The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Puja Minni

Headshot of Puja Minni
Independent Researcher

Degree & graduation year: Masters in Public Policy and Administration 2010

What I do: From August 2012 till July 2019, I worked as a full-time researcher for a policy-advocacy research organization called Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) in Bangalore, India. I worked on research projects related to various aspects of education. Some of the work included looking at teacher management for better education quality, aspects related to the right to education in India, education expenditure by the government, technology and education interplay, and open and distance learning in secondary education. For the last year, I have been using my past projects to work on research publications.

How I ended up working there: I taught economics to undergrad students for a year before I joined CBPS. I was keen on shifting to research and more public policy-oriented work.

The best part of my job: I get to do meaningful research, supplementing my knowledge with fieldwork experience, and interact with others working on similar aspects.

A recent exciting work experience: I published my first co-authored book, Open and Distance Learning in Secondary Education in India, with Routledge Publications. Despite various other publications, this has, by far, been the most exciting work I’ve done.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: The School of Public Policy equipped me with various skills which have helped me consistently in my career. Understanding qualitative data and its importance in the world of quantitative data was one of the most critical skills I picked during my course work. Although I had a master’s in economics prior to my MPPA degree, the mandatory first-semester economics class helped me look at basic economic terms in a whole new way. Comparing public policies is critical to developing a holistic policy approach. This was a skill I picked up in another course. Apart from coursework, the multi-country class that I was part of helped me understand issues and policy crunches that exist around the world. It also helped me develop global friendships and not judge citizens of any country based on the policy of their national governments.

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: When I decided to pursue a public policy course, I wanted to change the world. However, reality hits you when you start practicing: The world doesn’t change overnight, it doesn’t change by one person, and it doesn’t want to change its inefficient systems (economic and social) that are already in place. But that doesn’t and shouldn’t stop one from trying to make continuous efforts in trying to make small changes which would eventually lead to a big change for a small sub-section of the world. One of the small changes that made me feel elevated was when, after meticulous research, the state government decided to accept and implement our basic suggestion on centralizing a process to avoid duplication and reduce workload while retaining the decentralized approach by delegating work to different wards in the city. This was my “hurray” moment, and it felt that I, too, can make a difference.

Future plans: I have been debating whether to pursue a PhD in public policy for some time now. However, I do plan to start teaching public policy courses in Bangalore as a guest faculty till the time I can decide between a PhD or a full-time job. Meanwhile, I have stacked up ideas for a few publications that I need to work on.