A Reflection on the 2018 Graduate Research Symposium by Kara Newman (MPP ’18)

Earlier this month, Kara Newman (MPP ’18) received an Excellence in Scholarship award for her paper, “Aid Shocks and Immigration to the United States” at the 2018 Graduate Research Symposium. She was kind enough to offer a few thoughts about her own research and about how participating in the symposium enriched her understanding of policy issues:

Kara with her award

“I recently had the opportunity to present my research, “Aid Shocks and Immigration to the United States,” at William & Mary’s Graduate Research Symposium. My experience at the symposium highlights how interdisciplinary it is: on Friday, I listened to my classmate Laura Mallison present on intersectionality in critical legal studies, learned about the concept of “relational mobility,” and examined a portrait of a member of a powerful colonial Virginia family. On Saturday, I was challenged to rethink the way terrorists select their targets before presenting my own research.

Conducting this research was a neat way to put concepts from my quantitative classes to work. While thinking about a potential research topic, I had been thinking a lot about the complex relationship between aid and immigration. Much has been written about it, and there is nothing near a consensus on the topic—the relationship depends on more apparent factors like immigration policy and diplomatic relations, but also on the exact type of foreign aid a country is receiving and the country’s wealth. While brainstorming, I remembered a discussion about aid shocks (severe negative changes in aid from one time period to the next) from Professor Tierney’s class, leading me to an epiphany: instead of looking at foreign aid provision, I could best contribute to this literature by focusing on severe reductions in foreign aid.

I hypothesized that severe reductions in the amount of aid that a country receives from one time period to the next would increase immigration, both to the United States and in general (measured with the net migration rate). My initial findings were not statistically significant (it happens!) and actually showed the opposite effect of what I had expected. There is more to be done with this research, including looking at a more detailed dataset that shows immigration flows between 30 selected countries and coding additional control variables. That said, I have really enjoyed using the tools from cross-section econometrics to explore a relationship that is important to understand.”

Good luck as you continue to explore the study, Kara!

In the Public Policy Program, we pride ourselves on facilitating opportunities for students to study and research the policy issues that are important to them and to the future of the field. Beyond the main curriculum, we encourage students to conduct independent studies and to foster their own policy interests in a supportive environment. There are even funding opportunities to support student research and conference attendance!

Do you have questions about the MPP program here at William & Mary? Feel free to visit our website to learn more.

A Scientist Walks Into a Bar: Graduate Student Edition- Taylor Goelz (MPP & MS)



Taylor Goelz W&M MPP and VIMS MS dual degree student discusses her research with the public at a graduate student event. (Photo credit: VIMS Twitter)


One thing I’ve learned from my time in the W&M Public Policy Program is if you want to make any influence on policy, you should be able to communicate your position. If you can’t present a clear, coherent and concise argument, then your chances of influencing anyone are low. I’m fortunate that this message emphasizing communication has also started to bloom within the scientific community, especially from scientists that wish to have their work incorporated into setting policy. As a dual degree student in the W&M Master of Public Policy program and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s (VIMS) Masters program of Marine Science, I’m lucky to be in the crosshairs of these two amazing disciplines and the messaging on communication they both emphasize.

A few weeks ago I got to share some early results from some of my VIMS thesis work at a public outreach event titled “A Scientist Walks Into a Bar: Graduate Student Edition” held at Alewerks Brewing Company. The purpose of this event was to allow graduate students a platform to practice communicating their research with the general public. During my time at W&M and VIMS, I’ve spent a lot of time on trying to develop my science communication skills, ranging from taking a course offered by Virginia Sea Grant to helping Dr. Emily Rivest develop a Science Communication course being offered this semester.  This event was exciting because it gave me another opportunity to practice these vital skills.

During the evening, I gave a short and sweet five-minute talk while sharing my results via poster with dozens of interested individuals. I worked hard on making my results easy to understand. I explained how I’ve been measuring different stakeholder’s attitudes towards science, local knowledge, and scientific modeling. These attitudes are becoming more similar as stakeholder groups interact together and share their ideas. That’s a punch line that I think everyone can understand; the more you talk to someone, the more similar how you think, feel, talk, etc. can become. I found the night a little ironic, a science-communication focused dual degree student speaking on the importance of communication, but I think the event went really well! Through relaxed conversation with many interested parties, I think I was able to spread the importance of social science research in the marine sciences paired perfectly with delicious beer!


Meet Our Students: Molly Miller

In the Master of Public Policy program at William & Mary, we take great pride in our students. Each person in the program brings something special to the table and we are thrilled to shine the spotlight on them whenever we get the chance. This is Molly Miller (’19). Molly is a first year student in the International Development and Policy track and she answered a few questions for us recently.

Molly Miller

1. Where are you from?

Springfield, Virginia

2. What brought you to the William & Mary Master of Public Policy Program?

I liked the program’s emphasis on quantitative skills and the opportunity to take law courses at the William & Mary Law School. Both of these features made the W&M program stand out from other programs.

3. What were you doing before you joined us?

I was an undergraduate studying International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington.

4. What is your favorite thing to do on campus?

This isn’t actually on campus, but it’s really close to campus so I’m going to count it. I love to go to Aroma’s coffee shop and get their flavored coffee of the day with a biscotti and study for an hour or two.

5. Favorite thing about the program?

I like how personal our program is, all of the professors and administrators know all the students by name, and all the students know one another.

6. What advice do you have for prospective graduate students who may be on the fence about applying to the W&M MPP program?

Definitely come to admitted students’ day and get a better feel for the program, the community, and the school! Walking around campus and talking to current students will definitely help you decide if this is the place for you, I know it did for me!

7. What has been your favorite class so far and why? 
I loved Quantitative Methods 1 with Professor DiLorenzo. This class covered material that was so totally new to me, but Matt made everything accessible and easy to understand. It was fun to be out of my element, and I enjoyed developing new skills in Stata and data analysis.

8. Where do you want to go from here?

I would love to work with a development organization, public or private, and create programs that promote economic growth in developing countries.

9. What are your hobbies?

Hot Yoga, Reading YA Novels, Facetiming my nephews, The Bachelor, Barre Classes

10. Describe yourself in three words.

Upbeat, Adventurous, Noodle-y

11. Favorite book?

Wool by Hugh Howey

12. What message would you like to receive from the future? 

I would love something along the lines of “The life you have chosen to lead will be endlessly fulfilling.”

13. If you could meet one person in the world, living or dead, who would it be and why?

J.R.R. Tolkien, because I love Lord of the Rings and I would love to have a conversation about how he was able to imagine the LOTR world. He was a serious genius, he created languages, religious concepts, and managed to make his stories an allegory for WWII. I just think that he was so brilliant, and I would love to pick his brain. Also, he wrote a children’s book called Letters from Father Christmas that is really magical, so he wrote more than just adult fiction. He was a man of many talents I guess.

Thanks for sharing, Molly! Keep up with Molly and the other MPPs by following us on Facebook and LinkedIn. For more information on the Public Policy Program, visit our website.

Meet Our Students: Kendall Quirk

In the Master of Public Policy program at William & Mary, we take great pride in our students. Each person in the program brings something special to the table and we are thrilled to shine the spotlight on them whenever we get the chance. This is Kendall Quirk (’19). Kendall is a first year MPP in the Public Policy Analysis track and answered a few questions for us recently.

Kendall QuirkMPP '19

Where are you from?

Arlington, Texas

What brought you to the William & Mary Master of Public Policy Program?

When I came to visit, I met with so many people who seemed to have a real interest in me and how I could fit into the program. I’ve always loved the school and was so happy that it was a perfect fit for me!

What were you doing before you joined us?

I came to the program straight from undergrad. I finished my Bachelor of Arts in English in May 2017.

What is your favorite thing to do on campus?

I’m a huge football fan, so I like to go to the games! I also like hanging out with everyone in the MPP Lounges in Tyler. It’s fun to bond and work outside of classes.

Favorite thing about the program?

I love going to class every day and seeing my fellow students. We  have become a great group of friends, so it makes class, homework, and studying that much better. Since it’s a small program, you get a chance to get to know everyone, which is rare.

What advice do you have for prospective graduate students who may be on the fence about applying to the W&M MPP program?

Do it! W&M is an incredibly special place to study public policy. We have a great group of alumni, access to many resources, and a wonderful faculty.

Where do you want to go from here?

I would love to work in D.C. or London on U.K.-U.S. affairs.

What are your hobbies?

Baking, painting, cooking, and recently photography! Although, Netflix-binging is pretty great, too.

Describe yourself in three words.

Passionate, nerdy, and social!

Favorite book?

Probably The Great Gatsby, but usually any book I’m reading.

If you could receive a message from future-you, what would you want it to say?

“You will graduate in May 2019 and get a wonderful job right after.”

If you could meet one person in the world, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Anne Boleyn. I was a medieval history minor in undergrad and loved studying the Tudors! I would love to see if all of the rumors about her were true.

What has been your favorite class so far and why? 

My favorite class has been Law and Public Policy (with Christopher Byrne and James Heller). It was one of the most challenging classes I’ve ever taken but it was incredibly interesting, fun, and relevant. It was great to bond with everyone and go into class not knowing what kind of discussions we would have.

Who is your favorite professor/researcher you’ve worked with and why? My favorite professor(s) have been Matt DiLorenzo (Quant I) because he was so collaborative and really reassuring for a student who hadn’t worked with quantitative analysis and data. I also love the work I’ve done with my Graduate Assistantship (GA) advisor, John McGlennon. I’m  interested in local and state politics, so it’s been fun to work closely on projects with him.


Thanks for sharing, Kendall! And we can help make that prediction come true with all of our Career Development resources. 😉

Stay tuned for more student spotlights! In the meantime, don’t forget to follow W&M MPP on Facebook and LinkedIn!


W&M MPPs at the 2018 VASG Graduate Symposium



Credit Bobbie Moore:VASG
Left to Right: Taylor Goelz (MPP & MS), Lauren Pudvah (MPP), & Peter Quinn-Jacobs (MPP & JD) Photo Credit: Bobbie Moore/VASG

A few weeks ago, our group attended the Virginia Sea Grant 2018 Graduate Symposium in Richmond and presented our PRS poster The graduate-student focused symposium brought together representatives from NGOs, private industry, consulting firms, and government agencies for a full-day event focused on coastal issues facing the Mid-Atlantic. The symposium offered graduate students an opportunity to share their research but also emphasized the need for effective communication to connect science and policy. In the morning, graduate students gave 8-minute, TED-style talks, ranging in topic from how oysters are beating their parasites, to beach dunes being more than they appear, to the unexpected link between bacteria, humans, and chickens.

The highlight of the day for all of us was the keynote speaker. Laura Lindenfeld from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science involved the audience with improv games that helped us understand why communicating science can be so tricky. We spent over an hour thinking about how we currently communicate complex topics and what we could do to improve that communication in the future. If you’ve ever talked to a scientist, you may have noticed they may not be the best at explaining their research. She warned of the dark curse of knowledge, which can befall any expert, not just scientists. This “curse” manifests when you know a subject so well (i.e., something you’ve researched for millions of hours) that you forget what it was like to not know it. It was fantastic to have Laura give us a taste of what workshops at the Alan Alda Center look like. Through improv exercises, the Center strives to help scientists improve their presentation skills and to use empathy-based communication to relate to audiences. She presented some approaches that the three of us can use as we go out into the world of science policy.

The day finished off with a diverse career fair and poster presentations. It was amazing to see how much policy-applicable science is occurring in Virginia universities. We were able to practice our newfound skills when discussing our PRS project with people including a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) employee and the photographer of the event! It was an honor to share a piece of the Public Policy Program with the Symposium.

– Lauren, Peter, & Taylor



Our First Post


Welcome to the William & Mary Public Policy Program blog! The goal of this blog is to give students, alumni, prospective students, and other friends of the Master of Public Policy program a look into what is happening and what makes us tick. You can look forward to weekly installments with general event announcements, recaps, student profiles, and updates on where alumni are now! Have questions? Give us a call at (757) 221-2384, shoot us an email at publicpolicy@wm.edu, or send us a message on Facebook. We look forward to staying in touch!