Internships, Student Profiles

MPP In the Summer, The Places They Go: Cassie Richard

Cassie Richard is a second-year student in the Master of Public Policy program at Michigan State University. Her undergraduate work is in Applied Sociology, and she also earned a certification in Nonprofit Management from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. Because of her experiences in both her undergraduate and graduate careers, Cassie earned an Oregon Summer Fellowship from the Hatfield School of Government in Oregon. This is a nationally competitive summer internship program seeking to enlist “the brightest graduate students from across the country” into careers in public service. Cassie’s internship involved working with the City of Wood Village in Wood Village, Oregon (Portland Metro Area).

Cassie Richard

The City of Wood Village hired Cassie to bring their municipal and signage code up to date by researching best practices and enforcement techniques. Through this project, Cassie has investigated how other cities design their municipal and signage codes and how well their enforcement techniques work. She has also surveyed Wood Village to see what signs are currently being used, including their density and style. Upon gathering this information, she revised the city code and will present it to the City Council for discussion and possible adoption.

Through her internship, Cassie has learned many lessons, including the importance of hierarchy in local government and phrasing and word choice when reflecting community standards. She has also come to understand that local governments are often willing to help one another and share their experiences on various issues. Cassie’s projects have given her the opportunity to reach out to code enforcement officers from other municipalities, all of which have been very open to her about their experiences and offered sound advice.

Upon graduation, Cassie would like to contribute to research on policy issues surrounding gender, labor, and international affairs. She hopes to lend her skill set and energy to researching and addressing gender-based policy globally through work at a university, think tank, and/or advocacy based non-profit.

Internships, Student Profiles

MPP In the Summer, The Places They Go: Alexa Malesky

Alexa Malesky

Alexa Malesky is a linked-student in Michigan State University’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program who will complete her degree in 2017. Being a linked student, Alexa graduated in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science Pre-Law while concurrently working on her master’s degree.  This summer, Alexa has been interning with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as an education policy intern, and has had many opportunities to utilize what she has learned in the classroom in her internship.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy seeks to improve the quality of life for Michiganders by developing research and promoting these findings in the policy area. The organization focuses on enhancing individual citizen’s liberty and independence, a stance that Alexa fully supports.

Through her internship, Alexa has been tasked with collecting demographic, financial, and academic data to enhance research tools. She has also had the opportunity to write for the weekly publication, the Michigan Education Digest. Most recently, she has been updating the superintendent contract database and researching Detroit charter school transportation practices. These experiences have allowed her to get an inside look at the workings of a think tank and expand her knowledge of education policy. She has also been exposed to fiscal, labor, and economic policy through the Mackinac Center for Public Policy Intern University, which holds a weekly speaker series that provides interns the opportunity to listen to and network with prominent speakers in various areas of policy.

Alexa has been enjoying her internship and is very grateful for the experience she has received this summer. Her career goal has been to work in a state policy think-tank, and her internship has helped confirm this goal. Her internship has helped her grow as a professional while also solidifying her passion for education policy. She looks forward to the rest of the summer and is excited to see what other experiences she can gain from her internship.

Internships, Student Profiles

MPP in the Summer, The Places They Go: Lauren Faulkner

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.52.16 PM Lauren Faulkner, a Michigan State University linked BA-MPP student, spent her summer interning with the Michigan Democratic Party in their Lansing office, as part of her last undergraduate degree requirements. While there she worked in two departments: Communications (most of the time) and Political Organizing.

Given next year’s upcoming elections Lauren found it exceptionally exciting to be working with the Michigan Democratic Party this summer. In the Communications Department, she worked on an array of tasks including: helping in the creation of a social media plan for posting news and events to various social media platforms and updating contacts for the party for the press, districts and Michigan caucuses. In Political Organizing, Lauren went out in the field to help citizens register to vote and ask to make a pledge to the Michigan Democratic Party. Overall, Lauren feels that her internship with the Michigan Democratic Party has enlightened her real world political knowledge and experience. She has especially enjoyed learning about the strategies of political parties to engage the citizenry, as well as what has to be done in order to spread the message.

Lauren’s previous experience with public policy has mainly been from her work with MSU’s Office for Survey Research (OSR) Lab as a Lab Manager. She has been working at OSR for three years now. In 2012 as an Interviewer she collected data through telephone surveys for various research studies. Since then she has been promoted to Lab Mentor, Lab Supervisor, Lab Manager, and most recently Assistant Project Manager. Her primary responsibilities and duties in the lab now include managing the survey research lab, training new interviewers, desk-testing new project instruments, various tasks to reach project goals, and other duties that keep the lab running smoothly. While at the Nisbet office, Lauren mainly works on program web-based surveys through the Qualtrics platform. She works with project managers and clients to ensure satisfaction with the web survey, as well as the mail version (if applicable).

Working in OSR for the past three years has given Lauren a lot of insight on how important information gathering is to public policy. When she has a project in the lab, there is a lot that she has to do to ensure the maintenance of high data quality, so that the results are accurate. The largest project in the lab, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Study, is a state and federally funded health project that determines where monies would best be spent to improve state residents’ health. Lauren has gained a great appreciation for public policy after seeing the results and impacts that this project has done for the state of Michigan as well as other survey research conducted at OSR.

Internships, Student Profiles

Chinese MPP Students Fight Homelessness in Michigan

Shuting Deng at MCAH

Shuting Deng gained a better understanding of how NGOs in the United States operate through her internship with MCAH.

Each summer, MSU’s MPP students are placed in internships that help them gain real-world experience in working with public policy. Incoming second-year students Xiaodi Zhu and Shuting Deng, both from China, received an immersive education in the workings of U.S. nonprofit organizations and U.S. government at the federal and state levels—and in the process, helped create opportunities for Michigan’s homeless.

Xiaodi and Shuting both interned with the Michigan Coalition against Homelessness (MCAH), a statewide association of housing, shelter, and service providers to the homeless as well as concerned citizens. MCAH provides information, data, and training, and carries out advocacy on issues pertaining to affordable housing and human services.

Interning with MCAH was a good fit for Shuting, whose policy interests include social security, social welfare, employment policy and labor economics. Xiaodi also found the experience to be very relevant given her interest in non-profit organization administration.

Xiaodi Zhu at MCAH

Xiaodi Zhu “felt more confident and skillful” after interning with MCAH.

Xiaodi’s work at MCAH included organizing materials and staying in communication with other organizations, such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness, involved in advocacy at the federal level. To this end she also did research on HR 2265, pending legislation that includes provisions for helping homeless veterans, and the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2015 . Xiaodi was also given the task of contacting congressional staffers in Michigan’s House and Senate and making appointments with them for MCAH staff—an intimidating task at first, but Xiaodi rose to the occasion. “After finishing that work, I felt more confident and skillful,” Xiaodi says.

Shuting’s work has focused on improving MCAH’s services to and relationships with its member organizations. “Membership is one of the most important parts of MCAH’s mission,” explains Shuting. For example, MCAH provides members with media to promote their organizations and advocate for homelessness issues, and provides technical support and guidance regarding provision of care. Shuting helped to analyze a member survey, sent out invitations for MCAH’s annual anniversary celebration, and helped to keep contact information in the organization’s member directory up to date.

“As an international student, I knew very little about NGOs [non-governmental organizations] in the United States or about their membership. Through this internship I have gained a better understanding of how they operate,” says Shuting.

Both students highlight their appreciation for MCAH executive director Eric Hufnagel and supervisor Tina Berisha, who went out of their way to make sure the internship experience was educational and meaningful.

Internships, Student Profiles

MPP in the Summer, The Places They Go: Eva Tetteh

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Eva Tetteh is a student in the Masters of Public Policy program at Michigan State University, interning with the USAID/Ghana Feed the Future Agriculture Policy Support Project. In Ghana, agriculture is recognized as the backbone of the economy providing food, income and employment to almost all its rural population. Chemonics International is implementing the USAID/Ghana, Feed the Future, Agriculture Policy Support Project (APSP), with a goal to improve the food security-enabling environment for private sector investment in agriculture, through evidence-based policy formation and implementation, strengthening research capacity and advocacy. APSP is working with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and other institutions in Ghana, including the private sector, civil society organizations, and universities and research institutions to accomplish this goal.

As part of her internship, Eva worked on setting up a database on all grantees’ activities. The purpose of this database was to help track the activities of grantees as well as monitor their progress. The database was divided it into three components: policy education, policy advocacy and policy dialogue. Currently, the project has sponsored six different organizations, which are educating farmers and input dealers at the grass root level to have in-depth knowledge about the various agricultural policies in Ghana.

In addition, she reviewed literature on the agricultural data collection needs in Ghana. Her task was to identify the capacity gaps in agriculture data collection so the project team could design an intervention that would strengthen data capacity and train field enumerators to collect reliable and defensible agriculture data for the Statistical Research Information Directorate (SRID) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Eva found that Ghana lacks reliable and defensible agricultural data, due to inadequate funds to conduct proper agricultural census and also lacks qualified enumerators to help collect reliable data. From this she has gained a great appreciation for the importance of well-collected data to support effective and evidence-based policy decision-making and implementation.

Furthermore, she designed a questionnaire to assess the research capacity gaps of the staff at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The aim of the questionnaire was to help identify the research capacity gaps of the relevant government units in order to assist in designing interventions to help build their research capacity.

Finally, Eva participated in the third year annual work planning retreat of the project. This was a three-day work plan, which brought together various stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to discuss the challenges confronting the agriculture sector and also propose solutions that will help resolve some of these problems.

Through Eva’s internship, she has gained an in-depth understanding about the agricultural sector of Ghana. Participating in various dialogues on agriculture has helped her understand and appreciate the importance of this sector and in general the need to create a policy enabling environment to enhance private sector investment in agriculture.


Internships, Student Profiles

MPP in the Summer, The Places They Go: Abram Huyser-Honig


Abram Huyser-Honig will be graduating from Michigan State University’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program in spring 2016. He joined the program last fall after a decade of working in the nonprofit sector in Central America.

This summer Abram is working with the Analytics and Strategic Projects team at MSU’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. He works closely with ASP director Corey Washington and Research Administrator Harriet McTigue (a 2013 grad of the MPP program) to help MSU leadership make better-informed decisions regarding hiring, compensation, and academic and research priorities, based on hard data and statistical analysis. Abram’s work involves gathering data from a wide variety of MSU databases as well as external sources such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Reporter and Google Scholar, cleaning and combining this data, while using a variety of analytical methods to answer questions like “What areas of medical research would it be most strategic for MSU to focus on in the coming years?” and “Which departments are most successful at obtaining federal grants, and why?”

Over the summer Abram has also continued his ongoing work as an editorial consultant to, an investigative news website published by the Transparency International chapter in Honduras. An unprecedented protest movement has swept the country in recent months, born out of widespread public frustration with corruption. Revistazo has played an important role in bringing to light the details of corruption scandals implicating some of the highest-ranking elected officials in Honduras; the site has experienced nearly 100,000 visits in recent months, has generated thousands of shares and comments on social media, and several of its investigations have been reproduced by the country’s print, television, and radio news media.



MPP in the Summer, The Places They Go: Marcus, Juan, Sean

This summer, three of Michigan State Master of Public Policy program students have taken on the City of Detroit’s Finance Department, Income Tax division. Marcus Coffin, Juan Loaiza and Sean Tobin are working in the Economic Policy Planning and Strategy office under Deputy Mayor Carol O’Cleireacain. This office is responsible for overseeing numerous aspects of Detroit’s tax collection process, from identifying non-filers to processing returns and providing customer service.

The project they have been working on is referred to as the Landlord-Tenant Project, in which they seek to identify city income tax non-filers in Greater Downtown Detroit with data obtained from the landlords and from the city’s tax software. This task involves a large amount of direct landlord contact and a huge data collection and cleaning operation. The goal is to develop a database that will give complete and accurate information in one place of residents that are subject to income tax and how to contact them. In finding the most effective method to do this each has played a part in offering new approaches. In particular Sean has had the opportunity to introduce and utilize his GIS skills to the current system to map income tax compliance in downtown neighborhoods over the past five years.

The MPP students were part of the inaugural class of InnovateGov, a program developed by Assistant Professor of Political Science Josh Sapotichne and MSU Extension faculty member Eric Scorsone to help students gain real-world experience in local government while assisting urban governments with complex problems. Sapotichne and Scorsone, who lead an ongoing research project on municipal fiscal distress and state intervention, worked with students throughout the summer to help connect their academic work to their experience at the city.

From the internship experience Marcus finds he has learned a great deal about how city bureaucracies function day-to-day. It has also taught him about how data is used in city government, and the importance of maintaining up-to-date data. When initially arriving in the city they were assigned to build a database from the ground up using data from disparate sources. Had their been a place where all of this data is collected and kept would have made the job far easier.

Juan has also come to find the importance of cities collecting data at present in order to ease future operations, programs and facilitate the leadership decision-making. In addition Juan has learned how to identify solutions to problems involving large amounts and incomplete data. He hopes moving forward through work such as this, more effective methods will be adapted in the public sector and cut back on current inefficiencies.

Through their time with the City of Detroit, Marcus, Juan and Sean have all come to gain a better understanding of bureaucratic operations and team building to accomplish set end goals. Their work is extremely important to the city and has come to be mutually beneficial.