WWS Blog

Mid-career Musings

Mar 31, 2014
Published by:
Elin Burns, MPP '14
MPP students bowling

“So what are you doing next?”…

It’s the dreaded question that looms as you’re nearing the end of a diplomatic posting. After 7 years working across three UK government departments in two countries, I realized that I wanted a new challenge. Busy jobs had left me little time to think strategically about what I'd learned, what I wanted from my career, and what I might do next.

With this in mind, I applied to the MPP program (designed specifically for mid-career students). And I was lucky enough to be selected as part of the 20-strong class of 2014.

After spending a sunny April weekend in Princeton (WWS holds a hosting weekend for newly-admitted students), I was convinced. And I haven’t regretted my decision to take up the place for a moment since.

We began the program with a six-week bootcamp to prepare us for the rigors of academic life, giving us a grounding in economics and statistics. Whilst it was daunting to dust off my (admittedly rusty) quantitative skills, it was definitely time well spent.

Beyond the blackboard, we got to know each other as a group. Our cohort has a fantastic mix of experience: from physicians to philanthropists, scientists to soldiers, we span the range of public service in the US and internationally. I’ve learned just as much (if not more) from conversations with other MPPs as I have in class - they are unfailingly inspiring, and refreshingly grounded despite their amazing track records.

When it comes to the classroom, a big advantage of the MPP program is that it’s individually tailored. I’ve taken courses in everything from social psychology and financial management to international economics. Classes are pretty small, and professors accessible – which sets WWS apart from many other programs.

Outside the classroom, we've done everything from bowling to baseball games (which, as an international student, is an essential part of my cultural education!), barbecues, happy hours, and museums. Princeton also attracts a stellar cast of speakers on every possible topic - there's always a stimulating discussion going on somewhere. It's been fantastic to be surrounded by such a motivated bunch of students and faculty, all dedicated to the school's motto: 'In the nation's service, and in the service of all nations'.

As for what’s next, I am still firmly committed to continuing my career in public service after graduating in June. And I'll do so with greater understanding of a diverse range of public policy challenges, and a wonderful network of  colleagues (and more importantly, friends). As to specifics, it's a case of watch this space...

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