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Admissions Blog

Student Profile

Mary Collins, MPP '15

Name:  Mary Collins

Year:  Second

Policy Area of Concentration:  Energy and Agriculture Policy 

GSPP Graduation Year: 2015

Undergraduate School:  Virginia Tech


Personal History: At Virginia Tech I studied Animal Science and then worked in the small and large animal veterinary field. I became interested in animal breeding and worked at the Smithsonian National Zoo researching cheetah breeding behaviors and hormones. However, I didn’t like working in a laboratory and my myopic view of conservation. With desire to learn about the nexus of conservation and agriculture, I joined the Peace Corps. In Peace Corps Panama I worked with farmers, ran a committee that taught life skills and HIV/AIDS prevention to youth and women, and served as a Peace Corps coordinator. I came straight from Peace Corps to Goldman, which was a tough transition. 

What attracted you to GSPP? I was attracted to the small class size and community feel of Goldman, juxtaposed with the many resources and activities that UC Berkeley has to offer. You get the best of both worlds. And of course, Goldman is the #1 school for Public Policy Analysis. Academically speaking, I was interested in learning critical thinking skills, writing skills and exploring how economic incentives can solve problems.  Furthermore, I get to learn from prestigious faculty members like Nobel Prize winners, former Secretary of Labor and former Governors. 

How did you prepare for the GSPP application and admissions process? I read countless graduate school application blogs and scoured the GSPP website and blogs. 

What did you enjoy most during your time at GSPP? My classmates. They are amazing people who are passionate about solving tough problems and come from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds.  I really enjoyed the work and connections I made via student groups. With Women in Public Policy we were able to collaborate with organizations like Emerge, Ignite, and Vital Voices. In Policy Matters Journal I improved my writing skills via editing and blogging…all while eating dinner with my classmates!

What was your professional background before GSPP and what do you look to do with your degree upon graduation?  Pay off student debt? But seriously, I am interested in a number of issues. I would like to fuse my agricultural background with my new fluency in energy policy to create incentives to produce and deliver food in a more sustainable manner. I am also interested in running for political office at some point in my career. Before Goldman, I would have never raised my hand to run for office and now I have the skills, connections and confidence to do so. 

What is your favorite thing about being a student in the Bay Area?  For starters, in January it is sunny and 60 degrees out! Furthermore, I love the variety of people, things to do and great food in the Bay Area. We are close to Napa, not far from Lake Tahoe and warm beaches. Drive an hour or two and you’re on vacation, or just cross the street and watch the sunset over the Golden Gate bridge. 

In your view, what type of person will benefit from a GSPP education?  Someone who believes in getting stuff done, solving problems, and working hard. We are all here because we are passionate about making the world a better place, regardless if you are interested in education, criminal justice or international development. 

What has been your favorite class? Alternative Energy Policies and Politics with Hanna Breetz.  She was the first person to explain the history of public policy schools and gave an in-depth look at how policies are made behind the scenes. Her class has helped succeed in my work with the Center for Clean Air Policy and the American Jobs Project

Who is your favorite faculty member? Jennifer Granholm. I wasn’t familiar with her and when I heard her speak on new student admit day, I Googled her 2012 Democratic National Convention speech. I thought, “I want to work with this woman” so I took her class and built a relationship with her. I have been working with her on the American Jobs Project since last May and will continue the project until the end of Spring 2015. She always makes time for me, is down to earth yet confident, supportive, and incredibly brilliant. 

What is your best memory from GSPP? I loved hosting the GSPP talent show with Jonathan Peterson. It was a blast to see all our talented students and faculty members. I also enjoyed performing onstage in Governor Granholm’s “America’s Top Policy Modeler.” Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome was a judge and he really liked my pitch, which was pretty cool.