May 2016 Student Spotlight
May Student Spotlight with Amanda Jaeger, MPA ’16
Students with a passionate drive for what they do and what they want to achieve are an essential component of the School of Public Affairs. Amanda Jaeger is among the top examples of students whose actions convey this sentiment. In her spotlight she talks about her time engaged in the Intensive Programme in Ghent, Belgium; the NASPAA Student Simulation Competition; and her interest in research and policy analysis.
You represented the School of Public Affairs in Ghent, Belgium earlier this year and participated in the Intensive Programme (IP) in Public and Private Debt along with representatives from five other countries. What was the balance between fun and hard work? What else can you tell us about your trip and the program?
The IP we attended on Public and Private Debt was an Eramus+ program, and we were so fortunate to be able to go. The program was certainly intense, but it was an absolutely amazing experience.
I think there was a good balance between hard work and fun. We spent the month before we left researching the nuances of public and private debt in the U.S., compiling all our findings online for everyone to reference, and preparing a presentation for the students from other countries. When we got to Belgium, we spent our days in the classroom either learning about each countries’ debt situation, or divided into multicultural groups to prepare creative presentations like games or videos or pamphlets. Our evenings and weekends were filled with fun, team-building exercises: we watched documentaries, attended communal dinners, went on multiple tours of various cities, and just spent time hanging out with the students from other countries. I cannot put into words how much I appreciated being part of the program. There is definitely something to be said about getting people who hold different opinions on a topic like debt together to talk it out and find a solution. I think all of us appreciated seeing the issue from so many different vantage points, and I think it really helped to humanize the fact that these issues do not just exist in a vacuum. They may take on different forms in Sweden, Germany, or the U.S., but in the end they are all different sides of the same dice. I am also partially biased towards this topic because I am very interested in public indebtedness. I’m currently Baruch’s Public Policy Fellow at the Citizens Budget Commission where I research New York State’s public debt, so this program gave me the opportunity to engage more broadly with the topic.
What was your experience like attending the NASPAA Student Stimulation Competition? What solution to global warming did your team come up with?
I am so glad I attended the NASPAA competition. It was an exhausting experience in the moment, but I learned more about wide-scale policy implementation in those 8 hours than any course could ever teach. After participating, I can – without reservation – say that I appreciate the difficulties inherent in policy implementation so much more. At times, it felt like we had an impossible task. Trying to keep all stakeholders happy while implementing real change was very difficult. In the end, though, we created a proposal that levied heavy taxes on fossil fuels, drastically cut the amount of land that could be deforested and/or used for dairy farming, and infused lots of money into newer, greener technologies. Our solution was by no means ideal for everybody, but everyone recognized their need to sacrifice for the greater good, and we went forward with our proposal.
What is it about research and policy analysis, and more specifically K-12 educational outcomes, that interests you? How has your time at the School helped to further your aspirations to utilize these interests in your day-to-day work?
I am interested in research and policy analysis because I am a big advocate for evidence-based decision making. I do not think anyone can purport to have a program that is effective without giving some benchmark by which to judge its impact. But I am also a stickler for accurate metrics. If a metric does not measure what you want it to, it is not an appropriate metric. I have felt a certain affinity for this my whole life, but it was not until I worked in a high school that I realized how important academic assessment really is. I am particularly interested in K-12 educational outcomes because of my previous, and current, experience in the education field. I think we as a country put too much stock in ineffective measures of school effectiveness and student learning. As a result, we have students that successfully graduate but lack the skills they need to succeed in college or the workforce. Each successive level has to try and pick up the ball where it was previously dropped, and this has very real consequences for students in particular, and society in general. The School of Public Affairs has been an invaluable asset in helping me develop the skills I need to become a researcher, both in the classroom and in the field. Pretty much everything I know about theoretical research methods I learned from my professors. Most of my applied research experience has stemmed from the School as well, as I got my current research fellowship through the School of Public Affairs directly, and am also working in the Academic Assessment Office at Baruch College because of a lead from my academic adviser.