Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Student Spotlight: Mobo Ayeni '18

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Concentration: MPA - Comparative and Global Policy Track

Tell us about your personal professional experience prior to beginning the MPA program. What fields were you in, and why did they lead you to an MPA?
My parents are immigrants, so I've always viewed things both as an immigrant and as a native. This is the duality to the second-generation experience — I always had to translate things about American culture and society to my parents as we were experiencing them. I think this formed the basis for how I view the world — questioning how states and policies impact peoples’ lives, for example — because I know how intimately these structures have impacted my life, and I have a view to how they could have been different.

In undergrad, I studied English with a specialization in social and cultural analysis, because of my interest in the inner lives of people and how they interact with forces beyond their comprehension. So, in an academic sense, my work here is an attempt to view things from the top down and answer some of those questions for which the analysis of interior lives might not be particularly instructive, but the tools this program provides— like program evaluation, data analysis, system dynamics, and others — can begin to answer.

Finally, prior to starting the MPA program, I was working in management consulting, helping companies communicate and implement policies very intimate to their employees’ lives. This highlighted the importance of rigorous, thoughtful approaches to policy creation and implementation. So, pursuing this MPA is an attempt to reconcile all of these inputs and ways of thinking into a skill set which can positively affect peoples’ lives.

What do you hope to do with a masters in public affairs?
I would love to work with strategic communication and marry the skills and abilities I have to more data backed, evidence driven methods of analysis. People talk about messaging and communication as a chiefly emotive thing, but there is a lot of rationality behind what we can immediately comprehend. As things become more polarized, people need data and they need ideas to be rooted in fact, but it’s also becoming more pressing to present things in more digestible ways. Policy analysts should be cognizant of that reality.

How has the Watson institute shaped, impacted, or informed your research?
Simply being around people of all disciplines who are doing innovative, inspiring things, and having such direct access to them has been huge.  I think that there is something cultural about Watson and Brown that lends itself to that kind of interdisciplinary cooperation, which was really something that attracted me to this program.

-Interview by Amalia Perez '18