Student Spotlight: Madhurita Sengupta, MPA ’13
This is the first post in our weekly Student Spotlight series, in which we sit down with current students and ask five questions about their life prior, during, and after attending the Woodrow Wilson School.
Madi Sengupta, MPA ’13
Field: I, International Relations
Hometown: Houston, TX
Alma Mater: University of Texas, Austin ’07
What did you do before studying at the Woodrow Wilson School?
Prior to WWS, I worked at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as a Space Station Robotics Instructor – essentially, my task was to learn how the robotic arm on the International Space Station works and how to operate it, and then train astronauts to use the robotic arm to complete tasks for their missions.
Why did you choose the Wilson School?
In 2010, NASA was effectively given a directive that changed the agency’s mission and direction rather significantly. I saw the effects this policy shift had on various levels of the organization, but couldn’t really understand what was driving the policy change itself. The more I researched, the more I realized how little I knew about what influences policy and how it gets developed and implemented. And it was clear that there existed a serious divide between the technical and policymaking communities when it came to formulating science and technology policy. This led me to deciding I wanted to contribute to bridging that gap and pursue a public policy degree, and after reading up on WWS, talking to a few alums, and visiting, I knew it was the right fit for me.
What are your academic interests, and how do they relate to the work you want to do?
During my time at WWS, I’ve focused mainly on understanding the nexus between foreign and domestic policy, as well as bureaucratic organizational processes. The coursework I’ve completed has given me a broad understanding of how the policy world works and how the tools available to policymakers can be specifically applied to closing the divide that exists between the policy and science and technology communities. I hope to take the skills I’ve acquired during my time here to help make science and technology (specifically space) policy that’s technically, politically, and economically sound.
What are your plans for after you graduate?
Though I’m not sure exactly where I will be post-graduation, I hope to be in a position to influence the formulation and implementation of space policy that integrates both the newly emerging commercial space industry and future international endeavors, with the best practices of the organization responsible for getting man on the moon.
What’s the most memorable thing you’ve done while at WWS?
One of the most amazing parts about WWS is the community – coming from an undergrad institution of 52,000 people, I didn’t quite know what to expect enrolling in a program with a class size of 70. But I can honestly say I’ve made some of the best friends who’ve significantly contributed to me growing as a person over the last year and a half. To that end, I think the most memorable thing I’ve done at WWS has been taking a trip with 33 of my classmates to the Caribbean for our semester break. It was a great way to get to know people and explore a part of the globe I hadn’t taken the time out to visit before…and get some R&R in before the grueling last semester started!