by Rachel Mincey
Ed.D. Student, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Florida State University \
Being a doctoral student is an expedition in which you navigate through coursework, develop a clearer understanding of yourself as a future expert, and also grow individually through self-exploration which includes, for me personally, getting out of your comfort zone and testing the boundaries of this new and often overwhelming place.
My experiences at this year’s Association of Public Policy Analysis & Management Fall Conference have allowed me the opportunity for intellectual and professional growth but have also shown me the value in this particular association and really how we as a community are helping to make the world a better place. In so doing, this phase of my educational and professional career is becoming clearer. The range of discussions or panels I was able to engage in both today and yesterday have been tremendously rewarding. One of yesterday’s highlights was listening to key stakeholders share their thoughts on renewable energy and the potential of our nation to be leaders in this arena and thus create greater sustainability for the future. It was fascinating to hear these stakeholders from different institutions sharing ideas about this very relevant and collective issue.
Today, I had the fortune to hear Russ Whitehurst from Stony Brook University, the 2019 winner of the Spencer Foundation Award, speak about evidence-based education. Whitehurst’s main message in this lecture was the need for continued and more studies employing RCTs (randomized-control trials). He described RCTs as being the “apex methodology”. Those in the field of policy are well aware, as the recent NAEP results have reminded us, of the lack of evidence that we’re making improvements in students’ outcomes. Whitehurst feels that we need to strengthen our scientific approaches but also create structures that bridge research and policymaking with the responsiveness needed that will transform outcomes in a positive way.
While this conference is particularly intellectually elevating, it isn’t just this aspect that makes it a rewarding experience for me. This conference provides students with a way to find a sense of place and community, a way to validate that their pursuit of making the world a better place through policy research is worthwhile. This morning, I attended an APPAM Communities event, PhD Students of Color. There, I was able to engage with students from a variety of backgrounds. We all have different perspectives and research interests, but engaging in dialogue about how we’re making it through our programs and what strategies we are using to be successful, in my opinion, was the true benefit.
This leads me to my final point I’d like to share. Being an attendee of #2019APPAM has shown me how important it is for us all to collaborate in an interactive way that moves across disciplines and is bipartisan. It is through this collaboration and dialogue that we’re better positioned to solve problems, precisely because we’re forced to think outside of our comfort zone. The issues we study within our own disciplines are shared problems.
There are plenty more benefits I could share with you about attending this conference , but I think more important than me sharing this is for you to actually experience it. So, if you’ve missed the opportunity to attend this year’s conference, please consider attending the conference next year.