Nile Nwogu is savoring his final semester at Penn, making the most of his time as a student before he graduates and enters the workforce. Nile came to Penn wanting to know more about public policy, an interest that has grown as he has explored the many public policy opportunities the University has to offer. As a Public Policy Research Scholar (PPRS) and member of the PPI Student Group, Nile has become adept at exploring public policy and business through an interdisciplinary approach.
Nile first got hooked on public policy after winning an award for a short documentary about the national debt and federal deficit, which he produced in high school for a C-SPAN competition. Nile explains that it was “the identification of economic problems and my curiosity for how to solve them that made me want to study public policy in my undergraduate career.” Nile was one of the early members of the Public Policy Initiative Student Group (PPISG), a student-led organization that brings undergraduates together to discuss, learn about, and analyze current public policy problems. Comprised of five research teams, the students publish a policy blog hosted on the Wharton PPI website. Nile has enjoyed writing on wide-ranging issues: “I have written articles for PPISG that cover corporate inversions and tax reform, but also on policies that influence the stability and structure of families. I like to study problems and understand them and then search for policy proposals that look to address the deep roots rather than the symptoms.” At the same time, Nile is intrigued by how values are debated and understood through policy discourse.
Proving his capacity for leadership, Nile eventually took on the role as Executive Vice President for PPISG. Nile is particularly proud of his success in expanding the group’s membership in order to make it sustainable. His focus was on growing the range of viewpoints to help build interaction amongst students of all ideologies and backgrounds, and to “be as nonpartisan as possible and make sure that each member can learn from different points of view, have editors that challenge their biases, and ensure intellectual rigor.” Nile’s passion for building dialogue has also drawn him to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Executive Council, a center-right think tank program through which he helps bring speakers to campus to try and build a constructive dialogue amongst the conservative and liberal policy communities, and to challenge his own and others’ notions of how to solve public policy problems.
The Public Policy Research Scholars Program (PPRS) has played a vital role in shaping Nile’s intellectual development. Nile came to Penn interested in courses offered by Political Science and Wharton’s Business Economics and Public Policy Department, and saw PPRS as a way to pursue these disciplines in an integrated fashion. “When I learned about PPRS, I thought it very nicely provided a mix of all of the backgrounds required for a good public policy thinker – economics, political science, statistics, and specific public policy courses,” Nile says. “The program seemed to provide a very interdisciplinary approach to public policy learning and interdisciplinary programs are exactly what attracted me to Penn in the first place.” Although Nile has spent a significant amount of time exploring a variety of issues, he ultimately focused his policy studies on health care, after taking Professor Zeke Emanuel’s course on health care reform.
For his PPRS capstone, Nile is examining “the iron triangle of health care – the ultimate tradeoffs between cost, quality and access.” He is focusing specifically on access, quality, and cost with respect to the inefficient underutilization of primary care in the U.S. healthcare market. “My thesis reviews the primary care literature and provides a primer on the economics behind underutilization and then poses the following big picture questions: Do recent models of care coordination such as ACOs empower the primary care provider (PCP) to be a gatekeeper to the health system, increase primary care utilization, and reduce overall health care costs? Specific to the influence of the payer, are there components of insurance design (such as PCP referrals in HMO plans) that increase utilization of primary care (e.g., number of PCP visits, time spent with primary care doctor, use of primary care services such as vaccinations, nutrition planning and obesity prevention, chronic disease prevention, early detection and treatment)?”
After graduation, Nile will move to New York to take a position at PJT Partners, an investment bank. With a broad, interdisciplinary understanding of how public policy plays a role in international business and finance, particularly in industries such as healthcare which lie at the intersection of business and government, Nile hopes to continue to apply and build upon the skills he’s gained as a Public Policy Research Scholar.