A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 2023 Association for Public Policy and Management annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia. It was an incredible opportunity to learn more about public policy, meet top contributors to the field, and explore my own research interests further. I attended talks on topics ranging from residential and school mobility, to child poverty in the US, to differential effects of safety net programs. The talks were intellectually stimulating, and it was fascinating to see the preliminary work researchers are doing in the field, which in a few years I will be reading as a fully polished piece in an academic journal. Additionally, as I work on my senior thesis in the field of public policy, it was a very helpful visualization to see what a fully completed research paper and presentation looks like. Speaking with other conference attendees at various lunches and socials also provided ample opportunity for me to practice the elevator pitch for my own thesis and general undergraduate research assistant work with Dr. TJ D’Agostino through the Kellogg International Scholars program.

This is the second research conference I have received Kellogg funding to attend, so I had greater familiarity with the logistics. I was also more confident in speaking to new people, which served me well at the Ph.D. fair, student mixer, and other events. I am very grateful to have these experiences as an undergraduate student, so that as I pursue a future in academia I will be more prepared to enter these settings, hopefully as a presenter or discussant.

I am currently applying to Ph.D. programs in public policy, so this conference was especially timely. I was able to speak with both current Ph.D. candidates and professors at the schools I am applying to. This was very informational to help me understand the differences between programs, various research strengths, and what my future in academia could look like. There were new schools I decided to apply to, and schools that I was originally considering that I discovered did not match my research interests. Talking to professors about how I could contribute to their work as a graduate student reignited my passion for public policy research. This also guided what I wrote about in the personal statements for my Ph.D. applications.

I am so thankful for the support and guidance of Notre Dame professors, advisors, students, and alumni in preparation for this conference. The Kellogg Institute’s generosity in supporting young researchers has been one of the highlights of my time as an undergraduate, and has inspired me to continue my studies in a doctoral program. This conference was an important step on that journey.