A Master of Public Policy
In December 2020, having recently completed a master’s degree in public policy at UMass Amherst, Cobi Frongillo ’18, ’19G, was elected to the Franklin, Mass., Town Council. He won by a wide margin but missed the announcement of the results because he was driving voters to the polls in swirling snow.
“That was crazy,” Frongillo says, of the landslide in a snowstorm. Though he had never run a campaign before, his interest in the functioning of governments and his realization that he could have a direct impact in his hometown motivated him to seek the seat. He’s now immersed in updating Franklin’s land-use policies, with the goal of fulfilling the potential of its historic downtown.
In his full-time job, Frongillo is working to make an impact statewide as a researcher at the Massachusetts Legislative Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE). As part of the research team, he reviews all House legislation assigned to the TUE Committee. That includes summarizing the bills, meeting with experts, hosting public hearings, examining relevant literature, and making recommendations.
The committee’s current priority is offshore wind.
“We’re in the midst of a climate emergency and Massachusetts is at the forefront of mitigating climate change on a state level,” Frongillo explains. “We want to improve our competitive position in what’s going to be a massive industry across the country.”
The committee has met with a wide and varied group of offshore wind stakeholders—including those involved in workforce development, supply chain, environment and fisheries, utilities, transmission, and storage. This process culminated in a 100-page report and analysis to the Speaker of the House, including recommendations for possible legislation. Now, the committee is working on an offshore wind bill based on these recommendations.
“I get to wake up every day and have a direct impact on my state’s nation-leading effort to combat climate change—the most existential threat to our generation and generations following us. It’s rewarding, and I feel motivated to work as hard as I can because the stakes are so high,” Frongillo says.
Although he was only 23 years old when elected to the Franklin council and although his duties for the legislature are demanding, Frongillo felt well-prepared for both these challenging roles through the classes, jobs, internships, extracurricular, and research opportunities he had at UMass Amherst.
“I’m a big UMass Amherst fan and I pitch it to others,” he says. “My academics and other activities opened doors and aligned with my career.”
Frongillo received dual degrees in political science and economics and, pursuing his interests in climate and clean energy policy, earned a minor in environmental science. He was a busy undergrad, serving as a resident assistant and an active member of student government, interning at the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, conducting undergraduate research on carbon pricing, and more. He held summer internships in the offices of Congressman Joe Kennedy and Representative Jeff Roy.
He calls his master’s degree in public policy “the study of identifying problems and finding solutions to those problems.” Fittingly, his capstone project focused on Massachusetts’ municipal energy aggregation programs. His graduate internship with BW Research Partnership, which specializes in energy workforce and supply chain analyses, led to his first postgraduate job.
Frongillo looks forward to the day—hopefully very soon—when he can report for work on Beacon Hill rather than work remotely. He says, “I’m missing the hustle and bustle of the State House, how there’s always something going on in every room, the opportunities for social friction. And I’m in awe when I think of the people who have walked those halls throughout history. I’m excited to be part of it.”