In the Rocky & Me series, Seniors reflect on their experiences during their time at Dartmouth.
Freshman trips was the first time I heard about the Rockefeller Center. My trip leader, Nick Shallow ’16, was a First-Year Fellow and involved with the Policy Research Shop. By the time I finished hiking that week, I was convinced that I needed to get involved with Rocky. I began by auditing PBPL 5: Introduction to Public Policy with Professor Shaiko during my freshman winter. At that point, I did not know if I wanted to be a First-Year Fellow or much about the course content. It only took me two weeks though to realize that public policy was for me and that I wanted to be part of the FYF program.
As a result, I spent my freshman summer as a First-Year Fellow in the Office of Senator Rob Portman ’78. I absolutely loved getting to work in the Capitol Building, observe action on the floor, do legislative research, and get to talk to Senator Portman. Living in DC that summer with 23 other policy-minded Dartmouth students was also a great experience. We quickly became a strong community and some of them became my favorite friends at Dartmouth.
During my sophomore year, I got heavily involved in the Policy Research Shop. PRS taught me so much about how to present complicated material in an easy to understand and actionable fashion. The first time my research team got to testify on our work was in front of the New Hampshire Senate Finance Committee on SB 261, a bill to raise the minimum wage in New Hampshire above the federal minimum wage. I knew following that experience that I wanted to do it again, and from that point forward I was involved in the Policy Research Shop every term I was on campus.
During junior spring, I participated in the Dartmouth-Oxford Exchange Program with the University of Oxford’s Keble College. A program managed through the Rockefeller Center. Oxford was an academic shellshock for me; I loved the academic freedom, tutorial class style, and push to really dig into prompts and research topics in depth. Furthermore, I enjoyed being on the swim team at Oxford, going to improv, experiencing my first formal ball, and eating in my black gown for dinner every night in the hall with classmates.
I have had a large variety of “Rocky” learning moments during my four years at Dartmouth. PBPL 40 with Professor Wheelan was my first introduction to public economics, and from that course I decided to focus my economics major around public economics. I plan on working for the government next year dealing with issues of economic policymaking for governments. When I was in D.C., I had the chance to get lunch with Senator Portman in the Senate dining room. As someone who loves talking about policy, it was quite an opportunity to get to ask my policy questions to a U.S. Senator and debate the merits of balancing the budget or accounting for climate change. There are also hundreds of casual learning experiences, such as debating Brexit with Oxford students or realizing the struggles with sending out surveys to community leaders during a PRS project.
I would highly recommend any incoming first year to apply for the First-Year Fellows program, get involved with the Policy Research Shop, and think about doing the Dartmouth-Oxford exchange. These have been three of my favorite Dartmouth experiences, and each have helped me developed my leadership capacity. I think Rocky has taught me that leadership requires action and taking responsibility. Especially in groups, when there are burdens of work. I have learned the need to take on a large share, and be responsible for divvying up the work and then keeping myself and others accountable. My experiences in the Policy Research Shop and as a First-Year Fellow taught me that to be a leader, I would have to be the one always willing to work the hardest. Teaching me that leadership requires action has been very valuable, and helped me in many other aspects during my time at Dartmouth.
Working in D.C. my freshman summer shaped my post-graduation plans and aspirations. I am planning to work for the government next year on economic and national security issues. I am also convinced that I want to run for public office one day down the road, even though I recognize that I will probably have to wait two decades to gain enough experience. Rocky has helped me clarify my interest in public service and policy making, and I am very sad to be leaving.
I just want to thank the entire Rocky staff for all their guidance, support, and willingness to teach over the past four years. I want to especially thank Joanne Needham for always being my cheerleader and checking in with me. Thank you Sadhana Hall for the valuable advice, policy discussions, and late night chats about leadership. And thank you Professor Shaiko for keeping me interested in public policy for 10+ terms, and always being available to talk about policy, Rocky, or Dartmouth.
Written by Joby Bernstein, Dartmouth Class of 2017. Joby is an economics major with minors in public policy and environmental science. On campus, he is the captain and a distance swimmer of the swim team, president of the investment club (DIPP), president of the business journal, and a leader in the outing club.