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

Rocky and Me: Brandon Nye '20 Senior Reflection

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Brandon Nye, Dartmouth Class of 2020

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In the Rocky & Me series, Seniors reflect on their experiences during their time at Dartmouth.

As a high school senior, perhaps the greatest single factor in my decision to attend Dartmouth was the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. I was impressed with the emphasis on experiential learning and career preparation to go along with the numerous academic opportunities. Now as a senior in college, looking back on my time at Dartmouth, I find that some of the most fulfilling and transformative experiences were a result of the Rockefeller Center. 

During my freshman spring, I applied for the First-Year Fellows program because I was excited both to expand my studies of public policy through first-hand observation and to apply what I had learned in the classroom to real world issues. My internship with the World Resources Institute under the direction of Sofia Faruqi ’07 introduced me to the non-profit policy research sector, allowed me to contribute to some fascinating knowledge products for global policymakers, and provided invaluable work experience. No less important, I made some of my best friendships at Dartmouth during the summer in D.C. The FYF program connected me with a diverse group of Dartmouth students who also care deeply about policy and politics, and these peers went on to be my project partners and support network for the following three years. 

My summer in D.C. taught me about the impact that skilled researchers can have in shaping the perceptions of policymakers and—if the political stars align—the impact they can have on global policy. I came back to Dartmouth inspired to continue my studies in Economics with the goal of pursuing a Ph.D. or J.D. to conduct this type of policy research. I went on to be a Presidential Scholar under Professor Meara at The Dartmouth Institute to study the opioid epidemic, and I later conducted my own empirical research on U.S. trade and the Medicaid expansion. The Rockefeller Center also provided me the opportunity to apply these research skills in closer proximity with policymakers through the Policy Research Shop. With the help of Professor Shaiko and Lauren Russell, my peers and I drafted policy memos for local Vermont officials on outdoor recreation infrastructure and on proficiency-based learning in public schools. Not only did these experiences allow me to hone and apply my research skills to interesting projects, but I also saw first-hand the role and impact of local governance in people’s lives. 

These formal programs have not been the only meaningful experiences I have had at Rocky, however. One of my favorite ways to take my mind off classes and term papers was to attend guest lectures or discussions hosted by the Center. While it is impossible to take every PBPL class offered, one can learn a lot about criminal justice reform, constitutional law, or voter behaviors simply by stopping by Rocky 003 in the evenings to hear from some incredibly thoughtful speakers. For students like me who do not yet know the best path forward to affect change in our careers, it is illuminating to hear about the work of successful and influential alumni and guests. While no organization is perfect, the Rockefeller Center has been open to hearing from myself and other students about bringing in more diverse and marginalized voices because I have learned that empathy and perspective are as important to making informed policy decisions as economic models. 

As I prepare for life after Dartmouth, I feel secure in the knowledge that mentors like Professor Shaiko, Professor Nachlis, and Sadhana Hall are there for me and my peers. Conversations with them over the years about professional interests, student life, and the world at large have helped shape my plan for the future and have helped me put together the pieces of my Dartmouth and Public Policy education. I urge future Rocky students to take advantage of the incredible resources available to help you shape your path and learn how you can make the impact you want to have on the world.

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