Mary Elizabeth Burke
Since I started at Georgia Tech as a summer freshman in 2015, I have learned so much about the world around me and how to go about bettering it. Our society is governed by rules and regulations, and getting involved with the processes that affect these rules and regulations is the best way to create positive change. Georgia Tech’s Public Policy program stresses the critical analysis of issues and the evaluation of alternatives and externalities as the keys to efficiently solving problems and bettering our community.
During my time in this program I have become a leader focused on affecting the world around me. From day one of Dr. Barke’s Political Processes class, students are challenged to consider all aspects of issues they face. “It depends” is the usual answer to any question posed, followed by lively discussion regarding the many factors to consider and the importance of these factors to stakeholders, as well as how their opinions will affect the process. Stakeholders and consequences can be found in any decision making process, and my involvements with Women’s Recruitment Team and a social sorority here on campus have allowed me to apply the critical thinking and problem solving techniques found in my classwork to my life on a personal and semi-professional level.
I spent this past summer interning at Landis+Gyr, an energy management firm in Alpharetta, Georgia and was able to see countless connections between the Georgia Tech Public Policy curriculum and the ‘real world.’ The concepts covered in texts and the classroom became elements that I saw affecting industries at a very real level. The Public Policy program prepared me with the skills I needed to succeed and allowed me to gain tangible project management and marketing experience that will be useful throughout my life.
When I made the decision to attend Georgia Tech, I never expected to find any serious political connections at a school renowned for its STEM program. My time as a Public Policy student has proven otherwise. Since joining the school just over two years ago I have interned at the Georgia State Capitol, worked for a Superior Court Judge, and served as Field Director for two state house campaigns and participated in many more. My experience is not uncommon. As Public Policy students inch closer to graduation, they see their friends begin to work in Washington D.C., intern with top-tier consulting and law firms, and even analyze policy abroad.
My role in the Student Government Association (SGA) as Vice President of External Affairs has allowed me to directly apply what I learn to improve the student experience and better connect Tech to all things political. I serve as an advisor to the SGA president, often breaking down a policy issue in the same way that I’ve learned in class and practiced in the real world. I have a passion for digging into details, asking questions, and examining language – especially in legislation and documents – which has led me to take an interest in law.
What I love about Public Policy is its complexity. To me, there is nothing more intrepid than tackling problems that have countless solutions, none of which are perfect. Nonetheless, policy students work relentlessly in pursuit of perfection so that we might improve on what we started with, a goal shared by the school’s students and professors alike.
I am a second-year Public Policy major at Georgia Tech. It seems crazy that only one year of my college career has gone by because I feel like I have accomplished and experienced so much!
When I decided to attend Georgia Tech, I was unsure of which major to choose, but Public Policy stuck out to me because it is rooted in two of my largest interests: policy and law. Both my parents are lawyers, and I have always had an admiration for the U.S. Department of Justice and legal proceedings in general. This underlying interest has inspired to join many different and exciting clubs on Tech’s campus such as the Mock Trial team, the Ivan Allen Student Advisory Board, and the Student Government Association. Because of the students and professors whom I have met over the past year and the opportunities this amazing network has provided to me, I can whole-heartedly say that when I chose Public Policy, I chose right.
Many of the opportunities I have had thus far were experiences I would have assumed only upperclassmen could become involved with, but the Public Policy program makes sure that any undergraduate student can participate in whatever program interests them. In addition to working for two of my professors as a paid Research Assistant, I was able to have dinner with the Dean of the Ivan Allen College, become a FASET leader to represent my GT pride, and earn the Federal Jackets Fellowship which is a stipend from Georgia Tech allowing me to spend the Fall 2017 Semester interning for the Office of Congressman John Lewis in Washington, D.C. I am inspired by the people around me in this major and excited by the opportunities which have been so accessible to me even in my first year.
Throughout my time here I Georgia Tech, I have been afforded numerous opportunities in which I have been able to apply the knowledge and skills I have accumulated as a Public Policy student. Some of those opportunities include interning at the Troup County Courthouse, interning at the Federal Defender Program in the Capital Habeas Unit, interning for Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky in Washington, D.C. through the Federal Jackets Fellowship program, and becoming a Stamps President’s Scholar. Aside from these experiences a few extracurricular activities I have been involved with on campus include: Grand Challenges, Ivan Allen College Student Ambassadors, the Technique, and Mock Trial. Each and every one of these experiences have truly been amazing. The most valuable aspect of being afforded so many wonderful opportunities has been encountering people, situations, and ideas that challenge what I think I know about everything. I have consistently been pushed to think critically about issues – both that I am passionate about and that I have yet to dive into – and never become complacent in my pursuit of knowledge. The courses I have taken as a Public Policy student have strengthened the framework through which I process the world around me and through research, heated class debates, countless memos, and presentations, I have grown into a stronger student, leader, and person. I am forever grateful to Georgia Tech and to the School of Public Policy for their impact on my life, and I am excited to see what the future holds.
Coming to Georgia Tech to study Public Policy in Fall 2018 was the best decision I could have made for myself and my college career. Not only am I getting one of the best policy educations around, I am also building a foundation in the STEM field. I’m grateful for the opportunity to become an expert in so many disciplines during my time here. I chose Public Policy because I know that my future as a city planner depends on having a strong foundation in government and public affairs. In addition to needing the skills to build my career, I’ve always known that I wanted to be involved in the government.
Majoring in Public Policy has allowed me to build relationships and connections with people I would never have met otherwise; in my brief time here, I’ve already managed to create strong ties with my professors, local politicians, and policy experts. I couldn’t have my internship with State Senator Zahra Karinshak this semester without the resources that the School of Public Policy has provided me with.
I’ve been working this semester to become more involved inside and outside of Georgia Tech. Aside from my internship, I am a member of both of GT’s Orchestras, a part of the city of Atlanta’s Sustainability Ambassador program, and I am looking to get involved in Undergraduate Research.
I’m thankful that the Public Policy curriculum is structured in such a way that I was already able to take interesting classes my first semester, and I particularly enjoy the Sustainable Urban Development class I am in this semester. I am so thankful for all the amazing experiences the School of Public Policy has already given me, and I look forward to many more in the years to come!
I’m a current third year double majoring in Public Policy and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. Being a double major, I think that I have a unique perspective on Georgia Tech and the Public Policy major that I don’t think many others have. Being part of two different schools on campus, I can see the benefits that the education in each realm provide. Our public policy classes teach us to be analytical and problem-solving as we work through real world problems and situations in every class. I see this transcend into my business classes. When we are assigned cases in class, I find it easier to go through them than many of my peers due to the fact that this is what all our public policy classes are teaching us. They teach us how to see a problem and the steps that it takes to go through the problem to get to the solution.
I love the Public Policy major because we are such a small close-knit community that we all help and support one another. I know that if I have questions about classes or professors, I can reach out to ANY older public policy student and they would help me with my course selection based on their experience. Also, having classes with the same people semester after semester breeds familiarity, so we study for our exams together and help one another out with internship and job opportunities. This is really the community of students who are like-minded and passionate about similar topics. This is the group I hoped to be a part of when coming into Georgia Tech.
The college application/admission/selection process was, as it was for many of us, a gruelling and frustrating part of my senior year. I knew that I wanted to study something concerning government process; I just wasn’t sure which school would be the best fit. Then, I attended Shadow Day at the Ivan Allen College last spring. I got to talk to actual public policy students and attend classes with professors like Dr. Richard Barke. Though I immediately fell in love with the extensive selection of policy courses available and the vast array of career opportunities presented, what truly sold me was the integration of Georgia Tech’s technical curriculum with the SPP’s liberal arts curriculum. Students had the opportunity to study their passion in public policy, but also add other valuable assets to their intellectual toolkit such as calculus or computer science- valuable skills in the 21st century workplace. Beyond the Georgia Tech core, there is also the Law, Science, and Technology minor, which I recently declared. I seek to go to law school and eventually practice intellectual property law, and this minor allows me the opportunity to take courses distinctly specific to my area of interest.
Outside of the classroom, I’ve taken advantage of the great policy-related career hub that is Atlanta, GA. I took on an internship with the Stacey Abrams for Governor campaign last semester and am now working as a Government Relations intern with Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning. When I’m not studying or working, you may find me singing with Sympathetic Vibrations, Georgia Tech’s premier all-male acapella group or exploring this amazing city with my friends. I also look forward to studying abroad in Europe this summer!
I chose to attend Georgia Tech after Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts’ Shadow Day the spring of my senior year. I was convinced not only by the welcoming upperclassmen students, professors, and advisors but also by the newly accepted students beside me, who felt the same fears, shared the same interests, and reached for the same goals as I did. Since that fateful day in March of 2017, the upperclassmen, professors, and advisors have become my mentors, and the newly accepted students have become my sorority sisters, closest friends, and coworkers. I feel truly grateful that Ivan Allen-- and Public Policy-- has brought me some of my closest friends and some of the best experiences of my college career.
I am currently an intern at the Georgia Capitol through the Georgia Legislative Internship Program, working for the Senate Press Office. I am using the skills I’ve learned in a plethora of Public Policy courses-- Dr. Barke’s Political Processes, Professor Polak’s State and Local Government, and Dr. Youtie’s Research Methods (to name just a few). I know that the information I have learned in these courses sets me apart from the other interns working this session, and I proudly wear Buzz on my nametag.
My favorite course at Tech so far has been Professor Leggon’s Social Policy class in which we discussed and debated relevant political issues. I was lucky enough to take this class during the 2018 midterms which kept the topics we discussed both exciting and especially pertinent. My favorite aspect of the class is the friendships I left the course with-- I sat next to and debated with a fellow student whose political views are the polar opposite of mine, but through this we built a lasting best-friendship. Inspired by Professor Leggon’s class and many others, after graduation, I am planning to attend law school and/or earn a Master’s degree in Comparative Social Policy.
My advice to an incoming Public Policy major would be: don’t freak out because Tech is not a liberal arts school! I was very unsure about Georgia Tech, and I was especially unsure about studying liberal arts at a widely regarded STEM institution. Sure it would be great to discuss the ups and downs of physics with the hundreds of other students enrolled in Classical Physics II, but Public Policy offers class sizes that allow me to get to know the professor and my fellow students personally. This means that both my professors and my advisor know my name, my story, and what I hope to achieve. I am more than just a number to the School of Public Policy, I am a person whose future is worth investing in. I cannot tell you how many times a STEM or Business major has expressed their jealousy over late-night study groups with my Public Policy pals, or how much fun I have had competing in trivia, karaoke, and bowling (and winning!!) in the Ivan Allen Major Cup. There is truly something special about Ivan Allen’s School of Public Policy and I am grateful to have been a small part of it.
I interned at the Atlanta Board of Education this past fall, as a first-year, and I believe that really speaks about the opportunities within the School of Public Policy. Georgia Tech’s close proximity to major governmental entities, diverse population, and warm weather are what drew me in. I just couldn’t leave my home state!
I stay very busy outside of classes, and my two main involvements are Georgia Tech’s Student Government Association (SGA) and GT Tour Guides. I serve in the Undergraduate House of Representatives as Freshman Representative, as well as on various other SGA committees. Being a public policy student, I have found I can apply a lot of what I learn in class to the work I do in SGA. As a tour guide, I’m one of the first faces prospective students see when they come to Tech, and it’s an outlet for me to share my GT story, my passion for the Institute, and how awesome it is being liberal arts and Public Policy major at Georgia Tech. I love that I have the opportunity to meet so many people from so many backgrounds. Coming from a small, rural town in northeast Georgia, I was often not surrounded by the same caliber of Tech students, as well as the same passion and determination I now see on a daily basis, so transitioning to college deepened my appreciation for what this university offers.
At Tech, I have met so many wonderful people who are passionate, driven, and committed to making a difference in their field. It’s rewarding and awe-inspiring to be surrounded by that community, and I’m reminded of how thankful I am each and every day.
After graduation, I plan to enter consulting for a couple years, obtain my law degree, and work for the federal government. I know I want to spend my life in the public sector, but even more, I want to solve problems. Today, we are faced with a host of issues impacting all communities, and as policy students, we are tasked with entering the world ready to deliver solutions to make our communities brighter, stronger, and better equipped to build a better future.