Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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"I hope to empower and advocate for communities on intersectional levels, particularly by focusing on housing and infrastructure policy, wealth redistribution, and justice for marginalized communities. The MPA program is giving me the tools I need to plug into serving these goals."

Student Spotlight: Emma Caviness ’19 MPA ’21

Hometown: Stow, Massachusetts

Policy interests: Community-based policy, housing policy, wealth redistribution, social justice

Consultancy: Brown Policy Lab, RI Housing

Why did you choose to pursue your Master of Public Affairs at Brown after finishing your undergraduate study? 

As an undergraduate, I thoroughly engaged Brown’s Open Curriculum. My academic experiences cover a wide breadth — I was a student-athlete and I pursued dual concentrations in biology and in gender and sexuality studies. I developed critical analysis skills by focusing on the biology of highly nuanced cellular and molecular networks. In my gender and sexuality studies concentration, I considered societal structures, contexts, and frameworks to better understand power, identity, and oppression. I’m pursuing my MPA at Brown because I want to put these experiences and perspectives I gained as an undergraduate to use. The program is giving me a policy toolbox, with tools like data literacy, regression analysis, program evaluation, and policy memo writing experience, as well as access to a network of policymakers, thinkers, researchers, analysts, and all types of doers in between. I look forward to engaging all my Brown experiences –– both my undergraduate perspectives and my graduate skillsets after graduation and in my career.

What kinds of skills did you develop during the summer sessions? What electives are you taking this fall?

Over the summer, I developed confidence in my ability to conduct quantitative analysis, which I’m continuing to develop in the data-driven policy track courses this fall. The program instills a value of context- and evidence-based policy. After three years as a teacher’s assistant within the biology department at Brown, I’m always thinking about ways in which technical information can be communicated in more accessible and relatable ways, which I’m learning is a very useful perspective in the field of policy. I’m looking forward to using the skills I’m learning in this program during my consultancy this winter, where I will be engaging with the Brown Policy Lab working on a project for RIHousing.

You are the Graduate Student Council representative for the MPA class of 2021. What do you hope to contribute in that role?

In my role as the GSC representative, I aim to connect students to the resources of the Graduate School and make the Brown experience accessible to students during our short, one-year program. COVID-19 has a major impact on our program –– as part of the student leadership team, which includes community engagement fellows and our cohort’s diversity and inclusion committee representative, I work to advocate for student needs as they relate to remote learning adjustments and communicate with the administration and faculty to help the program continue to evolve.

What are you hoping to do with your MPA when you graduate? 

On a big-picture level, I hope to empower and advocate for communities on intersectional levels, particularly by focusing on housing and infrastructure policy, wealth redistribution, and justice for marginalized communities. The MPA program is giving me the tools I need to plug into serving these goals. With all the uncertainty we currently face as a country, I hope to contribute as a policy analyst at the local, state, or federal government levels. I also plan to stay connected to educational institutions like Brown, and to leave the door open to pursue more education in the future, because I will always be learning.