In the Policy Debate

Jan 28 2022
Amaney Jamal, Dean

Dear SPIA Community,

While a new year brings fresh optimism and opportunity, it also brings a sober reality. Our world is two years into a pandemic that has worsened major policy challenges and caused new inequities to emerge. This unique moment is one of the top reasons I wanted to lead SPIA. Now, perhaps more than ever, our community can help to enact meaningful change.

To do so, we need to make sure SPIA is in conversation — with policymakers, advocates, communities, and individuals on the ground.

Our world-class faculty are researching the root causes for challenges ranging from sea-level rise to maternal mortality and proposing effective solutions. I will be striving to create connections and open channels so they can share their findings and expertise with policymakers directly.

We’re just getting started, but I’m energized by the new opportunities already underway. Since becoming dean, I’ve met with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, listening to their priorities, introducing them to faculty whose research can inform sound policymaking, and discussing the creation of new events and opportunities for students.

For example, following a conversation with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi ’95 (D-IL 8th District), Professor Steven Redding met with his legislative staff to discuss supply chain disruptions, related economic forces, and policy implications. I’m grateful to our partners in Princeton’s D.C.-based Office of Government Affairs for co-organizing this briefing. I am eager to foster many more conversations between our experts and policymakers at all levels of governance!

Our students undertake a rigorous quantitative curriculum; I am aiming to supplement their classroom learning with personal conversations and small-group trainings with current policy leaders.

Many of our undergraduate and graduate students are interested in refugee and asylum policy. Through a partnership with Princeton’s Office of Religious Life, a small group of SPIA students will meet Afghan guests currently housed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (Fort Dix). I’m really looking forward to leading a roundtable discussion with the guests, who will share their personal experiences and insights with us. This event will be the launching point for an ongoing tutoring opportunity for students at Fort Dix in February and March.

Our alumni are top leaders in the public sector, and I’m planning to collaborate with them to create professional development opportunities and career pathways for current students.

We’re working with SPIA alum Kiersten Todt ’94, chief of staff at the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), on workforce development and cultivating new opportunities for young talent from SPIA to rotate inside and outside of CISA and other agencies. Our joint goal is to create another access point to public service, especially for our undergraduate population. Todt’s team will attend Princeton’s Spring 2022 Career Fair (virtually) on Feb. 18, and Todt will discuss her career trajectory and work at CISA in an upcoming episode of our #Changemakers podcast.

As a policy school, our voices matter. I encourage all of us at SPIA to participate in policy-relevant conversations, both formal and informal.

We all have our eyes on current events, and should feel empowered and safe to raise our voices and to engage in respectful debates. It’s important that we ask ourselves difficult questions, and we listen to and consider a variety of analyses. Some of the best ideas about moving societies forward have come out of universities such as the one we call home. We’re working hard to ensure that SPIA remains an internationally recognized voice in policy conversations, and if you have a connection to someone in the policy world we should engage with, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office.


Amaney Jamal, Dean