Yasmin Elhady MPP ’15 is an attorney, public policy specialist, and stand-up comedian. She’s performed all over Washington, D.C., including at The Kennedy Center and The DC Improv, and she’s toured nationally and internationally in the United Kingdom. Her alter ego is “Yasguru,” a hyperactive relationship advisor with silly videos on YouTube and Instagram.
In this Q&A and bonus podcast, she discusses how 9/11 and being a Muslim immigrant shaped her career path to public service and how a talent show at SPIA helped her start her stand-up career.
Q. Tell us about your experience in our Master in Public Policy program.
Elhady: The MPP program is so special. It’s one of those programs for mid-career professionals. Students come from military service backgrounds, as well as government, the private sector, or they have medical degrees, law degrees, and other degrees like MBAs. It’s an eclectic group from all over the world. We saw people who were human rights advocates from the Czech Republic, for example, or we had people from Australia that did education policy. We had people from Lebanon that did different types of social policy issues in their country. It’s a small class, usually from 14 to 20 students, and each one of us brings in a very specific talent set. What I love about the MPP program is that if you win a fellowship, it can be a way that you can feel supported to do the schoolwork, and it’s short enough so that you can do other things and continue on in whatever career trajectory that you're in. I still to this day feel that the MPP degree was such a special group of people who were truly the best. I got to travel with them to different parts of the world and learn so much about their backgrounds, their perspectives, and how they each served either in the United States or other countries in their capacity.
Q. What do you think is the most pressing issue America is facing right now?
Elhady: What’s going on at our borders is a deeply pressing issue of who we are as a nation. I also don’t think COVID-19 is going away. I did a health and health policy certificate at the SPIA while I was doing my MPP. I was interested in global health, and we did work on pandemics. It's amazing to see how your knowledge base at a place like Princeton can translate into real life understanding of who is patient zero? What is epidemiology? You're understanding how fast this thing is spreading. And you're seeing why it's so important to take control. Public health is definitely a pressing issue. But again, I think our borders are a pressing issue on the issue of immigration. Education policy, and a health care system that is actually functioning for people — that would be great. We spend the most on our health care system in the United States — in the entire world — but we are still number 14 or 15 on global results on health. We need to do better. Those are the major areas that I would say are pressing right now in the United States, but there are so many more.