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

Public Policy Minor

Why Public Policy Needs Dartmouth Engineers

Excerpt from Dartmouth Engineer Magazine article by Kristen Senz, with Illustration by Mike Ellis. Read full article here.

Browsing the daily news headlines might lead one to conclude that we live in an era ruled by populism, fear, and misinformation. In reality, over the past 20 years, officials at all levels of government have increasingly sought data and technical expertise to evaluate and enact effective public policy. This shift is part of a constellation of factors that has set the stage for engineers to take a more active role in public discourse and policy. 

Dartmouth Students Start Online Platform to Help Essential Workers

Two Dartmouth students have joined together to help essential workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Amy Guan ’20 and Rine Uhm ’22 have built an online platform to match essential workers with donors to provide them with everything from children's toys to soap and shampoo.

Guan and Uhm, former roommates, came up with the idea for the platform, called Give Essential, on April 8. By April 10, they had the website up and running. Workers in essential jobs who are unable to work from home during the pandemic — such as grocery clerks and delivery drivers — can use the online platform to identify things they need, from COVID-19 protection to toiletries to games to gift cards. Donors can then fill out a form detailing what they are able to provide. 

Give Essential facilitates matches between requests and donations, then provides donors with information about how to mail, hand-deliver or electronically deliver items to workers, usually in the donor’s area, according to Uhm. She added that workers can choose whether or not to provide their names.

Guan said that she reached out to Uhm after noticing a lack of support for certain essential workers.

Engineering Sciences Major Modified with Public Policy

Modified majors are a popular option for Dartmouth students. Intended to fit the needs of a student who has a definite interest in the major department, but whose interests cannot be fulfilled in one singular department, these majors exemplify what a liberal arts degree is all about.

Tyler Baum ’20 and Hunter Cohen ’20 are each a great example of how a modified major works perfectly for their career goals. Cohen knew he was interested in working at an engineering company but did not want to be an engineer as he was more interested in looking at the nuances of policy in different fields than solely developing a technical background. Baum was interested in the intersection of engineering and the business side of the manufacturing industry. Dartmouth gave each the perfect opportunity to develop the technical and analytical skill sets necessary for these careers with the Engineering and Public Policy major, a joint offering of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Thayer School of Engineering.

18F PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership Practicum Releases Its Final Report

The fall term course began in the classroom with Professor Charles Wheelan ’88 and a select group of students. This year students examined the genesis and implementation of the peace accords signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The final report synthesizes the lesson learned from 10 weeks of study on campus and two weeks of travel in Colombia. It provides relevant background, analysis, and actionable recommendations for the U.S. around the primary research question: What role, if any, does the U.S. have in the implementation of the Colombian peace process?

The two weeks in Colombia were spent speaking with relevant stakeholders in the U.S. and Colombian governments, nongovernmental organizations, social activists and humanitarians, conflict victims, art collectives, and former guerillas at FARC reintegration camps. 

“The importance of travel is twofold,” explains Wheelan, “One is this marriage of learning in the classroom and talking to people on the ground; and two, testing your hypotheses and listening to people who have very conflicting points of view.”

PBPL 85 Talks to Former Colombian President Uribe

After a relaxing weekend in coffee country, the traveled back to Bogota for a final round of meetings. After a bagged breakfast and a few last sips of coffee, we were off. Little did we know the surprise guest we had in store.

Our first stop in Bogota was our long awaited debrief with the U.S embassy. After two weeks of traveling throughout the country and engaging with stakeholders from all sides of the conflict, from FARC ex-combatants to hardline former government officials, we had compiled a long list of questions to gain some firsthand insight on just how the US intends to weigh in on this incredibly complex peace process. Officers from all corners of the foreign service, from public affairs representatives to economic and USAID analysts, shared their professional backgrounds and offered their expert opinions on the peace process. We discussed the issues of justice and human rights, extradition policy, the state of Colombia’s ongoing infrastructure projects, as well as the embassy’s relationship with the Colombian media. We left the embassy with both some deeper insights into US policy in Colombia, and perhaps our best group photo.

PBPL 85 Students Get to Work and See the Sights in Salento

We spent our final weekend of the trip at a finca near Salento, a town in the mountains known for coffee estates, dramatic palm trees, and rare parrots. The finca is beautiful, with a dramatic infinity pool, hammocks overlooking fields of banana trees, and lots of fresh fruit. The idyllic surroundings helped us from feeling to overworked during the first half of the weekend – while we did spend all of Saturday and much of Sunday working we were able to write poolside or looking over the valley.

On Sunday afternoon, we left the finca for Salento proper, about an hour away. We started with lunch, most of us getting plantain chips the size of our heads covered in meat and cheese, or yet another meal of grilled trout. A rainstorm hit during lunch, but just as we were beginning to give up on our hopes of a hike, the storm cleared and we were able to make our way to Valle de Cocora, a famous hike nearby.

PBPL 85 Meets with Former Mayor of Medellín and Journeys to Coffee Country

We began our last day in Medellín with a fascinating meeting with Juan Gómez Martínez, the former mayor of Medellín (1988-1990 and 1998-2000) and former Governor of Antioquia (1992-1994).

During Mr. Martínez’ first tenure as mayor, the infamous Medellín cartel leader Pablo Escobar was still at large and directed many murders, kidnappings, and bombings throughout the city. Mr. Martínez shared with the group his account of a kidnapping attempt by Escobar’s men while he was running for election in 1997. Fifteen armed men came to his home one evening, and he and his son had to defend their family in a shootout through their doorway. Mr. Martínez said that had he known at the time that there were so many attackers, he would have surrendered. The kidnappers fled the scene because the job was taking far longer than they had planned. Mr. Martínez and his family went to stay at a hotel because their home had been destroyed.

PBPL 85 Meets with Grupo-EPM

After meeting with many representatives from government agencies and non-governmental organizations, the PBPL 85 group was incredibly excited to meet with one of Colombia’s most successful companies for a perspective of the private sector: Grupo-EPM.  Grupo-EPM operates at the intersection of the private sector and the conflict facing Colombia. 

As the central utility company of Colombia, Grupo-EMP is both a private entity and an extension of the state due to its crucial role in providing access to public services for Colombians.  However, Grupo-EPM has recently expanded its operations beyond Colombia by acquiring over 47 subsidiary companies that span Latin America and Central America, where it delivers natural gas, electricity, power, and potable water to millions people.  Furthermore, Grupo-EPM is at the forefront of development and sustainability with an impressive approach to business that is directly linked to their corporate social responsibility policies that require Grupo-EPM to both maximize providing the most coverage across Colombia for public utilities and ensuring protection of the environment in all its operations.

PBPL 85 Tours Medellín Colombia

Our second day in Medellin began at a local university, EAFIT, for a meeting on criminality and the state with Professor Gustavo Duncan. Professor Duncan gave us a brief lecture on the the peace deal and delved into the complicated history of governance in Medellin and the rural parts of the country. An expert in the relationship between criminality and the state, he detailed the complicated ties between neighborhoods, citizens, businesses, and gangs. Professor Duncan shed light on Colombians different relationship to justice—one where citizens often rely criminal actors to distribute justice in place of the government.


PBPL 85 Explores the Connection of Art and Peace

After a night of sleeping not in tents, but in hotel beds, the PBPL 85 group woke up rested and ready to start the first day in Medellin, the capital of Colombia's mountainous Antioquia province. On the bus ride in from the airport, we had sensed that Medellin had a different feel from Bogotá. In Bogotá, we had spent most of our time meeting with government officials, scholars, and NGOs thinking specifically about the peace process. Our time in Medellin on the other hand was dedicated to examining the city as a whole, and looking at the social, political, and cultural transformations of the city over time—and seeing how all of this relates to the peace process.



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