Alumni Spotlight: Eesha Bhave ’20 MPA

While funding gender and reproductive equity issues in the non-profit arena, 2020 Master of Public Affairs graduate Eesha Bhave's long-term career goal is to ensure that gender and race equity analyses are included in broader policy arenas as well.

Born in India and raised in the United States, Eesha Bhave, a 2020 graduate of Brown's Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program, wanted to understand the theories and underpinnings of the federal systems that affected her family and broader community members. "As a political science major in college, I wanted to pursue an MPA so I could move from theory to practice and learn how to be a leader in those decision-making and governing spaces in public service," said Bhave.  

Although Bhave originally envisioned working in a policy position for a government entity after earning her MPA, when she was offered a position as a program officer in gender and reproductive equity grantmaking at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies in Washington, D.C. Bhave recognized it as an exciting opportunity to shape a new grantmaking portfolio in the area of gender equity. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 36-year-old foundation's mission is to fund initiatives that pursue justice, repair the world and treat all people with dignity and respect. 

The gender and reproductive equity grantmaking portfolio is a relatively new arena for the Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and Bhave was an early hire on the team. She said she relished the opportunity "to help shape and shift the work that reflected some of my own experiences working in the area of gender violence prevention." She added, "My team has been invested in supporting abortion access, especially in the post-Dobbs era."

Bhave earned her MPA during the pandemic's early months and couldn't return to campus in March 2020 after completing her Policy in Action Project. Nevertheless, she built close relationships with professors Susan Moffitt and Nicholas Ziegler, among others, during her two-year stint as an MPA teaching assistant after graduation.

“ That skill — diving into a topic that I was somewhat unfamiliar with and knowing I was time-bound in researching it — made my research more focused and selective. I use those skills to synthesize complex information and distill it all into two-page documents [in my job]. ”

Eesha Bhave MPA Class of 2020

"I'd sought out the TA opportunity to build bridges with other students in classes that followed mine," Bhave said. "I enjoyed reading students' papers on the issues I was working on related to gender equity. I recently ran into another former MPA student, Kamaile Patton [a 2022 MPA graduate who is currently a program assistant with Futures Without Violence] at a national conference on sexual assault. She is now working at an organization we support at Schusterman Family Philanthropies and that meeting felt full circle."

Bhave recalled numerous experiences she described as "transformative" while participating in the program, including Eric Patashnik's Public Analysis and Problem Solving course which required students to write a thoroughly researched and cohesive policy memo on a randomly drawn subject within 48 hours. 

"That skill — diving into a topic that I was somewhat unfamiliar with and knowing I was time-bound in researching it — made my research more focused and selective," said Bhave. She noted that the skills she developed from the exercise have proven useful in her job at Schusterman. "I use those skills to synthesize complex information and distill it all into two-page documents explaining why we should fund a specific grant request, although I have more than 48 hours to do it," she said.

Bhave and her team at Schusterman are strategizing on how to adopt a more expansive strategy to address gender violence and a broader perspective on how nonprofit organizations are working in this space. "I'm increasing my knowledge of economic power as it relates to gender justice, especially around the child care sector, paid leave and other care components," she said. 

Bhave noted that Susan Moffitt's undergraduate seminar, Gender and Public Policy, "cemented my interest in gender policy and all of the work I'm doing now." She added, "Considering different stakeholders and thinking about the challenges of implementing policies — we ask grantee partners these questions all the time — is baked into our strategy as funders."

Further, Bhave continues to appreciate the application and deepening of this learning in real-world contexts. "I think there's a lot to be learned in and outside of classrooms in bringing a gender and race equity analysis to other policy arenas, such as the climate crisis, aging and disability," she said. "Being an Indian woman is part of my experience — the more we can bring those issues of race and gender into our broader policy analyses, the better off we'll be."

Bhave said she envisions continuing to work in this sector for the next several years, where she can continue to make a positive impact by directing resources to gender-based violence prevention programs, paid leave and other policies that directly affect women. "Longer term," she said, "I would love to work in a federal agency and continue working on gender equity and leverage my knowledge of the philanthropic sector."