Rocky and Me: Tyler Baum '20 Senior Reflection

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

It is hard to believe that my four years at Dartmouth are coming to a close. From the moment I set foot in Hanover, I was drawn to the Rockefeller Center and its experiential approach to an education in public policy. Since the fall of 2016, I have been actively engaged in curricular, co-curricular, and research activities at the Rockefeller Center, and I consider no place other than Rocky to be my home at Dartmouth.

During my first year at Dartmouth, I participated in the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program, Management and Leadership Development Program, and Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors Program. My experience as an MLDP participant and ambassador was particularly invaluable as I progressed professionally, academically, and interpersonally. I am grateful to Program Officer Robin Frye for her mentorship on topics ranging from negotiation to working with diverse groups, and I had the opportunity to apply these skills during my various public- and private-sector internships as an undergraduate. 

Following my freshman year, I had the great honor of participating in the First-Year Fellows program in Washington, D.C. The FYF program provided eager young freshman like myself the opportunity to experience life in Washington, build a network in the public sector, hone professional development skills, and forge lifelong friendships with classmates who continue to impress me to this day. These friendships continued throughout college, and frequently blossomed in Rocky’s Hinman Forum — a favorite locale for many of us. Though I was already mostly convinced I wanted to pursue the public policy minor, there was no doubt in my mind after the FYF program. I interned in the Office of Political Affairs at The White House and gained invaluable experience at the intersection of politics and policy. I was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to interact with those on the ground — local, regional, and state-level leaders — to support the President’s policy agenda.

My time in Washington allowed me to reveal interests that have guided my coursework and professional endeavors throughout the past three years. My work at the intersection of politics and policy made me realize a deep interest in policy, above politics, and encouraged me to pursue roles in the private sector that dealt with policy on a regular basis to experience other potential post-Dartmouth paths. At The White House, I also witnessed the critical role that leaders on the ground play, and learned the importance of returning home to give back to your home community — a path I will be pursuing as a Dartmouth alumnus, as I return to my hometown of Irwin, Pennsylvania.

Motivated by my experiences in Washington, I was ecstatic for the opportunity to begin participating in the Policy Research Shop during my sophomore year. Working under the leadership of Professor Ron Shaiko, I gained real-life policymaking experience by advising numerous clients in the New Hampshire state legislature, as well as a non-profit organization, during my time as a PRS researcher. The PRS was a pillar of my Rocky experience and armed me with hands-on skills beyond what many of my peers at other institutions have access to. I am very grateful for all that I learned from these experiences, Professor Shaiko’s mentorship, and the partnership of inspiring clients.

Though it is challenging to pinpoint one defining Rocky experience, one of my most memorable was taking PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership with Professor Herschel Nachlis. The topic of this course changes annually, and this past year, we studied the financial crisis, austerity, and populism, from an American and European perspective. At the end of the fall term, our class had the unparalleled opportunity to travel to Greece, Germany, and Switzerland to conduct interviews and attending meetings with experts in the private and public sector, ultimately producing a 130-page memo drawing on our own primary research to evaluate crisis responses and outline our recommended courses of action for the future. In this course, I learned an incredible amount of new concepts and gained invaluable perspectives on international government, business, and field research. I am very grateful for Professor Nachlis’ guidance and mentorship during this course, as well as the support of the Rockefeller Center, as it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

One of my favorite classes during my four year at Dartmouth was PBPL 43: Social Entrepreneurship with Professor Andrew Samwick. When students move on from college, I imagine many courses become blurred in their minds, but PBPL 43 will not be one of those. My interests throughout college generally were at the intersection of public policy, geography, economics, and revitalizing left-behind places, but it was not until PBPL 43 that I put these pieces together and began to understand my calling in life. This course, and Professor Samwick’s mentorship, contributed to my decision to pursue the Venture for America fellowship after I graduate from Dartmouth. Through this fellowship, I look forward to the opportunity to continue working in social innovation and contributing to the revival of America’s post-industrial cities and towns.

I am deeply indebted to Professor Andrew Samwick, Professor Herschel Nachlis, and Professor Ron Shaiko, who have been incredible mentors the past four years. They assisted me in making the most of my time at Dartmouth and shaping my career plan moving forward. In addition to hours of riveting conversations regarding coursework, current affairs, and future plans, they were also a great support system as I navigated the challenging waters of adjusting to life at Dartmouth as a first-generation college student.

My biggest takeaway from my time at the Rockefeller Center is the willingness of faculty members to form lasting relationships with students, far beyond the demands of the classroom. As my advisors said to me — attend the lecture you may be skeptical about. Reach out to the professor who works on a topic you want to learn more about. Take the class that is outside of your direct realm of interest — it may be the perfect complement to your course of study. My Dartmouth experience would not have been the same without Rocky or its incredible faculty and staff. I passionately encourage students to become involved in the Rockefeller Center, as it is truly a hub for academic, extracurricular, co-curricular, personal, and professional advancement.

-Written by Tyler Baum, Class of 2020