Wednesday, March 18, 2020

APPAM Launches COVID-19 Member Resources, Data and Research Collaboration Hub

As many professional organizations around the globe explore ways that they can contribute to addressing the current public health crisis, APPAM would like to provide members with a platform for interacting and sharing ideas focused around the COVID-19 topic. To that end, we are launching a Resources, Data, and Research Collaboration Hub.


Five Minutes with APPAM Student Member Rebecca Miller

APPAM’s Five Minutes with… series was introduced in March 2019 to illuminate the work of individual APPAM members, and promote connections between members based on their shared interests.  The opportunity to be profiled on our website and social media through these interviews is an exclusive APPAM member benefit!  We encourage those APPAM members interested in being interviewed to email



Name: Rebecca Miller

Location: Stanford, CA

Place of Employ and Position: PhD Candidate; Stanford University,Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER)

Degrees, including Institutions: MPA. in Environmental Science and Policy, Columbia University; BA in History, Yale University

LinkedIn or Professional Website:


1. When did you become interested in a degree in the field?

 I realized that I loved working in environmental fields as a freshman in college. I served as my dormitory’s sustainability coordinator and worked on various green initiatives like reducing tray usage. Summer internships working on environmental policies convinced me that I wanted to pursue an MPA. While in graduate school, I took a course on climate change policy that introduced me to the challenges of local adaptation and the need for cities to become resilient to climate change impacts.

After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C., and worked as a Science Policy Fellow for the Science and Technology Policy Institute, a research and development center that supports the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In supporting a project on local adaptation planning for the Obama administration, I realized that the academic literature had only limited information as to why municipalities designed adaptation plans or even how to define a “good” adaptation plan. My interest in this research gap prompted me to apply for a Ph.D I ultimately chose wildfire prevention and preparedness policies in California as my dissertation focus within the broader realm of climate adaptation.

2. As a student of public policy, what has been your most meaningful or personally beneficial research experience to date?

I research historic and current wildfire protection and prevention policies in California, a topic that is particularly meaningful to the state given our recent catastrophic wildfire seasons and to me since I grew up in California. My research spans federal, state, local and neighborhood wildfire policies and practices, and it is exciting to work on such a timely topic. For example, I’ve interviewed policymakers who are in the process of tackling the same problems that I am researching for my dissertation. I also live near many of my study sites which has allowed me to meet people in communities that have been affected by these devastating wildfires. Talking to people about their individual experiences with wildfires always inspires me to consider ways to make my research more practicable and useful for policy development and implementation.


3. For many in the field, the values that they’ll hold dear throughout their careers are established while they’re still students. What values do you think you’ve developed through your program to carry you through your career?

I think it is essential for researchers who work with people to return that knowledge and research back to the community. I rely heavily on interviews to conduct my research. We as researchers have been entrusted with their information and gifted with their time, and our subjects deserve our synthesis and analysis in return.

4. How has your understanding of diversity evolved since you started your program?

As a student in an interdisciplinary program, I straddle multiple departments and draw on a variety of methods and data sources to answer my research questions. There is a range of approaches and research expectations across academia in terms of scoping, research design and publication, even within disciplines related to public policy. Since beginning my program, I have a greater appreciation for the specifics of these individual disciplines and the ways in which they can contribute individually and collectively to create actionable knowledge.

5. If you were to land your dream job immediately after graduation, what would it be?

I would like to work for an organization, government agency or legislative committee dedicated to environmental or climate change policy. My research covers multiple levels of government, and I would be interested in working at the intersections of federal, state and local governments, such as in supporting a federal program that distributes localized climate projections to improve resilience across communities in the United States.

6. What do you foresee as the greatest challenge in your postgraduation career pursuits, and how do you expect you’ll rise to it?

Pursuing a Ph.D. often means conducting highly specific research with an emphasis on depth of study. I currently focus on California wildfire policies, but I hope to expand beyond this topic after graduation to pursue environmental policy work more broadly. I anticipate drawing on the skills and experiences from my doctorate and applying them to other aspects of environmental policies and challenges.

7. What advice would you give high school and undergraduate students considering careers in public policy? 

There are many components of public policy, and you might be more passionate about certain ones over others. We need talented people at all stages of public policy, whether research, lobbying, creation, implementation, enforcement or evaluation. Each piece is critical to the overall process. Take some time through internships, volunteering or an early career job to try out the options and pick the one that excites you the most.

8. Outside of your studies, what do you do for fun? 

I love to read and have a goal of reading at least 100 books per year. I’ve also recently conquered my apprehensions about working with yeast and have begun baking my own bread!


9. Is there someone you admire who you’ve never met but would love to meet, or something you’ve never done but would love to do?  

I would love to meet Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. She is an extraordinary climate communicator and inspires people to take action and remain hopeful in the face of climate change. I admire the ways that she promotes climate action by incorporating earth science and social science and by drawing on her evangelical faith to reach broader audiences.


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