Policy Researcher, Westat
Tell us about your current job:
I am part of the Health Studies team at Westat, a social policy research organization based in Rockville, MD. I work on a handful of research and program evaluation projects, on topics ranging from school meal programs to nutrition incentives offered at farmers markets to workforce development. Federal, State, and local governments, as well as private companies and foundations, have questions about their programs and systems (e.g., SNAP/food stamps, Medicaid, foster care, child care) and where they can improve. To answer those questions they hire companies like Westat to conduct surveys, interviews, and other data collection and analysis activities. In my role I’m paid to ask questions and to learn. I survey and interview people to understand how a program works (or doesn’t work), what challenges have arisen, and what can be improved. In the end, the hope is that the results of our work are used to make improvements to those programs so they can operate effectively and efficiently.
What inspired you to pursue an MPH or MS in your area of specialization?
I returned to school for additional training in research methods that I knew I would use in my career. The Health Services, Management, and Policy concentration was a natural fit for me given my policy background and career path.
What drew you to the Tufts' Program?
Tufts had a number of practical skill-building classes that appealed to me. I wanted greater training in survey methods, SAS, and statistical analysis. I prioritized those courses over more content-based classes, because I wanted to re-enter the job market with a greater breadth of skills. I also valued the smaller class size. I felt like a number in a system at some schools I visited, and I wanted a more personal experience with the other students and instructors.
How did your Tufts degree help prepare you to work in the field (or what were the highlights of your Program)?
Those skill-building courses were essential to me. I was primarily a qualitative researcher before I began the program. I left the program with the training to conduct surveys and perform some quantitative data analysis, both of which are critical in my field.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Three pieces of advice: 1) taking practical, skills-based courses can help you become more marketable when you’re looking for work; 2) cross-registering at other schools within Tufts opens up interesting and valuable learning opportunities; and 3) befriend your classmates!