Saxon Bryant, the next president (and current vice president) of the Public Policy Initiative Student Group, is making the most of his time at Penn to develop his policy research and writing skills—and to build more of a social and intellectual community for other students who share those same goals. In addition, being the President gives Saxon yet another way to feed his own curiosity, giving him a window into the wide-ranging policy topics that the writers of Wonk Tank (the student public policy blog of the club) research. Mainly, though, Saxon “wanted to become president because PPISG has meant so much to me and I wanted to give that same incredible experience to others.”
Saxon is also a member of the Penn First and 1vyG groups, which support first generation low income college students and help remove some of the challenges they can face academically and socially during college. “To me, the most important thing universities can do is increase post-secondary opportunities for first-generation, low-income, and/or undocumented students through tackling systemic barriers, changing policy and building coalitions for change. I want to leave Penn a better place, and I hope that by being an example of what FGLI students can achieve I can inspire other students to dream big.” Saxon is grateful of the opportunities he has gotten here at Penn, whether academically or socially and wants to ensure that those opportunities are available to a greater number of students.
While Saxon certainly keeps busy with all of his extracurricular work on campus, he is also getting a dual degree from Wharton and the College, and is a Public Policy Research Scholar (PPRS), a Joseph Wharton Scholar, and a Benjamin Franklin Scholar. It’s a lot, but Saxon has a clear understanding of what he’s looking for from his time at Penn and his education more broadly: “I didn’t feel like any single existing program at Penn allowed me to fully explore all my academic and personal interests, and that only by combining the dual degree with PPRS could I engage with all the subjects I wanted to.” Saxon feels that PPRS is a cornerstone of his education at Penn, allowing him to both “better understand how to use policy and political systems as tools for positive change, and to provide real world research experience through internships and research positions.” His interest in public policy began in high school, where he participated in speech and debate, as well as Youth in Government, where Saxon “gained a greater appreciation for how everything from international conflict to domestic tax changes influenced the world.” Drawn to the “meticulous nature of public policy research” Saxon became aware of PPRS before he applied to Penn and knew he wanted to join the program before he even applied for admission to the University.
As a PPRS student, Saxon received funding from Wharton PPI to do a summer internship at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in DC, in their Bureau of Consumer Protection. He was thrilled to start getting exposure to legal work: “being able to shadow government attorneys and see how a regulatory agency functions was amazing. I did everything from prepare documents for court, review evidence, take testimony from consumers, research statues to create congressional testimony, use the tech lab to assist ongoing undercover investigations, network with professionals at all levels of the organization, and more.” During his time in Washington, Saxon also took advantage of opportunities to connect with Penn alumni working in public policy, and gained greater clarity on his dream job: being an international lawyer for the U.S. Department of State.
Saxon sees such a position as a unique way to continue developing his interest in and understanding of international relations, law, trade and business. Whether by writing for the Wonk Tank blog on issues such as the state of US-ASEAN relations or the One Belt One Road project and its implications for international security, or by editing the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, Saxon is positioning himself to be a leader in the field. In the meantime, Saxon wants to continue exploring Penn’s course options, particularly those related to governance, public policy, and political philosophy that can inform his preparation for a future in international law.