Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Prateek Samal Brown University MPA

"I decided to pursue a degree in public affairs to expand my understanding of how international stakeholders interact in solving global policy issues."

Student Spotlight: Prateek Samal, MPA ’20

Hometown: Odisha, India
Policy interests: International development, foreign policy, global governance
Consultancy: World Bank, Washington, D.C.

You graduated from college with a degree in business administration and economics. Why did you decide to pursue a degree in public affairs? Why did you choose Brown for your MPA?

I decided to pursue a degree in public affairs to expand my understanding of how international stakeholders interact in solving global policy issues. Knowing that private firms are a large part of economic growth of most countries, I hope to combine my knowledge of business, economics, and policy in a manner that benefits clients. Additionally, I sought to pursue a degree that would provide me with the tools and frameworks needed to enact sustainable change in the world.

I chose Brown for my MPA for its world-class faculty and a curriculum that includes a three-month consultancy in one year. I sought a program that could provide me with the necessary knowledge about policy without having to be in a traditional two-year program. I also chose Brown as it would give me access to incredible professional connections, a beautiful campus, and very knowledgeable classmates.

As the son of a diplomat, you had the privilege of living in Poland, Australia, Cuba, Austria, Sudan, and the U.S. How has that experience informed your policy studies?

Having lived in so many countries has shown me just how complicated foreign relations can be. Due to the existing anarchic landscape, it is extremely difficult to bring countries together and have them agree on a certain action or goal. Current and future efforts that includes professionals with deep knowledge of country, culture, and regional expertise are crucial in negotiating the various problems that we face.

I have also learned the value of diversity. Having been able to work with people from different cultures with different mindsets, I have learned that all forms of strategic teamwork are far more effective when you have distinct perspectives in the mix. I have been able to put a face and voice on various global issues such as climate change, extreme poverty, and education due to having interacted with people that are living the effects of policy issues on a day-to-day basis.

What has been the most valuable skill(s) you have learned in the MPA program so far?

One of the most valuable skills I have learned is the use of statistical programs. I believe that a lot of the research that surrounds strong policy analysis is based on understanding what is happening behind sophisticated mathematical computations. To be able to distill down important information so that everyone at the table can understand is key. Hence, learning programming languages such as R and Julia, as well as how to use software such as Stata has been incredibly valuable in learning data skills. I have also learned how to translate the information into an understandable form. I look forward to being able to use these skills at my three-month consultancy at the World Bank.

I have also learned how to write a detailed policy memo about any topic. In our Policy Analysis and Problem Solving course with Professor Eric Patashnik, we were randomly assigned a policy issue and given 48 hours to evaluate different options. My topic concerned Universal Basic Income, and I used this as a foundation to evaluate different options to improve the U.S. welfare system. Assignments such as the 48-hour project have taught me how to conduct effective, deadline-driven research in a manner that creates the foundation for evidence-based policy solutions.

What has been a highlight of your experience at the Watson Institute?

The highlight of my experience at the Watson Institute has been the people with whom I have had the opportunity to interact. This includes faculty, visiting practitioners, and MPA colleagues. It has been an amazing experience to be able to learn from professors who are clearly experts in their fields. Likewise, it has been so inspiring to hear firsthand from policy leaders from all around the world, including renowned economists Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerjee, and former World Bank president Jim Yong Kim. The impact they have had on my understanding of policy issues has made me into a better-informed policy analyst.

December 2019