Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, Vol. 91, No. 4 2015

Page 22


Accomplishments, both stunning and silly, by the alumni of tomorrow.

Taking Important Issues to Task

Jon Ross

Tech students help the CDC and other clients solve problems in the public interest. Every year, the Centers for Disease Con-

trol and Prevention (CDC) publishes landmark reports on a wide variety of topics crucial to public health. But recently, CDC administrators started to wonder how these reports were being received and how they could improve the way they disseminate them. So when Congress this year mandated the CDC to produce a study on traumatic brain injuries in children, the organization turned to a group of undergraduate students in Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy to look at how the report is disseminated and received. “The CDC wants their work to have more impact and reach a wider audience,” says Kimberley Isett, associate professor of public policy.

public policy undergraduates can concentrate in areas such as research and innovation policy, energy and environmental policy, economic development, and information and communications technology policy, but lately the Task Force teams have been fully occupied with CDC projects. This year there are two teams. The CDC charged one with creating an effective framework for report distribution and considering the impact metrics to measure how the reports are being used. Meanwhile, the CDC asked the second team to explore how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had an impact on sexual violence prevention. Isett and Hicks select the capstone

“Knowing that I am working on a real-world issue with implications beyond Georgia Tech helps me put the workload into perspective,” Renaud says. Isett, along with Professor Diana Hicks, coaches the yearlong capstone course, dubbed the Public Policy Task Force, for graduating seniors. The intensive class gives students the chance to work with clients in the government and nonprofit sectors, and contribute meaningful work that could have a real-life impact on public policy matters. Tech’s 0 2 2


projects each summer and act as mentors during the school year, but make it clear to clients that the students are the ones doing all the work. Clients aren’t getting the expertise of the professors; they’re getting the fresh insights of the next generation of public policy experts. Isett says it’s also important for Task Force clients to present work to the students that is

meaningful and important. “We want to take projects of salience to the organization,” she says, adding that clients have been thrilled with the quality of the projects over the years. Student Lauren Renaud, PP 16, is working on the ACA project exploring sexual violence prevention efforts. After identifying and analyzing the specific provisions of the healthcare act that impact sexual violence prevention, her group’s report aims to give the CDC insight about how the law has changed practice. The entire Task Force class meets for three hours on Friday mornings, and Renaud said her group puts in up to 20 hours of work outside of class each week in order to meet the project’s goals. Renaud says she enjoys the capstone and appreciates the change in class format that’s helping develop her teamwork, writing and presentation skills. “The class is very demanding, but I enjoy drawing on all the skills I have learned in my other public policy classes to complete this one project,” she says. “Knowing that I am working on a realworld issue with implications beyond Georgia Tech helps me put the workload into perspective.” Richard Barke, director of undergraduate studies at the School for Public Policy, helped create the capstone project in 2009 after a school-wide curriculum revision. “We recognized that such a project can be found in some, but not all, master’s degree programs, but we knew of none at the bachelor’s level,” Barke says. “But we understood that Tech’s public policy students are passionate about serving the