"I always felt like there were so many opportunities at Brown to be incredibly well-rounded in terms of what I was exposed to, what I was learning, and who I was interacting with. For a one-year program which moves pretty quickly I think this is a huge benefit of being at a school like Brown."
Emmery Brakke, MPA ’22 reflects on her time as a graduate student and how she uses the skills she gained from the Brown MPA program in her role as a Legislative Fiscal Analyst for the State of Rhode Island, Senate Fiscal Office.
Hometown: Cumberland, RI
Tell us about your job?
Our team is essentially responsible for analyzing and distributing information about the state budget. We work closely with state senators, in particular the Senate Finance Committee, to communicate what the big items in the budget are, where major changes have taken place, and the real impacts that the allocations have on different agencies and policy areas in the state. Each analyst on our team has specific agencies that they are responsible for, and my agency assignments are reflective of my background in the arts and my interest in social policy. I only started a few months ago so I still have a lot to learn about all of the intricacies of the job, but it has so far proven to be an awesome fit for my interests and professional goals!
What skills from the MPA program do you use in your work?
Memo writing! I am absolutely certain that my ability to write policy memos is one of the reasons I was offered this position, and those are skills that I developed entirely through the MPA coursework. I had to write a memo as part of my interview process, and a large part of what I do now involves professional policy writing. When I began at Brown I was a perfectly competent writer, but I did not know just how different policy writing is from other types of writing, and these skills truly serve me every day in my role.
Where did you fulfill your MPA consultancy and how did the consultancy experience prepare you for the work you are doing now?
I completed my consultancy with the Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education at the College of Pharmacy at Xavier University of Louisiana. The experience of working on a consultancy team was very important to my professional development in the program because of the practice of collaborating with team members in a work setting and putting together deliverables for clients on a timeline. As someone who had been mostly in non-traditional work environments for the last five years or so, these were important skills for me to develop before I re-entered the workforce. Also, as someone who is interested in pursuing further academic study down the line, I was grateful to have a consultancy option that was a bit more on the academic research and qualitative analysis side of things. I know that the research and academic writing experience from my particular consultancy will be incredibly valuable should I choose to pursue additional academic paths in the future.
What has been the most impactful project you’ve worked on so far at your job?
Definitely the creation of our budget report. I started this job with only a few weeks left in the legislative session, so it was really trial by fire when it came to learning and understanding what my role was and how the budget process works. Within three weeks of my start date we had to put out a book that is a summary of all of the budgetary changes made by the House Finance Committee to the Governor’s Budget. It was a huge whirlwind, and I was given the responsibility of not only doing my agency write ups but also being the person on our team who assembled the book for publication. This year’s budget was a really big deal because of all of the ARPA money that was being allocated, so getting to be a part of that was incredibly satisfying, especially for so early in the job. Our team also got a standing ovation on the senate floor at the session where the budget was formally passed, which was really awesome and really helped me get a sense of how important this team is in the state budget process.
What was a highlight of your experience at Brown?
For me, the best part of being a graduate student at Brown was the opportunity to take courses across many disciplines. I am very interested in social policy and I was able to build my own concentration by taking all of my elective courses in the sociology department. Not only did this allow me to meet students from programs outside of the MPA program, it also equipped me with an additional set of skills in qualitative research and academic writing. I always felt like there were so many opportunities at Brown to be incredibly well-rounded in terms of what I was exposed to, what I was learning, and who I was interacting with. For a one-year program which moves pretty quickly I think this is a huge benefit of being at a school like Brown.
What advice would you give young professionals entering the MPA program?
Your time here is short and it is entirely up to you what your experience is like. The faculty, staff, and students in the program are fantastic and the courses will give you what you need to know, but there is also SO much else available to you if you are curious, open-minded, and willing to ask for advice, help, and time. Do your research, reach out to people you are interested in talking to, and come in with a plan on what you want to get out of this year. The one year program moves faster than you are probably imagining, so doing your research and setting some goals for yourself before you start the program will really help you to maximize your time here and get everything possible out of the MPA program and Brown overall.