Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Student Spotlight: Constance Gamache MPA ’19

Hometown: South Hadley, Massachusetts

Policy interests: Nexus of the private sector and public policy, social policy, vulnerable populations, education

You earned your undergraduate degree at Brown. Why did you decide to stay on to earn a Master of Public Affairs?

As an undergraduate, I studied business, entrepreneurship, and organizations as well as public policy in the Engaged Scholars Program. The MPA was a natural extension of my undergraduate studies as well as an opportunity to specialize in data-driven policy. With the data track offered in the program, I have learned how to integrate coding, statistics, and economics to inform policy solutions to complex social problems. Ultimately, the program provided me a structured path to deepen my understanding of public affairs, develop a robust and adaptable set of skills, and strategically design my career trajectory, while developing strong friendships and mentor relationships.

Has anything surprised you about your MPA experience?  

Although the MPA provided a natural extension of my undergraduate academics, it has been a notable distinctive experience. First, with a truly diverse cohort of students with a wide array of backgrounds, cafeteria learning (i.e. learning derived from conversations with my peers outside of the classroom) has become a cornerstone of my intellectual development in the program. Second, the scope of the curriculum has been truly expansive but somehow intricately linked to practical policy applications. Finally, I have been impressed by the wide range of resources that the data-driven track has offered to bolster my quantitative toolkit.

How has your status as an orphan shaped your interest in public policy?

Growing up without a legal guardian, a ward-of-state classification, or emancipatory status, I realized that most public policies are designed for the majority, not the minority. As an anomaly within the public system, I felt a fierce indignation at the systemic disconnection I faced and developed a commitment to catalyze social change.

I experienced firsthand the rigid and immutable nature of government bureaucracies and public policies that often exclude the needs of vulnerable populations. Through tenacious stubbornness, unwavering resilience, and begrudging patience, I also discovered the hidden pockets of elasticity and creativity within these systems.

Through my evolution from a social welfare constituent to a very privileged Ivy-League student, I have gained an intimate knowledge of how these systems deliver policy impacts heterogeneously. This has engendered the following key takeaways: 1) Social change is a complex ecosystem with many levers, from direct service to philanthropy to social entrepreneurship and policy; all have their advantages and disadvantages but are equally important, 2) Change can be frustratingly glacial, intricately multifarious, and sometimes even paradoxical but it remains the lifeblood of improving people’s lives, and 3) Being told “no” on the path to changemaking is often a gateway to creative negotiation and policy making.

What are you hoping to do once you’ve earned your MPA?

I will be working at Deloitte within the Government and Public Services division, where I hope to leverage my knowledge of the civic and nonprofit sectors. I'd also like to earn an MBA to further cultivate my understanding of the nexus of the public and private sectors intersect to create innovative systemic change.