News & Publications



Five Minutes with Mariam Khan - APPAM Student Member

May 20, 2019 02:04 PM
APPAM’s new 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!
For the series' first student interview, Mariam Khan - a doctoral student at American University - shares with us her goals for the profession, and her inspirations including the late Alice Rivlin and The Sound of Music.  
Name: Mariam Khan
Location: Washington, D.C.
Place of Employ and Position: American University, Ph.D. Student
Degrees, including Institutions: MPP, Georgetown University, 2017; B.A., The College of William and Mary, 2015
LinkedIn or Professional Website:

1. When did you become interested in a degree in the field?
I have interned with several congressional offices, including former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, Senator Mark Warner, former Congressman Frank Wolf, and the House Committee on Education and Workforce. In these internships, I learned how legislation gets it initial shape and structure and how it reaches its final outcome, either becoming a law or just another legislative effort. However, my interest in public policy was sparked when I interned for former Congressman Frank Wolf in the summer after my freshman year of college. This was my first congressional internship. During my internship, I really enjoyed talking to constituents and addressing their concerns, since I felt I was making a difference. After interacting with constituents, I came to realize the importance of bipartisanship. In my opinion, individuals don’t necessarily have a “right” or “wrong” view, they simply have a different perspective, which can be shaped by their background and experiences in life. This is very important for me when I conduct public policy research in that I am approaching the data in an objective and neutral manner. Overall, my experience with Congressman Wolf was an unforgettable experience, and I was fortunate to work with a supportive staff who helped me grow professionally. I also had the opportunity to witness a lawmaker who truly cared about his constituents, regardless of their political affiliation or background. The dedication he and his staff members had toward the constituents truly inspired me for a public service career.
2. As a student of public policy, what has been your most meaningful or personally beneficial research experience to date?
My most meaningful research experience has been my research on the impact of the availability of paid family leave on the labor market outcomes for women, where I found that countries with both maternity and paternity leave have a significantly higher female labor force participation compared to countries which only have maternity leave. I had the opportunity to present this study at the 2019 Regional DC APPAM conference in a panel titled “Societal Impact of Family Leave Program.” I got amazing feedback from the panel chair, who also conducts research on paid paternity leave. I also had an opportunity to network with individuals who are passionate about this area of research. I believe this is the perfect time to research paid family leave, considering our national lawmakers are currently considering six weeks of paid family leave. The President discussed this during the 2019 State of the Union address. 
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 believe one value which I have endeared throughout my career is to always be inquisitive, intrigued and to ask questions. As academic scholars, we are taught that there are always questions in the literature which are yet to be answered. Similarly, as we progress in our career, we should understand that we will never have the complete answer or perfect answer. However, by continuing to look at different aspects and facets, we can improve and further our understanding of the issue.
4. How has your understanding of diversity evolved since you started your program?
In my perspective, diversity not only entails race and ethnicity, but it also includes their intersectionality with class, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic conditions, and life experiences. Each individual has a different story and background, and their inclusion in the process can help improve our understanding of issues during our policymaking conversations.
5. If you were to land your dream job immediately after graduation, what would it be? 
My dream job would be to work as an economist in the federal government, where I would have the opportunity to conduct statistical and economic analyses on major regulatory issues. Dr. Alice Rivlin, a revered economist and my professor at Georgetown University, has been my inspiration for this career path. Unfortunately, Dr. Rivlin passed away just recently. However, her humbleness and dedication to improving the policymaking process will continue to motivate me as I pursue my academic and professional career. I will always be grateful for the road she has paved for aspiring female economists. 
American economist Alice Rivlin passed away last week, leaving many in the APPAM community reflecting on the profound impact she had on them personally and professionally.
6. What do you foresee as the greatest challenge in your postgraduation career pursuits, and how do you expect you’ll rise to it?
I do believe that data driven public policy can help build bipartisan support and buy-in of the public, which is needed today more than ever. The decisions based upon management science eliminate subjectivity and emotions, to a large extent, and focus upon trends of the past, current data and facts, and a modeling or prediction of the future outcomes. However, there may be individuals who do not place a great emphasis on data analysis, and may consider management and policymaking as an art rather than science. Nevertheless, I will continue to advocate that qualitative analysis, combined with quantitative analysis, can provide a fuller picture of the problem at large. Some of the best academic studies, which I have come across, utilize a mixed methods approach.
7. What advice would you give high school and undergraduate students considering careers in public policy? 
It is very important to understand that public policy is not a completely “soft” field. Policy analysis does require quantitative and statistical skills. The demand for data scientists, analysts, and managers have been rising in the government and nonprofit sector. 
8. Outside of your studies, what do you do for fun? 
I always love to go on a good run! I also love exploring different parts of D.C., including coffee and cupcake shops. Even though I’m from the D.C. area, the city always amazes me on how much I still have to explore. 
Cupcakes are a favorite of Mariam Khan!
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?  If so, we’d love to hear about this bucket list item! 
I would love to visit Salzburg, Austria and see the filming locations of The Sound of Music! I have heard that the Schloss Leopoldskron, which is the palace that portrayed the house of the Von Trapp family, is simply gorgeous. As a young child, The Sound of Music was one of my favorite movies, which I will continue to cherish.
One of the shooting locations for The Sound of Music.


Previous Five Minutes with... interviews 


Back to news