Student Spotlight: Saaima Bholat ’21 MPA

Policy interests: 

Foreign policy, migration policy, human and national security, education


Cypress, Southern California


The Clinton Foundation, New York, New York

What is your professional background and why did you decide to pursue your Master of Public Affairs at Brown University?

Prior to joining the MPA program, I worked at the Los Angeles Asylum Office for the Department of Homeland Security, focusing primarily on streamlining the process of asylum case interviews and communicating with internal and external government stakeholders. I also interned at the U.S. Department of State, Office of Foreign Missions, where I will now be transitioning full-time to support the consulate community in the Southwest region of the U.S.

I decided to pursue my MPA at Brown because I knew the university would provide me with the interdisciplinary education that I need in order to take on some of the most challenging, complex, and important problems in policy today. The one-year program was also another appealing aspect. It gives me the opportunity to jump back into the workforce quickly, equipped with all the essentials tools I will need to both analyze and implement policy in my career.

What sorts of career-building skills and knowledge have you gained since joining the program?

I’ve gained communication skills, particularly in learning how to provide information with brevity and clarity. One of the foci in the fall semester has been writing policy memos, where we learned how to deliver recommendations and alternatives in a concise but effective manner to clients and stakeholders.

I’ve also learned the value of placing myself in academic conversations that may not necessarily align with my policy interests. One of the electives I selected was Introduction to Health Policy, which allowed me to quickly develop an understanding of the role of state and federal government in health care reform. Throughout the course, I assessed ways in which the U.S. can deliver high-quality care given the costs of health care, the national economy, and current pandemic. Taking this course not only widened my perspective of U.S. health care policy by comparing the system to other countries, but it also taught me the skill of effectively analyzing complex and unfamiliar topics. Shifting from my comfort zone in policy interests and diving into other fields has contributed to my understanding of how different policy areas can interconnect with one another — better equipping me to identify what strategies may or may not work in policy making.

“ The faculty I’ve been able to get to know at the Watson Institute have also added immense value to my time at Brown. ”

Saaima Bholat MPA Class of 2021

What has been a highlight in the program so far?

One highlight in the program has been interacting with the students and faculty at Brown. I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from exceptional students during our group projects. In our Policy Analysis and Problem Solving course, I worked with four MPA colleagues on providing a policy briefing to the U.S. Bureau of Population and Refugee and Migration on the refugee crisis in Venezuela. Collaborating and hearing different perspectives on how we could tackle the problem was a great learning experience overall.

The faculty I’ve been able to get to know at the Watson Institute have also added immense value to my time at Brown. I came into the program wanting to learn more about humanitarian response in conflict. I connected with faculty member David Pollaty, who teaches courses in this field, and he has been incredibly helpful in mentoring me for a career in foreign affairs and helping me accomplish my academic goals. It’s been inspiring learning public affairs and policy from experts in the field, and I am beyond grateful for all the Zoom office hour discussions filled with in-depth class topics and career advice from faculty!

What are you working on during your consultancy?

I am working on the foreign policy team at the Clinton Foundation, producing briefings, research-based country analysis, and managing relationships with global partners. I’m excited to focus on the foundation’s international initiatives, including economic development in Haiti and the Venezuelan refugee and humanitarian crisis.

What are you hoping to do with your MPA?

I’ve always had an interest in foreign affairs, particularly on how the U.S. interacts with global actors and organizations to implement its foreign policy goals. In my career, I hope to take part in policy making or implementation that addresses a variety of global issues such as migration, education accessibility for marginalized communities, and root causes of countries facing a humanitarian crisis. The MPA program is giving me the quantitative and qualitative skills I need to examine these foreign policy issues. I hope to connect academia with the government sector, whether it be through consulting or civil service, in order to achieve sustainable and successful U.S. foreign policy.