Lavan ’23 Named PPIA Junior Summer Institute FellowThe rigorous fellowship in public policy brings together scholars from around the globe to tackle real-world problems at a graduate level.
Posted on July 27th, 2022 by

Gabby Lavan '23

This summer, senior peace, justice, and conflict studies major Gabby Lavan ’23 is developing her passion for public service as a Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute Fellow

The fully-funded fellowship program brings undergraduates from around the world to six participating schools in the United States for graduate-level study of major public policy issues, ranging from community safety to climate change. Through classes, guest speakers, and capstone research projects, the program works to prepare the next generation of public policy experts, with an emphasis on scholars from backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in the field.

Lavan’s cohort at the University of Washington consists of 16 students from Seattle to St. Petersburg, an aspect of her learning experience she’s found particularly valuable. “I feel like the nature of public policy in addressing issues in the public domain needs knowledge that goes beyond the classroom,” she explained. “The members of my cohort have such widespread life experience that it translates into our policy analysis. It’s taught me a lot in terms of perspective.”

Outside the classroom, where Lavan studies a range of topics from policy analysis to community engagement, she meets with Seattle-based alumni of the fellowship to get a glimpse of public policy in action, as well as advice for how to follow in their footsteps. “What I’ve heard from everyone is that you will drive yourself crazy trying to fix every single problem,” she said. “Being intentional about the direction you’re taking and how you’re using time is key to solving these issues.”

Amid a range of public policy issues, Lavan and three others from her cohort are focusing their capstone research project on improving conditions for migrant farm workers. The group hopes to raise awareness about labor rights and worker protections within marginalized communities.

Throughout the program, Lavan has been exposed to guest speakers across the public and private sector, all with a focus on public service. “With this fellowship, I’m interacting with so many experts who have much more education and experience than me, but my time at Gustavus has made me comfortable with that,” said Lavan. “I think something so key about Gustavus is having such a close relationship with administrators and professors, compared to sitting in a classroom of 800 people listening to a TA.”

Without a close relationship with faculty, Lavan might never have discovered the fellowship. “Professor Leitch in the political science department emailed me about the program, saying, ‘I think you’d be really great for this.’ I felt honored that he would even think to send it to me.”

The program has inspired Lavan to look for additional post-graduate fellowships before pursuing a master’s degree in public policy or public administration. Regardless of her future specialization, studying a broad range of subjects through the liberal arts has given her the tools to ask questions, think critically, and adapt to the ever-changing world of public policy.

“The liberal arts perspective keeps you from being stuck in one pattern of thinking,” said Lavan. “I think in order to ‘make your life count’ like the Gustavus motto, you need to think outside the box. And that’s exactly the nature of public policy.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


Comments are closed.