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

Rocky and Me: Grace Sherrill '20 Senior Reflection

Grace Sherrill, Dartmouth Class of 2020

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

It is difficult for me to overstate the role Rocky has played in my development at Dartmouth. The Rockefeller Center has been the cornerstone of my intellectual and interpersonal growth over the past four years, and I will always be grateful to the Center for the outstanding opportunities it has provided me. I came into Dartmouth with a number of public policy interests, but I had not yet developed the skills or confidence to make a real impact. Through its outstanding coursework, faculty mentorship, and extracurricular opportunities, Rocky taught me what it means to engage with issues I care about thoughtfully, creatively, and rigorously.

I came to Dartmouth vaguely interested in health policy, but I lacked a solid grasp on how I wanted to study this topic. Engaging with Rocky's expansive course portfolio allowed me to study many facets of health policy and drill down on more specific interests. In my Policy Research course, I helped an Upper Valley non-profit draft a grant application for a public health awareness campaign. In Policy Implementation, I studied the strategic reasoning behind the Affordable Care Act’s piecemeal approach to health care reform. In Health Policy and Clinical Practice, I studied how the financial incentives in the U.S. healthcare system can lead to the overprovision of medical care. Over time, I developed a passion for understanding how the policy architecture of public healthcare systems impacts the lived experiences of everyday citizens, both inside and outside of clinical settings. 

In addition to opportunities in the classroom, the Rockefeller Center has allowed me to explore my policy interests beyond Dartmouth’s campus. The summer after my junior year, I participated in the Global Health Policy Lab in Kosovo, where I spent three months conducting primary research on the country’s public maternal health care system and compiling a policy report for the Ministry of Health. After a summer of interviewing government officials, health care providers, NGO leaders, and Kosovar mothers, this experience fundamentally changed the way I viewed health policy. I had studied health systems and policy implementation in prior coursework, but seeing the consequences of public policies “on-the-ground” gave what I had previously only explored in the classroom a completely different dimension. I left this experience with a greater appreciation for how important it is to connect policy design and implementation with people's actual needs and experiences. 

Rocky took me abroad a second time last December, when I traveled to Germany and Greece with my senior policy seminar. In the term prior, my peers and I studied the economic and social implications of the 2008 global financial crisis and traveled to Europe to meet with policymakers about how we should respond to the next crisis. This capstone experience underscored how much I had grown in four years at Rocky. As someone whose policy interests primarily lie in domestic health and social policy, the Eurozone’s response to the global financial crisis was far outside of my wheelhouse. I began the term with only a loose grasp on the concept of bond yield curves and the political landscape of the EU. By the time we were in Europe and writing our collective policy report, however, I was shocked to discover the fluency with which I wrote and thought about supranational governance structures and their impact on monetary and fiscal policy. After both of my global policy experiences with the Rockefeller Center, I have become exponentially more confident in my abilities as a policy researcher. In both instances, I was thrown into physical environments and policy contexts that were initially completely foreign to me. With the analytical skills I gained through my coursework and the mentorship of my professors, I learned how to make real contributions to both projects. The ability to quickly become oriented on a new topic and concisely communicate my research will serve me well in almost any professional context, and I am grateful to have developed this ability at Rocky. 

In addition to the hard skills I have gained at Rocky, it has also been one of my primary sources of community. The professors at Rocky have been some of my closest mentors and have been incredibly generous with the time they’ve invested in answering my questions about coursework and potential career paths. I have also met many of my closest friends through Rocky’s coursework and programming. Over the course of our time at Dartmouth, Rocky became my friends’ and my home base. Whenever I wanted someone to study with, I simply had to walk through Hinman Forum and almost always found one of my friends studying at one of the long tables. Rocky was certainly a second home in college, and I feel comfort knowing the relationships I have formed through Rocky will follow me long after Dartmouth. 

I strongly recommend that new students make an effort to become involved with the Rockefeller Center when they arrive at Dartmouth. In my view, there is no better place to develop, both academically and personally. I am unsure where my endeavors will take me after I graduate, but I will always be indebted to the Rockefeller Center for giving me the best possible opportunity to develop into a more confident and capable scholar and citizen.

-Written by Grace Sherrill, Class of 2020

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