thecommons Posted January 15, 2010 Share Posted January 15, 2010 (edited) I'm applying for a Masters in Public Policy for the Fall, and the deadline is tomorrow. However, I would like any feedback you may have. This statement was supposed to be of no particular length. It is 1,171 words, and I'm not sure if that's too long. I also will need a similar essay for another school, and that has a 500 word limit, and I'm not really sure what I can reuse in such a condensed version, but that's not so important here. Anyway, here it is: I am applying for a masters degree in public policy at the  in order to solidify my knowledge of how policy is created and prepare me for a career that takes my intellectual interest in science, technology, and society, and combines it with my practical experience in planning, design, and implementation. This intellectual interest presented itself early in my academic career. Prior to my undergraduate study, I was offered a unique opportunity to attend college courses at . I enrolled in a unique course on history for scientists and engineers. Here I was presented with a new way of looking at events that emphasized the smaller elements; the educational and nutritional policies of Bismarck's Germany bent on rearing a new generation to take on the French, or the importance of the Atacama Desert in Chile and its nitrates to the Great Powers of World War One. Details about people, governments, or the technology they employed that first seem disconnected, yet when seen in a new context, their influence on history and each other becomes apparent. This way of looking at history would return in my undergraduate studies. I had entered as a student in physics, and while the concepts were fascinating, my mind required a grounding for the abstraction, an application for the scientific details and formulae. I found a new program that offered what I sought in familiar form, how scientific or technological knowledge impacts society, and in turn, how society influences the work of scientists and engineers. In this major of History of Science, I studied many surprising arguments of how technology and policy overlap, including a paper on how the low height of overpasses on a Long Island parkway allowed white suburban car drivers through, while preventing city buses with minority riders from accessing the beach, and whether this was a policy of segregation put in the form of a construction project. However, I was also taught and practiced the skills of diligent information gathering and critical analysis, and proposing and presenting my own contexts of how a technology and its history have influenced each other. In my junior seminar paper titled "The Failure of Technical Destiny: When Politics and Economics Supersede Technology" I applied these tools to FM Radio and cellular telephony, technologies not adopted until decades after their invention, and examined the reasons for this. I found that while functionality is important, the decisions of the FCC or corporate policy makers matter a good deal more. Similarly, in my senior honors thesis on the history of voting machines in America I investigated the details of why , in different time periods, one form of technology was favored over another, not just technically, but due to the policies and societal pressures at the time. One example showed how fraudulent machine politicians and the concept of the vote as a decision and civic duty carried out alone influenced the design of the earliest voting booths, designed to close their user off and protect votes within a steel enclosure not unlike a safe. It was working in the consulting industry that many of the things learned in studying history came more sharply into focus. Rather than reading or researching about how profit motives and politics shape the technology marketplace, I was part of the process. The firm I worked with was small and required multiple duties for employees, with frequent opportunities to exercise leadership. I wrote sales proposals, drafted project plans and calculated cost estimates, presented to the client, wrote design documents, supervised a team of developers, and was heavily involved in recruiting and company strategy. I was also called upon to train and advise several of our very successful new hires , and I was consistently called upon as a resource for information. However, there were skills and strengths of mine not engaged by this work. Occasionally in strategy meetings I would have a chance to speak about my analysis of our hiring policies, or marketing goals, and I was chosen to write two white papers that explain the value of our market offerings. Despite these moments, the focus of my time was spent on delivery, getting a project out the door and ensuring client satisfaction. While I was able to execute well in this role, it imposed a set of constraints clearly focused on serving the market. This sometimes meant compromise, or putting aside the large issues that connected industries and fields in the interest of giving the consumer what they wanted for their very particular set of needs. In my work in healthcare and the financial industry, I could however clearly see the influence that the public sector had on the private. While the private functioned well within its market structure, it was the public that was required to step in and ask why things were done in a certain way, or even whether they should. Therefore the public sector offers a role that calls for all the aspects of my previous experiences where I have had success and enjoyed the process. In my undergraduate studies I emphasized research, careful analysis, and connected multiple themes to present as a unified argument. In consulting, I saw how abstract profit motives, market forces, and politics affected technology and business practice, at the point of implementation. In the public sector I therefore see myself able to integrate these into a career that looks at technology and its relationship with society and draw conclusions that can be put into action. In the field of public policy, I see the best match between potential careers, whether it be as a congressional aide assigned to research a variety of topics and pull them together into a report relevant to current legislation, or as an advisor to the Department of Energy on how to allocate funding to a myriad of project proposals, or working with the FCC to develop regulations that preserve all the features a communication medium may provide, while walking a line between allowing the markets to run their course and protecting the public trust. However, this picture is not complete. While I can see myself entering into the field and see directions of interest, there is a good deal of practical knowledge I have yet to learn regarding a career in the public service. This is the reason I have sought out a master's degree in public policy, to gain more understanding of how government organizations work, to learn how to perform rigorous analysis, practical research, and how to draw on these sources to make meaningful and active policy. The 's program is especially suited to this purpose, as it goes beyond the basic curriculum, offering an emphasis on more quantitative methods to problems and their solutions, while at the same time having a program that specifically emphasizes the study of science and technology policy. Added to this are the resources of a large university, including access to experts in many disciplines, allowing for deeper understanding of the technical details that inform good policy. Edited January 15, 2010 by thecommons Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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