Olga Baranoff

One of the best things I’ve done at Johns Hopkins is be a part of the Social Policy program. I actually transferred to JHU as a sophomore, after spending my freshman year at a small liberal arts college. One of the reasons I chose Hopkins over other schools was because of its newly established Social Policy program. I knew I wanted to pursue Economics as my major, and what I like best about economics is its capacity to analyze policy implications and develop solutions. I found the perfect blend of quantitative and qualitative policy analysis I was looking for by pairing my Economics major with a minor in Social Policy.

As a Washington, DC Policy Fellow, I spent the spring 2015 semester living, working, and studying in Washington, DC. I loved the experience of living in DC and being in the vibrant city where researchers and policymakers come together to try to create change. I interned at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a recently formed and small but growing research institution dedicated to analyzing whether, and how, structural changes in the US economy impact economic growth.

At Equitable Growth, I researched issues related to economic inequality and growth, created tables and charts, wrote literature reviews and memos, and developed factsheets that summarized my findings. I helped fact-check the director’s book on paid family leave policies, and I designed and conducted an independent research project on labor market impacts of inequality (link: http://bit.ly/1zNOZH3). Working at a think tank that placed greater emphasis on research, rather than advocacy, was a perfect fit for my technical policy interests. I loved learning new economic concepts and theories from the economists there and honing research and analysis skills from the research assistants.

While my internship was a highlight, I found the courses I took in DC to be as valuable, if not even more valuable, than the work experience I gained. The DC semester is designed so that only one Hopkins professor actually teaches a class; the rest of the “professors” are industry professionals, experts in the area they teach us about. Our economics course, for example, was taught by the head of a prestigious economic policy think tank. Our other professors came from backgrounds in community organizing, research, journalism, and federal and local politics (they had worked in the White House, Congress, and deputy under New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg). The courses were engaging and challenging, and the professors provided real-world insight into their experiences implementing policy.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have spent a semester as a Social Policy Fellow in DC, and I am confident that the program will continue to grow into one of the best experiences Hopkins offers.