The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Interview with Brandon DeBot '14 on Being Named a Truman Scholar

Article Type 

The Rockefeller Center’s own Brandon DeBot ’14 was recently chosen as a 2013 Truman Scholar. An aspiring Government major with a minor in Public Policy, Brandon hopes to one day pursue a career in federal fiscal policy.  A former First Year Fellow, Brandon works as a Student Program Assistant and a researcher in the Public Research Shop at the Rockefeller Center.  He is also a Presidential Scholar for the Government department and has interned at the White House National Economic Council and The Charles Group, LLC. in Washington, D.C. Brandon is also on the men's varsity tennis team and a member of Chi Heorot Fraternity.
You may have seen local news headlines about Brandon’s achievements, such as the Dartmouth Now article.  Courtney Wong '15 sat down with Brandon for an interview for the Rockefeller Center blog. 

Courtney Wong (CW): What encouraged you to apply for the scholarship? Is this something you had always aspired to do?Brandon DeBot (BD): I didn't know about the Truman Scholarship until about the middle of my sophomore year. Since then, it was on my radar because more than anything, it aligned with my interests so well. There is a definite focus of my extracurricular activities on public policy, hence why I spend so much time in Rocky.
CW: What was the process for applying to become a Truman fellow like? BD: The application process started in December and consisted of faculty recommendations and many essay questions, which I put together and submitted to Dartmouth.  Dartmouth nominated four students and submitted all of those applications to the Truman Foundation, where they selected about 200 finalists based on leadership qualities and experience.  Then, the application process was filtered to regional review panels. Mine was a 20-minute interview in Minneapolis.
CW: What kind of questions did they ask in this interview?BD: First they asked me all sorts of policy questions and my thoughts on certain policy proposals.  They especially grilled me on questions in federal fiscal policy because I indicated that I was most interested in that area of study.  Then they asked me more personal questions about my hobbies and interests.
CW: What makes you so interested in fiscal policy? BD: There are two main reasons. First, I believe that many aspects of our society are reflected in the priorities of our federal budget and making changes on the margins can still have a huge impact. I’d like to work on these issues because I believe you can affect so many things with the appropriations that go through the budget.            Second, I find the idea of a policy challenge to be really interesting.  Right now, the country faces huge challenges to get solutions passed.  We need to find a combination of those things to create solutions that are both workable and agreeable on both sides [of the political spectrum].
CW: Have you witnessed these types of political challenges firsthand?BD: I saw a lot of it during my internship at the National Economic Council when the fiscal cliff debate was a big issue.  I was a First Year Fellow in D.C. when debt-ceiling crisis was going on.  I witnessed D.C. completely shut down over these issues and nothing was able to get done.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Brandon has been outstanding in the contributions he's made while both being a student in Rocky programs and in his role as a student program assistant.  As part of our student staff at Rocky, he's been a go-to member of our team--someone who I've been able to rely upon while he's assisted with the Management and Leadership Development Program and our Public Policy Internship Funding program."   - Thanh Nguyen, Program Coordinator for Co-Curricular Programs

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
CW: How have the Rockefeller Center programs benefited you?BD: Rocky has been such a big contribution of my Dartmouth experience.  It started with Public Policy 5 [course] with Professor Shaiko, which I really enjoyed.  Then came First Year Fellows and Civil Skills Training that summer.   For my internship, I worked with the Charles Group LLC. The next fall, I participated in MLDP (Management and Leadership Development Program) and then took Public Policy 45, which allowed me to segue into PRS (Policy Research Shop).             PRS has been a very informative, hands-on research experience.  Actually, I am currently working on my 4th policy brief.  The ability to write a formal policy briefing and then having the opportunity to present it is a really cool and beneficial learning experience.  It has helped set me up for future endeavors; for example, I then became a Rocky-funded intern for the National Economic Council.  I could not have done it without the Rockefeller Center's support, which is a reason why I am currently working as a program assistant with Thanh Nguyen on internships.  This includes me helping him with internship funding programs, application processing, communication with current interns and outreach.                Basically, it all ties together. Looking back on my application for the Truman Scholarship, the programs and the things I’ve been involved in at Rocky have been a huge impact on getting me to where I am now.  I definitely would have been at a disadvantage if I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in programs like the ones offered here. I would have still had the interest in public policy regardless, but the opportunities to get real world experience has been extremely valuable.
CW: What kind of doors does receiving this scholarship open for you?BD: In the future, I hope to pursue a career in policy or law and someday get a J.D./M.P.P. – a law degree with a Master’s degree in public policy.  Then, I’d like to go into a career in federal fiscal policy, perhaps at a think tank in D.C..  This summer I will be working at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, someplace similar to where I see myself going in the future after graduation.
CW: You do a great deal of other activities on campus, aside from the ones at Rocky.  What else are you involved in?
BD: I compete on the varsity tennis team, which is a big commitment but also a lot of fun.  I am also the Treasurer of my fraternity.  I also work for Professor Nyhan as a Presidential Scholar and research assistant.  Our current project is related to presidential and gubernatorial scandals, which is pretty cool.
CW: How do you manage all of the activities that you are involved in?BD: One of the most important things is to prioritize and make sure that your obligations are met.  I would also suggest balancing your interests among different things. For me, I have my tennis outlet, Rocky outlet, and my fraternity.  Even though each is a big commitment that could easily take away from the others, I try to achieve a balance of those.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences