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MPP graduating students present in Digital Poster Session

On April 25, the Mills Public Policy department hosted their Spring 2019 digital poster session for graduating Master of Public Policy (MPP) students in the Lorry I. Lokey School of Business. The event is a component of the graduate students’ final thesis project in which they serve as policy consultants. Applying foundational training, graduate students propose solutions to real world challenges faced by their nonprofit and governmental clients.

“I just feel so inspired and motivated by all the wonderful policies that my peers have come up with,” Danielle Serna said, a first year MBA Mills student. “I’m really glad to be part of a school that has events like this, where other students from other classes can get together and share their work — there is a lot of value in learning from other majors, groups and organizations.”

The event was broken up into two segments with 11 students in the first round of the digital poster session and 11 students in the round that followed. Each workstation was shared by two graduate students that then switched during the transition period.

“My project tied into what the school district was already interested in doing to try to get their students access to college and careers, which would provide another layer of programs that the unified school district could use to help low income children gain access to college. This would give children from all income levels access to higher education and expanded opportunities in the workforce,” said Leah Zippert, an MPP student.

Zippert’s Master Policy Report (MPR) was titled “Investing in higher education: determining applicability of publicly implemented child development accounts for local governments.” Zippert’s client was the San Leandro Unified School District.

“I was a low income child myself. I attended Mills as an undergraduate and it made a significant difference in my life and who I am now. Mills, once again from my undergraduate to my graduate career, has provided a pathway forward,” Zippert said.

The diverse connection between students and clients showed in the work presented.

“This process was long and intensive, and while it’s been a semester long process of writing and working on this project I’ve been involved with this program [Step up Women’s Network] itself for almost 8 years. It’s a project that I’ve been carrying throughout my whole academic career,” Anamaria Villegas said, an MPP student.

Villegas’ MPR was titled “Creating a space for everyone at the 21st century table: a guide to budget-friendly equitable & inclusive programming,” and Villegas’ client was the Step Up Women’s Network.

“I think it’s really cool for the MPP students to be able to share their research with the community. I think that makes this event really special and I think it’s important for these students that have worked so hard to get a chance to showcase their work,” Maisy Morrison said, a senior at Mills.

The event went from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and held an intermission from 7:00 p.m. to 7:10 p.m., during which acknowledgements and gratitude were shared respectively by Mark Henderson, MPP Program Director, and Kate Karniouchina, dean of the Lokey School, to participating client agencies for giving students the opportunity to develop policies to tackle issues faced by these organizations.

In addition to to those remarks, Henderson and Karniouchina expressed appreciation for professors Ashley Adams and Adam Parker, the Master Policy Report instructors who oversaw the MPR process, as well as the faculty and staff who worked in tangent with the students to develop their policy proposals.

“This digital poster session allows students to engage with people in the community by sharing key concepts from their findings. Through this process not only are they teaching people but they are also learning through teaching and talking about it,” Adams said.

Professor Adams reflected on the cumulative experience leading up to the event.

“We worked very closely with the students, and the students worked very closely with each other, so it’s collaborative in that way — I also learned a lot from them, and it was a very interesting and engaging experience,” Adams said.

Betsy Block, adjunct faculty with the Public Policy Department who is credited with developing the structure of the digital poster sessions, shared the great challenge of accommodating the growing MPP program at Mills.

“What’s fantastic about this night is that people are presenting but in a really open air format, and they get to bring in their clients, the clients get to learn not only what their Mills student is doing but also what is happening in the rest of the program. Alumni get to come back, community members get to participate, faculty gets to participate, and it’s really this moment of everyone getting to under the level of work that’s happening here,” Block said.

The MPP program initially shared MPR’s through traditional PowerPoint presentations. However, it became unfeasible to achieve the same level of engagement using the same presentation format.

Block helped develop the current structure, which allows guests to visit simultaneous stations of students presenting their public policy reports and findings.

“This event is like a lightning round of powerful visuals and sharing out innovative policy,” Block said.

The MPP digital posters will be on display in the Graduate School of Business atrium for the remainder of the semester.