Preparing Leaders in International and Domestic Public Affairs

Sep 13 2021
By Alexandra Kahan, MPP '17

Preparing Leaders in International and Domestic Public Affairs

The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs’ one-year, full-time residential Master in Public Policy (MPP) degree is ideal for midcareer professionals who are rising leaders in international and domestic public affairs. While MPP students are required to select a field of concentration when applying to the school, the structure of the degree is flexible and allows students to tailor their studies to their specific career goals.

As members of tight-knit cohorts, students foster lifelong relationships with their classmates and learn from one another’s diverse experiences, interests, and backgrounds.

We recently sat down with graduate Alexandra Kahan (MPP ’17) to trace her steps from Princeton to the U.S. Department of State and understand how the midcareer program equipped her with new skills and perspectives to tackle the most pressing policy challenges.

How did Princeton prepare you to adapt in the face of changing, complex global challenges?

Earning my MPP from the School of Public and International Affairs was a pivotal experience for me. With a truly unique academic setting made possible by the financial generosity afforded to all students, each course and discussion was made richer by students with incredible experiences and diverse points of view from all over the country and the world. I was able to take a step back from my career and reflect on critical, complex global challenges that I had an opportunity to see up close in practice in my prior work in roles in the National Security Council and the State Department. My time at Princeton gave me an opportunity to grapple with these issues anew, through the multiple lenses of my peers, the faculty, and academic focus.

How has Princeton’s unique midcareer MPP program helped you advance within your career?

When I met my MPP class in the summer, I was blown away, not only by their experiences and accomplishments, but by their humility, humor, and kindness. With peers from varied professions and governments, we spent the MPP year in rich conversation, reflecting on lessons in policy, leadership, and the aspiration for, and practicalities of, governing. Over the course of the year, we made lifelong bonds and a community that I will continue to lean on throughout my career and life.

How has your job transformed over the last year throughout the pandemic?

In the day-to-day, in my current role and prior, in management consulting with clients from around the world, I had to navigate new ways of communicating and managing a team during a mostly virtual work setting. The pandemic has transformed not only the way that I work but the focus of my efforts as well. COVID response, globally, has become the singular focus of my career at present. In my current position, our team is working to drive and shape the U.S. leadership role in the response and recovery effort. We are working across the U.S. government and with international partners to drive action that will help mitigate impact, shorten the lifespan of the pandemic, and build a sustainable global health security architecture to prevent, detect, and respond to future health and biosecurity threats.


Article originally featured in Foreign Affairs, September/October 2021