Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Kanika Gandhi

Kanika Gandhi ’15, MPA ’16

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Washington, D.C.
Policy Specialist
Hometown: New York, New York

You’ve said that you landed your “dream job.” How did the MPA program help with that?

By actively engaging us at various events with different speakers, the MPA prepared me to speak to – and keep the attention of – groups of people. Networking is everything in Washington, DC, and the MPA staff and faculty helped me to expand my network within Rhode Island and across the country. I work as a policy specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), which promotes national policy reforms to sustain food systems, natural resources and rural communities.

I don’t believe I would have gotten this position without the MPA from the Watson Institute at Brown University, which is highly regarded for its rigorous academics and practical applications.

The MPA isn’t only about data and metrics. The program’s interdisciplinary aspects are awesome and staff support and guide you to pursue your specific interests. I especially valued having very relevant problem sets in our classes on data analytics, economics and statistics; they’re relevant to my current work. It’s exciting to have my dream job in my mid-20s … and to see the great work done by our member groups, for whom I advocate.

Describe your consultancy and how it relates to your current work?

My consultancy was with the City of Providence Department of Economic Development, where I evaluated how to make the Rhode Island food system more sustainable and how the city could help achieve that goal.

The consultancy piqued my interest in exploring federal food policy; I realized I wanted to work in Washington, DC – and learn more. My consultancy work was relevant to NSAC, which wanted to hire someone with lobbying experience. I had previously done some farming and had worked in Rhode Island and Vermont at the state level, but in the consultancy I focused on local policy issues. Being able to apply policy skills during the consultancy is a very valuable element of the program.

What’s the social impact of your work?

Not enough people focus on or recognize the critical necessity of federal agricultural policies that help farmers who avoid destructive mainstream farming models. These farmers — often the best land stewards in terms of sustainability and implementing programs that benefit sustainability — are currently at the most risk. We represent them and work to amplify their voices at the national level. We’re helping people who are doing their best to protect our food system and to respect the integrity of that system. The fact that the U.S. has so much food and a simultaneously faces a huge hunger problem demonstrates the broken farm funding system and advocacy network. There aren’t enough people working for them at the advocacy table. We nudge our way in.

November 2017