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Three Wilder Students Selected for Competitive Policy Workshop

2017 International Young Scholars Workshop participants: Sombo Chunda, Brittany Keegan and Suparna Dutta.
2017 International Young Scholars Workshop participants: Sombo Chunda, Brittany Keegan and Suparna Dutta.

By Tiffany Murray-Robertson

For the third year in a row, VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs is one of the nation’s top producers of International Young Scholars Workshop participants with three students set to engage in the competitive research program held in Chennai, India, from July 11-15.

An initiative of the American Society of Public Administration, the International Young Scholars Workshop provides substantial financial support to exceptionally talented doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and young professionals in an effort to promote global academic and social exchange among emerging public policy scholars.

Workshop participants are paired with a distinguished senior scholar and undergo a series of rigorous presentation and evaluation processes designed to enhance  research skills from a variety of perspectives—from topic choice, to literature review, to framing, analyzing and presenting. Participants also benefit from cultural excursions to nearby attractions and a relaxed atmosphere that enables students and senior scholars to interrogate pressing issues in public policy.

“I am thrilled for our students,” said Sarah Jane Brubaker, Ph.D., chair of the Wilder School's doctoral program.

“Not only is this an incredible opportunity for them to enhance their scholarship and network with scholars from all over the world, but having three students from our program illustrates the Wilder School’s commitment to developing the critical thinking skills and global engagement of our students in a way that is clearly recognizable on both the national and international stage.”

Nine Wilder School students and alumni have been selected to participate in the workshop over the past three years, an achievement which makes the school among the program’s top academic contributors. This year, Wilder faculty member and ASPA immediate past president Susan Gooden, Ph.D., will also participate as a senior scholar and mentor.

The three Wilder students selected to participate in the 2017 International Young Scholars Workshop include:

Sombo Chunda, an incoming doctoral student in public policy and administration, will receive her master’s degree in public administration from the Wilder School this spring. She holds an MBA in strategic planning, an MBA in general studies from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland and is a member of the global Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. For Chunda, a native Zambian who hopes to focus her doctoral research on the impact of public financial management on public service delivery, the workshop will offer an ideal introduction to the doctoral writing processes.

“For me, it’s a bit early to be focused on my dissertation," said Chunda.

"What I hope to gain from the experience is the insight that comes from being critiqued by others and an overall sense of focus that I can utilize in future research.”

Suparna Dutta, a doctoral student in public policy and administration, holds a master’s degree in sustainability management from Columbia University, an MBA from Birla Institute of Management Technology and a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Xavier’s College, University of Calcutta, India. Her research focus includes social equity, diversity and inclusion in the context of organizational behavior and community development.

“I foresee this workshop as a wonderful platform,” said Dutta, whose professional background includes work in numerous industries including finance, higher education and the nonprofit sectors.

“For me the benefits of the workshop are two-fold. As a participant, I’ll receive invaluable feedback on my research and the opportunity to make connections with other researchers, faculty members and doctoral students that might lead to research collaborations.” Dutta hopes to work someday at an international research university or international non-profit organization.

Brittany Keegan, a doctoral student in public policy and administration, holds a master’s degree in public administration, a post-baccalaureate certificate in nonprofit management and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research focus is on the role of non-governmental organizations in serving those impacted by violence or conflict, immigration/refugee policy and gender-based violence.

“I'm most excited about meeting new people and visiting beautiful places I’ve been limited to viewing online,” said Keegan, who is also exploring professional opportunities in academia, humanitarian organizations and policy analysis organizations after graduation.

“Most of all, what I hope to gain is a fresh perspective on my own research and some insight into the work of my peers.”