Category Archives: Alumni Speak

IN CONVERSATION WITH JYOTSNA

Jyotsna Sripada is a student of Masters Programme in Public Policy from the batch of 2014-16  at the National Law School of India University.

Jyotsna works as a Research Assistant for the Right to Food Team at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of Indian University, Bengaluru. She recently  started pursuing PH.D in Public Policy at National Law School of India University.

Through Lokniti, Jyotsna converses to aspiring and current students of Public Policy at the Law School on her journey. 

Tell us about your life before NLSIU. Why did you choose to pursue Public Policy?

I was pursuing my triple major bachelor degree (B.Sc in Economics, Mathematics and Statistics) in Mount Carmel College, and was very keen to pursue my higher education in the field of Public Policy. However, I wanted to take a year’s break before plunging into anything concrete. I started teaching at Friendship Foundation, a non-profit organization working towards the upliftment of intellectually challenged and underprivileged children. This one year gave me a lot of time to introspect about my field of interest, and I had developed a key passion for Food and Nutrition policy. That is when I came across the call for Masters of Public Policy at the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru. I decided to apply for it and there has been no turning back ever since.

I thoroughly enjoyed my two years here!

How did your experience at NLSIU help you find the career of your choice after Masters in Public Policy?

One of the key advantages in doing a Masters in Public Policy Course in Law School is the inter-disciplinary approach. The interface between Law and Policy is extremely important for a Public Policy Professional and I strongly believe that Law School has contributed significantly to the same.

That apart, the course gave us ample opportunities to explore our fields of interest through client-related projects and internships. I got an opportunity to work at the International Secretariat of Food Information and Action Network (FIAN), Heidelberg, Germany. This experience proved very important for me in terms of interacting with professionals across different countries and understanding Right to Food and policy from a global perspective.

Further, I had the opportunity to work as part of the World Bank for a project with the Karnataka Nutrition Mission, as a Documentation Consultant. This experience was extremely useful as it helped me understand the nuances in policy making, challenges involved in implementation at the field level, as well as the importance of constant monitoring and evaluation of policies.

Present nature of work at the current organization?

I am currently working as a Research Assistant for the Right to Food Team at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of Indian University, Bengaluru. My work profile involves planning and designing the research framework, evaluation of legal and policy frameworks, designing of tools for data collection, as well as monitoring and evaluation.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new MPP graduate(s) from NLSIU to this organization?

I would certainly look for graduates who are passionate about working on the different aspects and challenges of public policy. The candidates must keep themselves updated about the field and it’s developments. It is imperative to have a strong foothold in research methodology. Knowledge of statistical tools is a huge plus point.

What role does internship and dissertation have in securing the career of your choice?

Internships are extremely important in terms of networking and engaging with individuals who have the experience in a particular field. That apart, they play a huge role in orienting ourselves about the several components of policies-formulation, implementation, evaluation etc. These opportunities are gateways to understanding how these policies really pan out in the field level. That apart, internships aid in firming up our topics for dissertation as well.

The dissertation was an excellent experience to know further about the field of interest. I did it on the “Role of Anganwadi Centres in Preventing, Reducing and Addressing the problem of Malnutrition in Children below three-A Study in Urban and Rural Anganwadis in Bengaluru”. The study was primarily qualitative and involved a field component as well. The whole experience was significant as it brought to fore challenges associated with policy implementation. These field level insights are important to re-design policies at a formulation stage, factoring in the array of components that influence the same.

I am delighted that I am continuing my career in the same field and my dissertation helped me pursue the same.

Any concluding thoughts?

I am absolutely delighted to see how the course has developed and has engaged with students from different backgrounds. Wishing students of the future batches the very best of luck!

Jyotsna can be reached at jyotsnas@nls.ac.in

IN CONVERSATION WITH SIDDHARTH

Siddharth Sekhar Barpanda is a student of Masters Programme in Public Policy from the batch of 2014-16  at the National Law School of India University.

Siddharth is a former editor member of Lokniti. Here, he talks about his background, public policy relevance and his career.

Tell us more about your life before NLSIU. Why did you choose to pursue Public Policy?

I hail from Rourkela, an industrial city in Odisha where I also did my engineering. During this time, I used to volunteer to teach underprivileged children living in the outskirts of the city which shaped my inclination towards public policy. The poor quality of education being provided to the marginalised children in the neighbourhood government schools infuriated me. I realised there is a need to address the structural issues associated with primary education sector in India and this inspired me to join a think-tank, Foundation for Democratic Reforms in Hyderabad. Under the guidance of Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, former IAS officer and an MLA, I contributed to the organisation’s proposal to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Also, I became interested in Indian polity and governance during my one year association with the foundation. To acquire a strong background in the subjects of law and economics, I decided to pursue an advance degree in Public Policy and that brought me to NLSIU.

How did your experience at NLSIU help you find the career of your choice after Masters in Public Policy?

The strong pedagogy of the MPP course at NLS was exhausting at times but nonetheless stimulating. There is a perfect combination of classroom lectures with out-of-classroom engagements which allows the participants to identify their interest areas and learn about ground realities. The peers coming from diverse backgrounds adds to the learning experience, especially on how to negotiate with stakeholders maintaining different opinions and reach to a common agreement. The MPP course improved my research and writing skills and sharpened my analytical abilities.

Present nature of work at the current organization?

I am presently working as a Policy Analyst in the Office of Member of Parliament, Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar. My job entails providing background research to the lawmaker in the form of policy briefs and undertaking stakeholder engagements to advocate reforms.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new MPP graduate(s) from NLSIU to this organization?

An aptitude for wide choice of reading, analyzing and writing on policy matters is essential in this industry. Along with that, knowledge of data analysis, strong verbal communication and a knack for identifying issues that requires lawmakers’ attention will make you an ideal candidate.

What role does internship and dissertation have in securing the career of your choice?

Internships are the best way of finding your career interests. Public Policy graduates are hired by government bodies, private corporations, non-governmental organisations and research institutes. Based on the policy subject, your work profile and other considerations, such as remuneration, location, etc., one should aim for internship at the set-up where you want to work post MPP. Dissertation will strengthen your research and writing skills and will be of much help in getting the preferred internship/job as well.

Any concluding thoughts?

All work and no play makes one dull. So, along with fulfilling all the course requirements and pursuing career objectives, make some time for extracurricular activities. Play sport, watch movies, go out and explore new places, participate in group activities. Cultivating leadership qualities is a necessity in the modern world and for that, one needs to take initiative and engage in social clubs and associations. Serving in the edit board of Lokniti and representing the course in a dialogue with the UGC and MHRD were valuable experiences for me both professionally and personally. Understanding policy is important but so is understanding the public, for whom the policy is intended. I wish you enjoy your time with MPP@NLS!  

Siddharth can be reached at ssbarpanda@nls.ac.in

Interactive Session with Ms. Amrutha Jose Pampackal

NAKUL SHARMA

Ms. Amrutha Jose Pampackal from the first batch of Master’s Programme in Public Policy (MPP) had an interactive session with the participants of MPP on July 12th, 2017. Amrutha (in the centre of the group photo) is currently working with IFPRI based in Delhi and she can be reached at amruthajpl@nls.ac.in.

Ms. Pampackal graduated in B.A. (Honours) English from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi before joining the MPP course at National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru. Being part of the first batch of MPP, she had a very unique perspective to share. She is currently working in the capacity of Research Assistant in Poverty Health Division at International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Her current research work involves studying the trends of stunting, malnutrition, over-nutrition among children in Karnataka in comparison with national-level statistics. This involves research that collects quantitative information from governmental and non-governmental sources, analyzes and simplifies these numbers for a wider audience including politicians and bureaucrats.

She also discussed about her Master’s dissertation work on ‘Role of bureaucratic behavior in determining policy outcomes – A study of tribal resettlement and development mission (TRDM), Kerala’. As part of her dissertation study, she did extensive field work in the tribal region of Wayanad of Kerala. She recalled the difficulties she had in getting access to basic information on local schemes and welfare data from bureaucrats, and how only she could get the necessary data for her research only after following endless procedures for days at length. She adds that it was this experience in Kerala that influenced her decision to take up social sciences research.

She plans to do her PhD in Social Policy from the United States in near future, and briefed us about the process involved in finding the suitable university for research domains one wants to research in. She also cautioned against doing PhD without giving a proper thought on whether one is deeply and truly interested in research. Lastly, she mentioned about some important peer-reviewed journals like Economic and Political Weekly which one should continuously follow for recent developments. In addition to that, she also highlighted the importance of reading a newspaper every day to stay up-to-date. The session ended on a lighter note and a group photograph.

The students of MPP at National Law School of India University wish her good luck for her future endeavours, and look forward to many more opportunities of interaction with her.

(Nakul Sharma is pursuing the Master’s Programme in Public Policy at National Law School of India University and is in the 2017-2019 batch. He can be reached at nakulsharma@nls.ac.in)

IN CONVERSATION WITH SHARADA S.

 

Sharada S. is a student of Masters Programme in Public Policy from the batch of 2014-16  at the National Law School of India University.

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Sharada is presently a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition.

Tell us more about your life before NLSIU. Why did you choose to pursue Public Policy?

I have a background in Electrical and Electronics engineering. As an undergraduate student, I developed a passion for parliamentary debating and enjoyed reading outside of engineering more than engineering-related academic papers. Furthermore, I was most fascinated by nanotechnology and embedded systems and research in these fields were highly technical career tracks that had relatively fewer and narrower options within the country. I always wanted to work where I could have a more direct connect with public issues. Debating was instrumental in shaping my perspective and sharpened my interest in philosophy and politics. I did not, however, want to dwell in the realm of theory, and public policy bridged the gap between the realms of abstract theorising and real world action. Before I pursued the Master’s course here, I did Takshashila Institution’s Graduate Certificate in Public Policy, which helped me solidify my intent in pursuing a career in this discipline.

How did your experience at NLSIU help you find the career of your choice after Masters in Public Policy?

Different parts of the programme allowed me to hone my career choices. I love how NLS has been the level of support for experimentation with new areas of interest, and the flexibility and accommodation for my wide range of extra-curricular pursuits (including at least a dozen parliamentary debates, two Internet governance fellowships and a summer school).

Fieldwork was the first step in a transformative journey. The stories of the people made a lasting impact. I met a deeply influential woman whose name is Rekha. She’s a 21-year-old, with a blind mother and a 2-year-old son, who divorced her alcoholic and abusive husband and decided to take her life into her own hands.

She wanted to talk to me about scholarships so she could go to college. Despite social censure from her village, she was determined to be a teacher, and I was able to help her to access government scholarship sites. It was the first time that the power of the Internet struck me, I realised how it can improve educational outcomes for those less privileged. Since then I have wanted to work to proliferate its access to communities. I met so many Muslim communities where girls were not allowed to study beyond fifth grade, but nearly all of these people used phones of some kind. I couldn’t think of ways to change the structures that subjugate them, but I did think that making information accessible could help drastically. I don’t know if I can negotiate with patriarchs and leaders who wouldn’t give me a time of the day because I had a loud voice and an uncovered head. But these kids, they all loved seeing things on my phone or my laptop and were so genuinely inquisitive and quick on the uptake with technology. It made me believe that policies towards internet access and programmes are more effective than top-down laws that made education compulsory. I went to “schools” which had 1 teacher for 300 students and kids who were “educated till tenth” but couldn’t string four words to a sentence in English. I now worry whether we have the capacity or the manpower to change education systems without a drastic infusion of technology.

My research methods class in the third trimester afforded me the opportunity to present preliminary ideas on Internet policy, and receive incredible feedback from Professor Jayaram and my classmates, which shaped the course of my dissertation significantly. It teaches you how to go from a problem statement to a hypothesis to an overview of various methods to test that hypothesis and how and where to use them – and I use this at my workplace, in determining the scope of my study at times, or in deciding whether to pursue a new research paper idea at other times.

I also applied to the European summer school on Internet Governance in this trimester. I applied because I didn’t have many resources in India to learn about Internet governance. I went to Meissen in Germany for the summer school in July. It was a week long summer school, with 15 hour work days. Every expert that did a session covered a new area. I learned about cyber-security, GTLDs, ICANN, IANA transition and Internet rights. Nearly every area of Internet policy was taught by those at the forefront of policy making and negotiation in the global arena.

I came back equipped with knowledge and spent time researching what I wanted to do on my next break and working on my proposal

In September last year, I applied for the Amazon Fellowship for the Internet Governance Forum. The fellowship covers a trip to the IGF and has a requirement of research output based on the IGF. I was one among the four that were accepted and was immensely grateful for the opportunity.

At the IGF, I attended panels on zero rating, the subject of my Master’s dissertation. I asked questions of experts and briefed myself with ongoing research. I conducted interviews with stakeholders, attended networking events and gained a lot of knowledge on a contemporary subject area in Internet policy.

Of course, the internship and dissertation mattered immensely, but I answer that below separately.

Present nature of work at the current organisation?

I’m a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition. I work on a project called 1 World Connected, which looks at innovative ways of connecting the unconnected (1worldconnected.org). We catalogue case studies of all last-mile connectivity initiatives that are underway across the world. I conduct interviews with stakeholders to develop case studies, engage with governments and ministries, present my work at conferences, write routine reports for our supporters, and liaise with a public affairs and media team to improve outreach of our project’s work.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new MPP graduate(s) from NLSIU to this organisation?

I would look for candidates with strong writing and communication skills, good quantitative analytical abilities, and a demonstrated interest in Internet policy issues. Knowledge of networks and telecom engineering would be very useful. The work I do relies on self-starters and highly motivated individuals that can be creative, so I guess that’s something I’d look for.

What role do internship and dissertation have in securing the career of your choice?

I’d applied for the GPPi, Berlin internship while doing my fellowship, and was screened by a three-step process. Work at GPPi is as rewarding as you make it to be. We have a library and multiple IdeaLabs that are internal discussions to brainstorm ideas. A day at work ideally involves a research task, and freedom to structure your day a little around your own personal research interests. The first month was primarily cyber security capacity building, the latter half was primarily encryption policies. It fed into their ongoing research projects as well as a dialogue program that they were organising over the course of 2016.

At the internship, I got to do a wide range of things. From writing brief research memos to making presentations to preparing questions for panel discussions, to just brainstorming ideas for pitches, to sitting through meetings to take minutes and meeting newer ones. That’s what I liked about it because every day was a challenge in something new.

I wrote my dissertation in the realm of Internet policy as well, which was useful while having a conversation with my professor on my current research project. I think the emphasis on the dissertation is more if you intend to get into a more research-oriented field, and less if you’re applying for traditional corporate positions.

Any concluding thoughts?

Take initiative. I think the thing that goes unsaid in a lot of these conversations is the fact that personal drive and initiative play an immense role in deriving value out of the MPP. You will not find a more conducive environment or a more supportive staff for your research endeavours.

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Sharada can be reached at,

Email: sharadas@nls.ac.in

IN CONVERSATION WITH DEEPA K. S.

 

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Deepa K. S. is a student of Masters Programme in Public Policy from the batch of 2014-16 at the National Law School of India University.

Deepa is a writer, researcher, playwright and a poet. She is also an active blogger. She has published in the Anthology of Short Stories and Poems by the British Council, Voices Israel and has contributed to Kritya, Muse India, Word Riot, Reading Hour, Indian Literature, Vayavya, Dialogue, Auto Didact, Cyclamens and Swords and Voicesnet Poetry. Her first book of poetry, ‘Turning Thirty and Other Poems’ was published by Authorspress, New Delhi, in October 2016.

Tell us about your life before NLSIU. Why did you choose to pursue Public Policy?

I did my Bachelor’s in Biology, Master’s in English Literature and was working as the Editor of an art and culture magazine that I had founded along with an extremely enterprising team. The magazine was called ‘Dialogue’ and it was supported by writers, photographers and artists from India and France. I was based out of the Indian office in Puducherry. While I was writing and editing articles, India’s development was always an issue of central interest which elicited artistic and political responses. The need to make sense of the problems facing the country was compelling. That was when I came across the call for applications for this new course on Public Policy that was offered by National Law School. I applied without a second thought- this was exactly the kind of multidisciplinary course that I was looking for.

How did your experience at NLSIU help you find the career of your choice after a Masters in Public Policy?

I always wanted to get back to school and finish my studies while I was working with my magazine. My heart was in academics when I was writing and editing. I joined the Public Policy course with the intention of moving towards research and teaching. NLS helped me move towards my goal in three distinct ways: The course curriculum and teaching involved research subjects with the dissertation as a core component. We had research methods, mathematical modelling for policy analysis besides courses in economics, political science, law and of course, public policy. I had ample time to study and further develop my writing skills as well as the application of research methods. The teachers were inspiring and the debates and discussions in class were the best part of it. I have a lot to thank my batch mates for! Secondly, there was a component of field research where I spent a month looking at how a policy worked on the ground. This experience brought me closer to reality, teaching me the practical side of a policy as it was alive and experienced by people. There is a lot of difference between policy as a text and policy as a lived experience. Finally, NLS was one place where I could be a dreamer and not be faulted for it – the teachers and especially my batch mates brought in a lot of commitment and idealism to work. I had the most inspiring team at school…

I have been accepted as a research scholar at the University of Cambridge. NLS was the most important step that has helped me reach so far.

What is the nature of work at the current organisation you are working for?

I am currently working with South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE). It is an organisation that allows for a platform of politics by the civil society, policy advocates and academics from eight South Asian countries. The core focus of the organisation is to bring out the experience of development in South Asia through the voice of its people. SAAPE does it uniquely by bringing out a people’s report of development in South Asia once in three years. I am presently a part of the editorial team that is bringing out the SAAPE report 2016.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new MPP graduate(s) from NLSIU to this organisation?

A person who aspires to work with SAAPE should have a deep commitment to issues of development, genuine interest in narratives of the South Asian people and respect for democratic means of expressing them. There is plenty of opportunities to learn and grow with a dedicated team of campaigners, activists and academics.

What role do internship and dissertation have in securing the career of your choice?

I wanted to go for research in public policy with a specialisation in development. For this, I had to get training in oral and written communication, introduction to thinkers and intellectuals in the field of my choice and exposure to the academic setting of deep solitude punctuated by debates and discussions with a supervisor. I received this twice over during the course of work!  My internship was with Prof G. Raghuram of IIM Ahmedabad was both intense and exciting. The internship resulted in a working paper where we traced the policy process of GST that is still relevant in India today. The second experience was during my dissertation that I worked under Prof Sony Pellissery where I examined land policy and its politics in India which is also coming out as a publication by this year end.

Any concluding thoughts?

If I could talk to the current and prospective students of MPP, I would like to tell them that academics is an exciting field to pursue after their coursework. Unfortunately, the best among us are not taking up research for a varied number of reasons. In a country like India, there are a lot of issues to be understood contextually in the policy realm; it is a nascent field and there is a lot to explore. We have a great opportunity here to bring the issues from India from an Indian point of understanding and through the prism of public policy. The best of minds have an exciting discipline waiting for them. Academic work is long and a lot of hard work is required to read, write and understand but what is life without a challenge? In what other fields can you keep thinking and contributing ideas that make a difference to this world that you live in? So I would tell the future students of MPP- let’s bring academics back to business! 

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Deepa can be reached at,

Email: deepaks@nls.ac.in

Blog: thehouseofbooks.blogspot.in