What interests you about public policy?
“My passion for public policy was first sparked in high school, largely around the promise of policy at the local level to engender positive societal change. My involvement in Youth-in-Government throughout my four years of high school, along with my experience in SUPA Public Affairs, furthered this passion; by shadowing my county legislators and writing my own policies, I saw how actors at the local level could improve the economic and social conditions of their communities through meaningful legislation. Through my experience in SUPA Public Affairs, a college level policy course offered at my school, I became more interested in health and food policy, particularly in the realm of food security. As part of the course, I worked in a team of five students to identify a societal problem within my community. I realized that my town was defined by the USDA as a “food desert:” a geographic area deficient in the access and affordability of nutritious foods. With this problem in hand, we spearheaded a local public policy to alleviate the food desert by building a community garden at our local elementary school. By engaging with the Washingtonville Central School District and Orange County Department of Health, my team succeeded in landing a $3000 grant for the project and approval for the garden’s construction.”
What do you hope to gain from the PPRS experience?
“The PPRS program — its curriculum, community, and experiential requirement — will prepare me to pursue my educational and professional ambitions in innovation and technology policy, particularly in the defense and intelligence sectors. After graduating from Penn, I intend to pursue a career in defense consulting with firms like Booz Allen Hamilton and Avascent, specializing in projects involving military R&D and technology adoption. After gaining professional experience in the consulting space, I hope to lend my expertise to Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a Department of Defense project launched in 2015 to identify private sector technologies that can be co-opted for challenges facing the U.S. military.”
Where does public policy fit into this larger constellation of activities you pursue?
I like to think that public policy IS what ties together my varying activities into a coherent narrative. Public policy is inherent to online game development (tech/innovation policy), my ballistic missile research with Professor Horowitz (innovation/defense policy), my work with Hispanic Scholarships (education policy), and work in LSM (health/innovation policy). Of course, my work this semester with the Securities & Exchange Commission is also very much tied to fiscal and regulatory policy with the SEC as the chief regulator of the U.S. financial services industry. I see the study and analysis of public policy as a framework of understanding useful to any endeavor, whether it be understanding innovation and technology policy if one hopes to launch an online gaming or biotech startup or regulatory policy if one is a managing director of a private equity firm.
You have a lot of experience already in developing, and managing the financials for, new ventures. Now you’re interning at the SEC. How is that experience helping you develop a broader understanding of business operations?
I’ve only been interning at the SEC for about a month so far, but it has already been an amazing experience! I would say that at the SEC thus far, I have gained a greater understanding of the regulatory and compliance dimensions of business operations, particularly in the financial services industry. I would argue that many in the business world don’t fully understand or appreciate the crucial work of the Securities & Exchange Commission. The SEC’s three-part mission (to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation) is alive and well at the Commission, and all of my projects thus far have worked to further one of these objectives. For example, I am currently working on analyzing blue sheet request data (mandatory disclosures of securities transactions to FINRA) using R and Excel.
You’ve also been engaging in research with Professor Horowitz, on a topic that seems to relate nicely to your general interest in technology, as well as your interest in policy. What do you feel you’ve gained from your involvement in academic research? How has it shaped your understanding of current events—for instance, in North Korea?
Coming to Penn, I knew that I wanted to get involved in academic research in some dimension, as I did not have the opportunity to do research in high school. However, I knew I would be doing bench/lab research at some point in LSM, so I figured I would do research in something else than interested me: policy! I just so happened to stumble upon the perfect research opportunity that brought all of my interests(technological innovation, international relations, defense policy) together as a Research Assistant for Professor Michael Horowitz, an associate professor of political sciences at Penn. As a Research Assistant for Professor Horowitz, and then conducting my own independent research project as a SPUR Scholar in the Missile Technology Control Regime of 1987, I’ve first come to realize the inherent difficulty of impeding ballistic missile proliferation. States who desire to acquire and develop their own ballistic missile capabilities have a variety of options available to them. Iit is even more difficult to act against determined and resourceful proliferators like North Korea, where we see years of repeated multilateral economic sanctions, political isolation, and the existence of the Missile Technology Control Regime arguably slowing down, but certainly not preventing, North Korea’s successful attainment of long-range ballistic missile capabilities. Outside of this context, I have come to both hone my qualitative analytical abilities and realize how little one knows when they begin researching a given area. I thought I had an idea of how ballistic missile proliferation worked, but after reading a variety of books and research articles on the subject in the course of my research, I recognized how complex the area truly is.