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"The MS-STEP program fits my career interests to a 'T,'" says second-year Humphrey student Whitney Place. "I didn't have the political science background coming in so it was crucial for me to have classes on economics and policy analysis while at the same time being part of a cohort that is interested in the same scientific things as I am."
Whitney credits her advisor, Professor Jennifer Kuzma, and Professor Deb Swackhamer as being particularly influential. "The beauty of this program is that access to faculty is there all the time," she says. "Deb's the closest to my issue area. She's always looking to get me into conference's she's attending and introducing me to people."
Whitney's issue area is agricultural policy which isn't surprising since she grew up, as she puts it, "with a cornfield in my backyard" in Okabena, Minnesota, population 188, in the far southwestern part of the state near the Iowa border. Farming is an important part of her family background, with both her family sides running farms since they stepped foot in Minnesota.
She attended the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate majoring in Applied Plant Science with ambitions of becoming a plant breeder. She backed up her work in the classroom by working in the oak breeding research lab for three years as a lab assistant. As, she puts it, "It was a great experience, but I had enough. I didn't want to do laboratory research anymore." And when a classmate pointed her toward the Humphrey School, she jumped at it.
An internship in the governor's office monitoring agricultural legislation led to another internship at the state Department of Agriculture. The state had recently signed an agreement with the federal government focusing on the intersection between agricultural production and water quality. The goal of the new state and federal partnership, called the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program, is to enhance Minnesota's water quality by accelerating the voluntary adoption of on-farm conservation practices. Whitney has been organizing stakeholder advisory committee meetings and public listening sessions across the state. She's also been part of the process to draft legislation and meeting with legislators to advance the program.
She works closely with two recent Humphrey graduates - Brad Hagemeier, an MPP-STEP grad and Katie Wolf, another MS-STEP grad (who ironically was the classmate who referred Whitney to the Humphrey School).
Whitney's hard work has paid off - she'll be starting a full time position working on this program with the department in May. She's thrilled to graduate this spring and hit the ground running applying the knowledge she's gained in the MS-STEP program!
When is a fish not a fish but a drug? When government regulators take old laws and twist themselves into knots trying to apply them to new technology.
In the emotionally charged battle over the safety and appropriateness of genetically modified foods, people on both sides agree that the way the government oversees genetically modified plants and animals is patchy, inconsistent and at times just plain bizarre.
Soon, analysts say, the system may be stretched to the breaking point. That could leave many genetically modified crops unregulated -- a worry for those who fear environmental and safety risks or who believe that government vetting is key for broad public acceptance.
"It's a bit of a mess," said Jennifer Kuzma, a science policy expert at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
April 4th, 2:00-3:30pm
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Wendell Wallach is a consultant, ethicist, and scholar at Yale University's Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. He chairs the Center's working research group on Technology and Ethics and has been a member of other research groups on
Animal Ethics, End of Life Issues, Neuroethics and PTSD.
Wendell co-authored (with Colin Allen) Moral Machines:Teaching Robots Right From Wrong (Oxford University Press 2009), which maps the new field of enquiry variously called machine ethics, machine morality, computational morality, or friendly AI. Formerly, he was a founder and the President of two computer consulting companies, Farpoint Solutions and Omnia Consulting Inc. Among the clients served by Mr. Wallach's companies were PepsiCo International, United Aircraft, and the State of Connecticut. Wendell also serves on the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT and is an associate editor for the journal TopiCS in Cognitive Science. He a fellow of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technology, a scholar at The Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, and a visiting scholar in 2012-2013 at The Hastings Center. He is presently writing a book on the societal, ethical, and public policy challenges posed by the emerging technologies. Another book in progress explores the ways in which cogitive
science, new technologies, and introspective practices are altering our understanding of
human decision making and ethics.
When the Clean Air Dialogue Working Group needed someone to update a 14 year old report on the economic impact of the Twin Cities failing to meet EPA rules on ozone levels, they turned to Courtney Blankenheim to get the job done. It turned out to be a good fit for both the working group and the second year MS-STEP student from Madison, Wisconsin.
As an intern for the American Lung Association (ALA) she's charged with conducting public outreach activities as well as crunching data related to alternative fuels and electric vehicles. The ALA is a member of the working group, which is made up of organizations that often don't see eye to eye on air quality issues including local governments, state agencies, environmental nonprofits and corporate representatives from the power and trucking industries, among others.
With these diverse interests at the table, Courtney presented strategic options if the region were to go in "nonattainment" for ozone and fine particulate matter as a way to estimate what the potential economic impact to the region would be. With fresh data at hand, the working group agreed on draft recommendations for a final report to be released this spring.
Courtney credits the MS-STEP program for helping her strengthen her policy analysis skills as well as the skills needed to communicate results effectively. "It's been a great compliment to my undergraduate experience," she said. "I've developed more applicable skills and experiences going into the workforce."
She values the diversity of student interests in the MS-STEP program. "We're a small but dynamic bunch," states Courtney. "We have a special bond." She points to Energy & Environmental Policy with Professor Elizabeth Wilson, Science & Technology Policy with Professor Jennifer Kuzma and Survey of STEP Topics with Senior Fellow Steve Kelley and Professor Deb Swackhamer as classes that were particularly impactful.
While she's always been interested in environmental issues, it was a teacher her senior year of high school who drove home the point that, according to Courtney, "the decisions we make impact the planet." It helped convince her to explore the social sciences in concert with the hard sciences. As an undergrad Environmental Science major at the U of M, she honed her research skills one summer with the Department of Entomology as a self-described "bug farmer." "We would check traps out in the wheat and soybean fields to see what sort of insects were in the treated fields and then analyze the data to find trends," she said. "It was a good way to spend the summer!"
Courtney's only prerequisite for her professional career ahead is that it is with an organization that is "working towards a greater goal." It's clear that she's gained the skills and experiences that will make any organization lucky to have her!
The first edition of STEP IMPACT! has hit the streets. This brief newsletter will highlight the recent activities of Humphrey School Science, Technology & Environmental Policy faculty and researchers. Thank you for checking it out and we welcome your feedback.
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