Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

"...one of the many things I appreciate about Brown’s MPA is that we are developing skills in addition to studying theory."

Student Spotlight: Dayton Williams ’17, MPA ’18

Hometown: Pass Christian, Mississippi

Twitter: @DCryptedPodcast

Tell us about your MPA consultancy.

I worked at the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB). The main project I worked on was building a web scraper to collect online complaints about telephone and internet outages. I compiled a data set and compared it to the current outage reporting system at the FCC, which mainly relies mainly on self-reported data from telecom companies. The web scraper provided new dimensions of information, including social media complaints, geographic information, and internet speeds. At the end of my consultancy, I presented my findings to the bureau chief of the PSHSB. Ultimately, I wanted to demonstrate the utility of online data collection in diversifying the types of information that the FCC can use to make informed decisions about how best to repair communications infrastructure and improve customer outcomes. I am really pleased that my consultancy project will be used as a prototype for future data collection innovation at the FCC.

How did your time at Watson prepare you for the work?

My undergraduate studies at Brown were very focused on public, international, and technology policy, so a lot of my classes related to cybersecurity, privacy, and international security. I carried that focus into my MPA studies. I had taken a few computer science courses as an undergrad and was able to continue with that in the MPA program. One of the best classes I've taken as a graduate student is the Public Policy and Data Science course— one of the many things I appreciate about Brown’s MPA is that we are developing skills in addition to studying theory.

What do you hope to do with your MPA?

While I was working at the FCC in Washington, DC,  I began co-producing a podcast called DCrypted. It’s a cybersecurity policy podcast that demystifies complex technology policy. We interview experts in the field, and have covered everything from the troll farms in Russia to Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook to collect personal data. In addition to continuing DCrypted, I have a job offer as a policy analyst at a naval security firm in DC. Moving forward, I really want to work in cyber policy. I’d like to get my foot in the door via defense contracting work to learn more about the cybersecurity space as it relates to defense. Eventually, I want to go to law school and get a degree in cyber law.

--Amalia Perez '18