December 2016 Student Spotlight
December Student Spotlight with Selena Lilly, BSPA ’18
The BSPA program is the public policy and analysis degree that makes a difference — and BSPA students strive to make their own indelible mark every day. BSPA student Selena Lilly discusses her role at The Roosevelt Institute, what drew her to the program, the benefits she’s gained from her involvement, and more.
Can you tell us about your role as Policy Coordinator for Economic Development with The Roosevelt Institute?
My role primarily consists of working with students at various Roosevelt Chapters across the nation to develop and advocate for economic policies. Roosevelt’s network places a strong focus on local and state policies, although there are some really motivated and ambitious students working on the development and lobbying of federal policies.
What about some of your current or upcoming projects there?
There are so many wonderful policy projects in the works at the Roosevelt Institute, especially within my policy field of economic development. The individual student policy projects range from the formulation of a cooperative affordable housing model for low-income families to advocating for a policy on mileage-based user fees. One of the projects that is currently being echoed across the network is one which exposes the deep financial and societal implications of financialization of the higher education system. Roosevelt is providing students with resources to research their own universities’ involvement with toxic swap deals in addition to devising ways to advocate for their schools to disengage from these deals. Another network-wide project is Roosevelt’s Rebuilding Communities initiative. In this project, students work to steer their universities to engage in more local community procurement and investment opportunities, especially those that relate to purchasing goods and services from women and minority-owned businesses.
What are some of the most pronounced challenges you’ve encountered?
One of the most pronounced challenges in my work at Roosevelt is attempting to develop additional ways to move the network in unison towards specific economic policy goals, especially given the vast difference in the needs of urban and rural areas in the nation.
What drew you to the BSPA program? What are some of the best experiences you’ve had in it so far?
What drew me to the BSPA program is the unique combination of affordability and comprehensive programming. Some of the best experiences I’ve had in the BSPA program are working on compelling projects and connecting with professors, which in turn helps to foster new opportunities. As part of my qualitative research course with Professor Balboa, I completed extensive qualitative research on the urban manufacturing community at Industry City, which included interviews and the development of a 10-page research paper. My experience there led to a great internship at the Pratt Center for Community Development on a similar community, the auto workers in the Bronx, in light of the Jerome Avenue rezoning issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio. In fact, this internship was one of three internship opportunities I was offered thanks to the experiences I’ve gained at BSPA.
How do you think your experiences at MSPIA and the BSPA program will help you accomplish the goals set for you at The Roosevelt Institute?
Roosevelt provides me with a strong platform in which to make a difference in my community, while the BSPA program has provided me with the tools to systematically approach policy and policy issues. In this way, the theoretical knowledge that I gain in my courses in the BSPA program directly affects my practical application of approaching problems at the Roosevelt Institute. My courses at BSPA have expanded my understanding of policy assessment (Professor Chen), campaigning and advocacy (Professor Waisanen), building a qualitative narrative (Professor Balboa), and much more. Each course that I take at BSPA strengthens my policy development skills, and I am able to better inform other students in the Roosevelt network on how to pursue their policy goals.