analysis. He does have political ambitions, but ultimately, wants to help organizations that are doing good in the world continue to do so.
Many cities in Michigan are challenged by insufficient resources and increasingly high expectations from their residents. City and county leaders, community advocates, and non-profit organizations may attempt to meet those demands, yet lack the resources or time to design and see these innovations through the policy process. The goal of the InnovateGov Internship Program is to place MSU students in these organizations to help deliver and assist with these demands, while also providing our students with an opportunity to do real work on public problems.
One of these students was Elizabeth Raczkowski. Elizabeth graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science and an additional major in Political Science. While an undergraduate student, she worked as an assistant in an accounting office and wrote freelance articles and other content for business and other websites, including human resource consultants.
For her InnovateGov internship, Elizabeth worked for the Wayne County Treasury Office. The Treasury Office is responsible for collecting delinquent taxes for all the township, villages, and cities in Wayne County. In 2016, an estimated 60,000-70,000 properties are at risk of foreclosure; roughly one-third of those properties are owner or tenant occupied. They are also responsible for foreclosing on tax delinquent properties and administering payment plans that allow people to pay delinquent taxes in installments to avoid foreclosure. Working closely with five other interns, the Wayne County Treasury team developed new outreach methods for the office to inform people about delinquent taxes, payment plans, foreclosures, and other important information. The interns met with residents and many people from community groups, businesses, and offices to better understand community needs and how to make outreach more effective.
Throughout her experience with InnovateGov, Elizabeth learned a lot about how communication and lack of communication between different government offices and interested public groups can affect policy decisions. She also learned the importance of getting outside perspectives on problems and strategies so governments get a more complete and accurate picture. When she graduates, Elizabeth would like to work on problems that affect local governments. She is especially interested in policies that affect equitable economic development, particularly the planning and implementation process. She hopes to use the quantitative skills she has gained in the MPP program, along with her experiences working with people, to contribute to helping communities improve their ability to provide for their residents.
Xiao Niu will be graduating from Michigan State University’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program in spring 2017. Originally from China, Xiao moved to the United States five years ago to study Economics, also at Michigan State University.
This summer, Xiao was an intern at the Center for Elderly Legal Aid and Research in Beijing, China. The Center for Elderly Legal Aid and Research is a non-profit organization that provides free legal aid service to elderly individuals that are low income. Xiao was responsible for recording information of visitors and managing all existing records. As the only intern with training as a policy researcher from his MPP courses, Xiao was also able to help with the revision of research papers as well as make significant contributions to writing papers and designing surveys for the center. His responsibilities included helping researchers write literature reviews, collect data through surveys, and edit research papers. Specifically, he worked on a theoretical paper that focused on the future development of long term free legal aid service in China. Through his internship, Xiao learned the value of effective communication, as he had to work closely with not only co-workers, but also visitors that came to the center with a variety of questions and concerns. He also gained experience in how to best utilize the resources available to him, even if those resources may be sparse at times.
When he graduates, Xiao would like to earn a position as a research assistant for a consulting company, government department or research institute. In the future, he would like to become the head of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, which seeks to plan and manage China’s economy.
Vinny Szczerowski is a linked-student in Michigan State University’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program who will complete his degree in 2017. Being a linked student, Vinny graduated in December 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy while concurrently working on his master’s degree.
Vinny has spent this summer interning at Northern Strategies 360. Located in Traverse City, Michigan, Northern Strategies 360 offers consulting services to clients throughout Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The mission of the firm is to provide strategic, pragmatic, results-driven consulting services to their clients with a focus on business and economic development and governmental affairs. According to Vinny, what sets Northern Strategies 360 apart from other consulting firms is their desire to form a close relationship with their clients to effectively and efficiently act as a liaison between business and government. Being the first of its kind in Northern Michigan, he was especially enthused about working for the firm. Vinny was born and raised in the small town of Hawks in Northern Michigan and has seen firsthand the difficulties businesses and other entities face when trying to procure adequate representation for government affairs. Northern Strategies 360 offers this close-to-home representation for any interested clients.
With his interest in health policy, Vinny has been primarily working on projects directly related to the Munson Healthcare System. As the firm’s biggest client, Munson Healthcare is a nonprofit rural regional health system made up of nine community hospitals that deliver a broad array of healthcare services to the nearly 500,000 residents of 24 counties across the 11,000 square miles of rural Northern Michigan. Some projects that Vinny has been working for them include crafting advocacy updates on current legislation pending at the state and national level that directly affect the system, writing policy briefs on specific proposals already enacted and how they will impact the hospital network, and communicating with local, state, and federal lawmakers on behalf of Munson Healthcare. Two major projects he has focused on involve constructing whitepapers on veterans’ access to healthcare services in Northern Michigan and the status and trends of educational attainment levels for nurses. While the nursing paper is still being formulated, the veterans’ access to healthcare piece has been presented to and referenced by the CEO of the Munson Healthcare System when addressing local interest groups.
Through his internship, Vinny has learned that healthcare policy is even more nuanced than he had previously thought. One rule set forth by a state or federal agency can have enormous ramifications on the operations of a hospital or healthcare system. Going forward, he believes this lesson will greatly help in his pursuit of working within a healthcare system as a government affairs liaison or consultant.
Yusri Jamaluddin is a second year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Yusri has a strong background in business and information technology, and was a research assistant in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University. Before starting the MPP, Yusri also interned as a Policy Analyst in the Performance Management and Delivery Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department in Malaysia.
This summer, Yusri served as a policy analyst intern at Cybersecurity Malaysia, which is an agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology. Tasks of the Cybersecurity Office include implementing the National Cyber Security policy, conducting strategic research on cyber security issues, as well as developing digital forensics capabilities and cyber emergency response support for Malaysia.
During his internship, Yusri has been tasked with creating a benchmark study on international cyber security policies and strategies and reviewing the National Security Policy, as well as providing policy recommendations moving forward. He has also conducted research on local and international cyber security issues and solutions and presented his research to relevant stakeholders. Through his internship, Yusri has learned that while skills in public policy analysis like logic models and statistical techniques are excellent tools for analyzing policy, they can be of limited use without a depth of knowledge in the relevant field of policy.
Coming from an information technology background, he has been fortunate to be able to study Malaysia’s cyber security policy and apply information from his previous background while also applying his public policy education. He has also learned the importance of feedback and review while conducting policy research. The feedback he has received during his internship has given him a deeper understanding of cybersecurity policy. According to Yusri, if a policy is only analyzed based on quantitative data, it can only tell so much, potentially leading to a surface-level understanding of the policy or program and ignoring the context that lies in the details. Obtaining feedback allows for less biased views and a broader understanding of the issues around the policy of interest.
Upon graduation, Yusri is looking for a position that allows him to exercise and develop his data analytics and visualization capabilities in a policy research and design environment. Ideally, he hopes to obtain a position in research think tanks or government agencies where he can be involved in program evaluation, policy analysis, or policy design while having fun playing with data.