Skip navigation

Institute for Public Policy Studies


Institute for Public Policy Studies

Alumni Spotlight

A Closer Look at Opportunities in Public Policy - Economic Policy with the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget

On a brisk, sunny, January morning, I sat down with two members of the Governor's Office of State Planning and Budget, both of whom graduated from DU's Master of Public Policy program.

Name: Alice Wheetwheet
Job Title: Budget and Policy Analyst
Graduate Degree & Year: MPP 2012; MSW 2012
Undergraduate Institution, Degree, & Year: University of South Carolina, B.A. Spanish, Sociology, 2008
Hails From: Maryland
Favorite Hobby: Yoga

schrockName: Jason Schrock
Job Title: Chief Economist
Graduate Degree & Year: MPP 2001
Undergraduate Institution, Degree, & Year: University of Colorado-Denver, B.A. Sociology, 1997
Hails From: Denver
Favorite Hobby: Reading, Snowboarding, Spending time with kids

When did you first realize you had an interest in economic policy?
Alice: While I don't think I thought of it as "economic" policy, I suppose during undergrad, I started to have an interest in tax policy and how we fund and structure public programs, particularly social programs. So the Governor's budget office seemed like a good fit for me based on those interests.

Jason: During my undergraduate years at UC-Denver, I started getting more interested in how the world works, and different perspectives on how it works. I liked thinking about policy on how to move things, and then analyzing the implications of those policies.

Why is economic policy so important?
Alice: As someone who works for the budget office, I certainly appreciate its significance. If there isn't funding for an initiative, it's not going to move forward. Of course, there's a lot of politics behind the budgeting process, since the budget is really the backbone of the laws we pass and in some ways it determines how the government runs. Economic policy affects everyone; there are all these global macroeconomic concepts, but it affects everyone in their daily lives as well, including the most vulnerable people. We can promote or hinder self-sufficiency and the economic well-being of individuals based on policy decisions, how we bring in revenue, and how we allocate resources.

Jason: I think the economic policy filter is important for people trying to think through policies in a more complete way. The world is so complex and policy decisions often have unintended consequences. There are both seen and unseen impacts of economic policy and hidden costs of those impacts that aren't always obvious. Economic policy provides a way to think of all policy in terms of trade-offs; there aren't always straightforward solutions.

Tell me a little bit about what you do at the Governor's office.
Alice: I'm a budget analyst, so one of the main functions of my job is to review funding requests that state departments submit for the fiscal year. Then based on my assessment, I make recommendations to leaders of the office, who then advise Governor Hickenlooper. Depending on the year, sometimes I have a role in those meetings. Our office also looks at the statewide picture and puts the Governor's budget together in a coherent way; balancing spending and competing priorities from 17 executive agencies with available revenue. We also track the work of the Joint Budget Committee at the Capitol and defend our budget requests to the General Assembly.

Jason: I'm mainly responsible for the quarterly economic and revenue forecast for the state, which is used to inform the governor and policymakers of the condition of the economy and its implications for the state budget. I also analyze legislation and proposals policymakers are thinking about. I find out what the implications are pertaining to revenue to the state, and any economic implications.

How do you feel DU's MPP program prepared you for the type of challenges you face at work?
Alice: I learned to look at public policy through different lenses—economic, political, social, business—and other different perspectives. The quantitative sequence and the class on public budgeting and management were huge in preparing me for this kind of work.

Jason: It helped develop my critical thinking and writing skills, which are huge for this job. Thanks to DU, I'm able to think more fully about the things I'm analyzing and apply various filters when looking at all of the variables that I have to sift through, as well as the fiscal policy implications. My statistics and economics courses helped as well.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you ever think you might transition to a different type of policy?
Alice: I get to work in many different policy areas now based on what's happening in my assigned departments. And there are certainly many opportunities to explore different areas of policy when I move on from here. I could see myself doing more work in health or human services as I have a lot of interests from my Master of Social Work degree. There's potential for research, advocacy or lobbying; working on issues that affect communities and individuals who don't necessarily have a strong voice in the system. Or working on programs directly from a management perspective. Regardless, I'd like to continue working for the state; and I know my experience in budget will help me even if I do change policy focus.

Jason: I think I'll be doing something similar to what I do now, as long as I get to keep thinking about the world as I wanted to when I was an undergrad! I certainly will be trying to do something meaningful, something that move things forward and makes the world a better place. I want to use the skills I've learned from the amalgamation of my experience and education to understand the practical implications of policy and how it's enacted. My background will help me to get involved with drafting good policy. If I had to move, I could see myself working in education policy. We need a revolution in that area, and I wouldn't mind being a part of it.

What advice would you give to current MPP students?
Alice: Be open to all the opportunities you have. Engage and learn through your classes because you might end up liking something you didn't think you would, like budgeting! Don't sweat your mistakes or your hiccups; just figure out what you can take away from them, because you probably won't remember them in a few years. And definitely do an internship!

Jason: Try a lot of different things to find what you're interested in and good at. Explore all of your opportunities. Even if you fail, you never know where it'll lead. Get out and do things! Get involved with different groups and network with different types of people, that's where your opportunities will come from. I agree with Alice that an internship is critical for any serious policy student! Also, never stop learning, seeking the truth, and building your skills. But when you're not being so serious, go to the DU hockey games!

Interview and article by MPP Student, Nicholas Schwartz

Scarlett Jimenez - Biennial of the Americas Internship Experience

Biennial of the Americas - Scarlett

This summer, one of IPPS’ own, Scarlett Jimenez, spent the summer fulfilling an internship with the Biennial of the Americas. There she helped organize the opening week ceremonies and month long event that connects business, art, culture, and civic leaders from throughout the Americas by building lasting relationships, addressing shared issues, and inspiring action.

 Going in to the internship, she said she would be learning critical research and communication skills. Now that she’s finished, there were other skills that she hadn’t anticipated using. “I didn’t expect to use my background in public policy so heavily. In the earlier months of my internship, I was researching different individuals and organizations from across the Americas who were breaking ground in different issues areas such as energy and public health. It was overwhelming at first to have to go through so many unique organizations from distinct places and then have to make a judgment call on who to recommend to invite to the Biennial. I found my background in public policy issues incredibly helpful, as well as skills in critical analysis, research, and organization,” Jimenez reflected.

The position was certainly filled with its share of valuable experiences, but when asked which experience was the most rewarding, she replied, “[It] had to be the opening week of the Biennial, when I was able to witness the culmination of all the hard work of an amazing team. It was almost surreal to meet all the people I had read about and communicated with for last 3 months. The speakers, presentations and the discussions were all so meaningful that it really made all the work feel worth it.”

Scarlett highly recommends the internship to other students “It was a lot of hard work but an incredibly fun and rewarding internship. The Biennial hosts its festival of ideas, arts, and culture ever two years in Denver. In the off years in between, the organization goes abroad to host a smaller conference in another country of the Americas. Students of public policy should definitely look out for those opportunities!”

What’s her advice to future students, you ask? “Never be intimidated by an internship. The application and interview process can be daunting. Even once you’re in, the idea of dedicating yourself full-time to an organization can be intimidating. But, I think it’s important and completely worth it to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to experience something new and useful.”

 Scarlett is currently studying abroad in Rennes, France.

 Health Care Policy - with Aubrey Hill

Aubrey Hill MPPAubrey Hill, MPP 2010 is the Director of Health Systems Change at the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved (CCMU). Aubrey became interested in healthcare policy when she realized that health is the essence of  empowering people live their fullest lives. Knowing that she wanted a career that would help people improve their health Aubrey debated between law school and social work, ultimately deciding on public policy because it seemed to offer the best chance to influence the entire population and health care system. Aubrey notes that it is not just “legislation, politics, and policy that tell the whole story of healthcare” her role at CCMU has shown the importance of health care access, implementation, compliance, and bringing stakeholders together to work toward a health system that works for everyone.

When she began her master’s at DU Aubrey thought she wanted to focus more on international policy but after a public policy internship at the National MS Society CO-WY Chapter she found the dynamics of state level policy and the effective impacts on policy at the state level more fascinating than expected. Additionally, there seemed to be more direct relationship with the decisions that state and local governments make with the impact on people’s lives. Even though policy can influence on a statewide level what the health care system looks like, we can’t achieve that without truly engaging local communities as they have unique systems, resources, and cultures. Joining CCMU, she was able to work on state related health system change by engaging stakeholders at the community level which informs how policy is made and changed.  After being at CCMU for four years Aubrey has turned her passion for health care policy into a great career being able to co-lead on the Medicaid expansion, access to health care issues, and workforce issues all aimed at making Colorado’s health system work better.

 Aubrey’s takeaway and advice for policy newcomers is that anytime you are working on a project “you need to recognize the importance of collaboration and building strong relationships which will make your approach to the policy issue stronger and better. This is critical because the policy world is so small, so the relationships you make in the beginning will be the relationships you’ll need later.” So keep on building your relationships because you never know when you will need to use them!

An Interview with Christine Staberg, Founding Partner of The Capstone Group LLC 

Christine Staberg is one of the founding partners of The Capstone Group, a full service publicChristine Stabergaffairs and government relations firm based in Denver,  and an alumni of the Public Policy department.

David Rogowski, a current MPP student,  spoke with Christine to better understand how her background in policy has helped play a role in her current life.  

When did you first know you wanted to be involved in politics and policy?

I was hooked on politics and policy starting in 9th grade when I took Civics.  All of the concepts were fascinating to me and I knew that was what I wanted to be involved with in the future.  I was so convinced I began using my full name and straightened my act out.  I applied to numerous policy programs and chose DU.

How did you get your start in the policy world?

During the spring of freshman year I applied for an internship with a lobbying group and when I completed the internship they hired me on as full-time staff.  I may not have told them I was only 19 and still had three more years of course work left.  I mentioned I had a few classes to finish up when they asked.  I would do school work in the morning and my lobbying work in the afternoon, eventually I completed my degree majoring in Contemporary Public Affairs and Political Science and went to work full time with the company I had been working for.  I have been fortunate enough to continue to work in the lobbying and policy arena ever since.  

As a lobbyist, what do you feel the most important aspects of your job are?

Our job is to create a marriage between policy and politics and I feel that this is the way to make an impact for a large number of people in areas that our team is passionate about.  Without this marriage between policy and politics, there can be an endless gridlock. Accomplishing this requires a great deal of tact and knowledge of the issues and people that are involved in the process. It is important to remember that we are rarely experts on any issue, that is what our clients are, nor are we politicians, but we have to learn how the politicians think and operate to be successful in accomplishing our goals.  

How has working in policy allowed you to pursue your own personal passions?

Personally, it has allowed me to work in policy dealing with pediatric and children's health care.  I previously worked with the Colorado Children's Campaign and The Children's Hospital where eventually that hospital became known as one of the voices for children's health and served as a national model for other institutions.  Working in the lobbying field has allowed me to take my passion for those issues and implement that passion in a way that is impactful and useful. 

What is one major takeaway that you have from working in the policy field?

If you are willing to work hard and put in many hours, and do both of these with integrity, there is quite a bit of good that can be accomplished.  

The Capstone Group frequently hires interns from the Master of Public Policy program at the University of Denver. Students gain valuable experience through a strong mentoring relationship and hands on experience in the legislative process. The Institute for Public Policy Studies is deeply appreciative for the partnership with The Capstone Group and other internship host sites.

IPPS Student, Ryan Carson, Receives Fulbright Summer Institute in UK

Ryan Carson FulbrightRyan Carson has been selected from a strong applicant pool to experience the UK on a 5 week summer program. The Fulbright Scotland Summer Institute will provide American undergraduate students with a unique perspective on the cultural and political forces that have shaped modern Scotland, with a strong emphasis on its pioneering role as a technological nation.  The Institute will be delivered through an innovative partnership between two distinctively Scottish modern universities – the University of Dundee and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

Commenting on receiving the place, Ryan Carson said: “I’m incredibly excited to receive a place on the Fulbright Scotland Summer Institute. I can’t wait to learn about the culture and history of Scotland, especially in terms of how they’re playing into their current political and policy discussions. Getting to know the other participants and local students will be amazing as well. I hope the work will enable me to come back to DU with new insights to share.”

Ryan Carson is a rising junior and 2012 Boettcher Scholar at the University of Denver, where he is pursuing degrees in Public Policy and International Studies. Ryan is a campaign coordinator for DU’s chapter of GlobeMed, an appointee to Colorado’s License Plate Auction Group, and a member of both the Pioneer Leadership Program and the University Honors Program. He has also interned for the Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and in the office of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Ryan graduated as a co-valedictorian and National AP Scholar from Silver Creek High School in Longmont, Colorado.

More information on the Fullbright Summer Institute click the link

Patrick Heck

Public Policy Alumnus Advances Career with Continuum Partners

Congratulations to Patrick Heck a PPOL alum and former finance chief of Denver International Airport on his new career at Continuum Partners. During his tenure as CFO of DIA Heck was instrumental in extending United Airlines lease, upgrading DIA's bond outlook, and DIA's massive terminal redevolpment project and new RTD station.

Check out the article in the Denver Post.