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APPAM Policy Council Student
Representative Sarah Cordes

Meet Sarah Cordes: APPAM Policy Council Student Representative

March 11, 2014 10:00 AM

This year, APPAM welcomes the first of two student representatives to the Association’s Policy Council. Sarah Cordes, a fourth-year doctoral student at the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, was selected in December 2013 by Paul T. Decker, then-President of APPAM, and Michael Shires, Chair of the Committee of Institutional Representatives.

Cordes will serve as one of two student representatives on the council; the addition of student seats was a bylaws change decided by a vote of the APPAM membership last year. Cordes is currently working on her dissertation, which examines how institutions and processes that interact with the public school system to influence student learning. Her research and teaching interests are in education and urban policy, housing, public finance, and applied statistics and econometrics. Cordes is also in her fourth year as an IES-PIRT Fellow, serving as a graduate assistant at the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU. She received her M.P.P. from Duke University.

She took a few minutes to share her thoughts on the Association and the coming year.

What do you see as APPAM’s biggest strength?

I think the biggest strength of APPAM is that it brings together individuals from so many different disciplines and professions who are all interested in studying and influencing policy. While other organizations may bring together people with interests in different topics, I think where APPAM stands out is that it is an organization for academics, practitioners, and policy-makers so that everyone who attends the conferences is passionate about influencing how policy is practiced.
How can that strength be leveraged in the coming year?

I think this strength can be leveraged by helping practitioners and researchers come together to form valuable partnerships that can improve policy.
What priorities do you have for the Policy Council in your coming term?

As the student-representative, I think my biggest priority will be making sure that students feel like they have more of a voice in the organization. I think it may be intimidating for students to contact an academic or practitioner with suggestions or concerns about the organization, so I hope that I will be able to provide students with an outlet to the policy council.
In your opinion, what are the two biggest issues facing the Association today?

One issue is that students often feel disconnected from the organization. Since APPAM is such a large conference, it is easy for students to feel lost.  

A somewhat related issue is that APPAM has become a relatively large conference (which is not a bad thing!) but with size there are also some challenges. In particular I think that any new members to APPAM who are not tied to a particular school or research organization might find it difficult to connect, and there may be some valuable partnership opportunities that are being lost. For example, a practitioner might be planning to implement an intervention and APPAM would be a great place for him or her to connect with researchers who would be interested in getting in on the ground floor to perform an evaluation. If that practitioner is unfamiliar with the organization, however, it might be hard for him or her to determine which researchers might be interested in performing an evaluation or the best way to connect with them.
Do you have a plan/ideas on how to tackle those issues?

I think the pre-conference doctoral workshop was a great first step toward engaging more students and hope that next year we can have even better attendance. Another idea would be would be to host students-only networking events where students are matched by research area. This could be as simple as having one or two research areas listed on a student’s nametag at the event so that it would be easy to spot other people who are interested in similar topics. I think a lot of time students can be so focused on meeting senior scholars that they forget to connect with other students, who will also be future colleagues.   
In terms of the size issue, I think it could be useful to examine how other big organizations handle this and then determine what makes sense.
What long-term strategy would you like the Policy Council to consider for the Association?

I think that improving student outreach is an important long-term strategy. For APPAM to continue to grow and thrive, it is necessary to engage students in the organization. I think that in the past year, APPAM has made some really important strides in this direction and it is important for the Policy Council to consider the best strategies for continuing on this path.
What excites you about the coming year?

I am excited to step into my new role as the student representative and help APPAM to engage its student membership. In particular, I look forward to the opportunity to engage with students from different universities in order to make APPAM an even better organization.
How do you think members can best leverage their APPAM membership?

I think APPAM provides a great opportunity for networking—not only with academics and practitioners, but also with other students. In particular, I find that going to conferences and attending the receptions is incredibly helpful for connecting with people who are doing research on similar topics or interested in studying similar issues.



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