This blog was written by the current co-chairs of the Princeton University Policy Student Government (PUPSG).
Prior to Princeton, Nathan worked at the Federal Reserve and led a breakfast ministry for people experiencing homelessness in Washington, D.C, and Iona worked as a foreign policy adviser in the Prime Minister’s department in her native Australia. We both came to SPIA for the chance to strengthen our quantitative skills and broaden our policymaking horizons, and on top of that have had the privilege of serving as first year representatives and now leaders of the student government.
What we value most about the SPIA community is how its students embody and practice public service during their studies at Princeton, and not just in their professional careers before and after the program. 2020 has been a year of momentous change and adaptation for our community, as we grapple with COVID-19, a global recession and America’s reckoning with anti-Black racism. We have been proud to be part of a team of students deeply committed to identifying and resolving inequities in our own school as well as in our society, and truly believe that we need to start in our own backyard if we want to make the world a better and more equal place. Princeton has prioritized the uncomfortable process of looking at its own past and present racial injustices, and SPIA students have actively helped to drive this change.
We are always impressed but never surprised at the many ways our classmates embody public service while at SPIA. Ahead of the election, carloads of MPA students pounded the pavements of Pennsylvania encouraging voters to participate and helping them understand their options to vote. During tax time, students regularly volunteer in nearby Trenton to help residents navigate the process of filing their taxes; others fundraise and buy groceries and other necessities for low-income families in our own Princeton neighborhood. Without exception, we believe all SPIA students “walk the walk” of public service, and it makes our community a vibrant and motivating place for students to come together to gain the policy skills needed to make change in the real world.
SPIA’s students bring from around the world a wide range of career experiences, united by a common principle of public service. Together as a cohort, students enrich each other’s learning, form lasting friendships, challenge one another’s assumptions and empower each other to be the best version of themselves. Because the student body is small, we are not competing with one another for the same research paper topic in class or for the same job after graduation. SPIA is defined by an atmosphere of collaboration, not competition. This is what makes the SPIA community so rich – for our students, public service isn’t just a career ambition, but rather a vocation.