Student Spotlight: Gulsima Young ’24 MPA

Gulsima Young, who believes good policy-making must include kindness, appreciates the community and collegial environment Brown's Master of Public Affairs program provides.

While studying informatics and environmental studies as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, Gulsima Young came to the conclusion that the well-being of our environment is intertwined with other issues, including, workers' rights, racial justice and public health. "I learned how environmental and human rights violations are caused by technology companies' operations — from the extraction, manufacturing and disposal of metals and the disposal of electronic waste to the excessive amounts of energy, water and electricity consumed by the industry's labor violations," she said, "Our capitalist system prioritizes profits over people."

Eager to find ways, in our digital age, to develop information-sharing mechanisms that don't endanger people or the environment, Young decided to pursue a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree to develop the essential tools she knew she would need to create effective change as a community advocate. Her choice of Watson was straightforward, "Everyone — including faculty, staff and students — are incredibly kind, and, in my opinion, kindness in policy making is extremely important," she said. "Watson's collaborative environment encourages us to learn, ask questions and grow." 

In her classes, Young found the Policy Analysis and Problem Solving course taught by MPA Faculty Director David Blanding especially meaningful. "Gaining experience with identifying and describing policy problems will be very valuable in the future," she said, "it will help me to critically evaluate public policies and effectively tackle the root causes of problems [those policies mean to address]."

“ Watson's collaborative environment encourages us to learn, ask questions and grow. ”

Gulsima Young MPA class of 2024

Young said that Blanding's Policy Analysis and Problem Solving course, along with another core course, The Politics of Policymaking in Comparative Perspective taught by Shankar Prasad and Caroline Nordlund, taught her how to effectively synthesize information and fully grasp complex concepts. "The connections between those core courses helped me to truly understand policy analysis and evaluation, and perspectives on policy," said Young. 

The Principles and Practices of Stakeholder Engagement, taught by Adjunct Lecturer Katie Doyle, has helped Young in her research as a graduate intern with the University's Office of Sustainability and Resiliency. "It's been worthwhile to see the collaboration and connections among all the departments, institutes and organizations at Brown, whether they are run by students, faculty or staff," said Young. "Understanding how projects can deepen those collaborations and connections across the University is exciting." 

In addition to her own courses, Young is serving as a graduate course assistant for an undergraduate International and Public Affairs (IAPA) course, Foundations of Policy and Governance. Adjunct Lecturer Bob Hackey "fills the room with so much energy, and creates opportunities for students to engage in critical analysis of policy issues," said Young, "The course has helped me better understand national politics and how policies progress." 

"The most poignant lesson I've learned in the MPA program — through studying policy, doing case studies, talking to classmates and learning about others' experiences — is that our policy and governance systems so often rely on and uphold perpetual harm to others," said Young, who believes that public policy must strive to protect the lives of all who are affected by such policy. "Our commitment to health, equity, justice and well-being can't be constrained by national borders," added Young. "During my remaining time at Watson, I hope to continue learning how to collaboratively create policy structures that meet the needs of residents without adversely affecting others." 

As for post-graduation plans, Young intends to return to Washington State to be close to her family. "I hope to work at the intersection of social, environmental and health policy," said Young, who contributes to the MPA program as a Graduate Student Council representative and Student Advisory Group member. 

Young is committed to finding a position that allows her to contribute to causes she cares deeply about and that she truly enjoys. "I hope to always be learning and collaborating with others," said Young, "and, if I can do that, I believe I'll love what I'm doing." 

Grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the Brown community, Young added, "I've learned so much from the compassion and leadership of those around me. Ever since I first visited Watson, I have been inspired by the dedication, courage and knowledge of everyone that I meet."