Rocky & Me Senior Reflection: Cindy Shen

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

I first arrived at Dartmouth with little interest in public policy. Although I walked underneath Rocky’s archway countless times throughout my first terms at Dartmouth, I knew little else about the Rockefeller Center beyond its red brick exterior. While it may have been a slow start for Rocky and me, four years later, I credit Rocky for not only helping me navigate my academic interests and early professional experiences, but also introducing me to close friends and mentors who’ve shaped the rest of my life.

It took me until the end of my freshman year to get involved in Rocky. At the time, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, let alone what I wanted to do after I graduated. I signed up for Rocky’s Peer Mentoring Program (RPMP) hoping to meet an upperclassman who could help me navigate through some of those choices, as well as through the rollercoaster of the ten-week Dartmouth term. I met an incredible ‘18 (we got coffee last week) who inspired me to participate in the Management & Leadership Development Program (MLDP) during the fall of my sophomore year. Both RPMP and MLDP exposed me to the world of Rocky, and pushed me to take policy-oriented classes.

One of those classes was Economics 28: Public Finance & Public Policy taught by Professor Jonathan Skinner. Professor Skinner became one of the largest influences at Dartmouth; he is currently my thesis advisor in economics, and he encouraged me to apply for an internship at the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) at the White House, an agency within the Executive Office of the Present that offers the President objective economic advice for use in domestic and international policymaking. After many burdensome hours stressing over resumes and interviews (both skills I got to refine as an MLDP participant) and a lot of luck, I was offered the CEA internship in Washington D.C. during my junior fall.

At the CEA, I got to be a part of economic research that helped inform policy decisions at the top levels of government. I primarily conducted research on topics related to healthcare and trade policy. My larger projects included studying the effects of the Affordable Care Act on insurance rates among people with pre-existing conditions and examining the consequences of the European Union’s proposed digital services tax. I also had the opportunity to draft portions of the Economic Report of the President. Most importantly, I worked with some of the coolest and smartest people I’ve ever met and had the chance to get lunch with leading economic scholars and political advisers. I was even paired directly with a senior mentor on my first day (we're still in touch)!

My off-term in D.C. would not have been possible without Rocky. With the support of Robin Frye and Eric Janisch (both program officers at Rocky), I received funding through the Rockefeller Internships Program that helped cover the cost of rent, transportation, and food for the duration of my internship. I also met up with fellow Dartmouth students and alumni in the area that helped me feel at home, even in a new city. In fact, I met one of my best friends at Dartmouth in D.C.

Rocky’s influence did not end there: thanks to the multi-faceted experiential learning opportunities I’ve had at Rocky, I’ve concentrated my economics major in public economics (my thesis is on the impacts of policy programs like Medicare Part D) and have filled the remaining space in my coursework with government classes out of pure interest. Outside of the classroom, I’ve applied the pre-professional skills I learned in RPMP and MLDP to my leadership roles in clubs at Dartmouth.

From my start as an undecided mentee to my opportunities to be an economic policy intern at the White House and a senior honors thesis writer, Rocky has been there for me through it all. In sum, Rocky has been one of the most defining aspects of my Dartmouth experience. Thanks to Rocky, I’ve had the chance to discover new interests and meet my closest friends. I’m eternally grateful to be a member of the Rocky family. Thank you.

Written by Cindy Shen, Class of 2021