St. Kate's Policy Students Forming Strong Community Collaborations

This past semester, students in the Public Policy class dove into real policy work through the Center for Community Work and Learning at St. Kate’s. The students collaborated with the Greater Metropolitan Workforce Council and researched solutions to the benefits cliff. The professor for the course, Marina Gorzig, PhD, explained the benefits cliff is when a small increase in wage income (like a wage increase from a promotion) can mean that a family loses their government benefits — resulting in a massive loss in total income. The benefits cliff can be hard to predict and harms the family’s ability to obtain self-sufficiency. This is what the St. Kate’s students centered their class projects around: how can we effectively solve the benefits cliff through policymaking?

During the class, students worked in teams to write short papers and presentations for the community partner on their ideas to solve this “benefits cliff.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the collaboration was shifted online, but the students still gave their presentations and recommendations by making voice threads to go along with their slides. They virtually presented to the project liaison, Andrea Ferstan from the Greater Metropolitan Workforce Council, a wide range of policy solutions for the community partner to explore.

Gorzig was impressed by the engagement students demonstrated. She said it gave students the opportunity to see how the policy analysis toolkit they are developing can be applied in the real world. It also showed students the wide variety of career avenues and paths that are available in the public policy world. In the end, Gorzig says her favorite part of the collaboration was getting to see the students work together to research policies and topics they are truly passionate about. Passion for making real-world change is the ultimate project motivator.

The community partner found the research and work that the St. Kate’s students led very helpful and impactful. Ferstan, the project partner, hopes that the project was just as impactful for students and expressed her appreciation and value for their work by saying,

“They (the students) provided a thoughtful analysis of the issues, opportunities, and risks. I appreciated the graphs and visuals... It was an impactful approach to building one’s understanding and a case for reforms.”

The Economics and Political Science Department is looking forward to seeing these students continue making real-world impacts through the use of their strong public policy toolkits and passion for progress through informed policymaking.