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Scrivner Institute of Public Policy

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The Scrivner Institute has an incredible community of public policy faculty, students, alumni, and staff. We spoke with several members of our community to learn more about their experience in the public policy field and here at Scrivner and Korbel.

Dr. Ajenai Clemmons
Assistant Professor of Public Policy

Photo of public policy professor Ajenai Clemmons

1. What made you choose to take a faculty position affiliated with the Scrivner Institute and the MPP program? 

Being part of the Scrivner Institute and the MPP Program is so exciting. I love public policy to my core and am an unapologetic policy nerd. At Scrivner, I’m able to help students understand how public policy is made and prepare them to lead public policymaking processes. Scrivner allows me to be immersed in an interdisciplinary culture that excels in teaching local and state policy while valuing their connection to federal policy and global trends. I graduated from the MPP program here at DU and used my degree every day in my work with lawmakers and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. In my role as a professor, I look forward to building on the rich preparation I received at DU that equipped me to make tough decisions and become a sought-after advisor to legislators across the country.

2. What classes do you teach? 

I teach undergraduates and graduate students on the politics of the policymaking process. Here, students not only learn about the policymaking process but the elements of politics that shape and interact with policy. I will also teach courses on the criminal justice system, covering topics such as state violence, over-policing, mass incarceration, and immigration policy. All of my courses will center structural inequality and stratification, analyzing the ways in which groups are or can be treated differently in systematic ways that render cumulative advantage or disadvantage. Also, my courses will include an intersectional approach that compares and contrasts experiences by class, race and ethnicity, and gender. Finally, I will teach qualitative methods with an emphasis on in-depth interviewing. My courses are designed to help students recognize injustice and identify appropriate policy tools to carry out justice-based interventions.

3. What are your research interests/area(s) of expertise? 

I am focused on police reform as well as the police-community relationship, and the most important factors that help or harm it. I study policing in democratic contexts, examining what marginalized groups experiencing disproportionate civilian crime and police misconduct need to be safe and feel safe. My current work examines young men’s experiences and policy preferences, comparing Black men in the U.S. to Muslim men of Bangladeshi descent in the U.K. My future projects will expand to women as well as members of economically distressed Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and White communities in urban and rural contexts. Beyond the U.S., I will continue to conduct research centering marginalized groups, such as Muslim and Roma communities in Europe, to formulate policy recommendations for reform.

 4. What do you see as the most interesting dimensions of the Scrivner Institute and the MPP program?

Well, there’s certainly an embarrassment of riches here! I’m proud to be at a place where brilliant and caring people tackle real-world, complex problems head-on. Scrivner is about leading research that asks necessary questions and answers the call to confront society’s greatest challenges. We prepare future analysts and executives, legislators and bureaucrats, to form sound policy judgments. Scrivner is also uniquely positioned as a convener of scholars, government actors, grassroots organizations, civil society, and the private sector to exchange ideas. We desire to get at the root cause of issues to solve them, not distract ourselves with symptoms. We aim to co-create solutions with those most affected by policy violence—not ignore, not victim-blame, and not take over on their behalf.

5. Outside of class, what do you like to do for fun? 

Karaoke. Seriously, the pandemic has ripped away my favorite hobby! On the flip side, though, I have been able to dramatically increase my nature walks and hikes, and take full advantage of this historically mild Colorado fall. My spouse and I have explored lots of mountainous parks and reservoirs. Also, our precocious five-year old nephew cracks us up, and we try to spend as much quality time with him (and the rest of our family and friends) as we can. Going to the movie theater and getting massages are also wonderful treats I look forward to! I don’t really go to church for the purpose of fun, but it’s always fulfilling.

6. Any fun facts or other information you would like to share?

A bit of a random fact is that I was the first woman in the state of Colorado to win a Golden Gloves boxing title when I was 18 years old, though my primary sports growing up were volleyball and track and field. I am from Colorado but have lived in Des Moines, Iowa; Washington, D.C.; and Durham, North Carolina (meaning I’ve lived in the Midwest, on the East Coast, and in the South). I also studied abroad in Central and South America (Xela, Guatemala and Santiago, Chile); taught English in Caracas, Venezuela; and lived in East London for six months during my doctoral studies. I’ve been so fortunate to travel to almost every state and territory in the U.S., the Caribbean, throughout Latin America, Southern Africa, and Europe. I can’t wait to travel more and visit my spouse’s homeland of Nigeria.


Tash Berwick
MPP, '22
Political Director, New Era Colorado

Photo of recent MPP alum Tash Berwick

1. What made you choose the MPP program at DU?

I chose the MPP program at DU because of the practicum requirement. In my experience, you don’t really know what you are doing until you’ve gotten your hands dirty in the field. I’ve taken a lot of really great theory classes at DU and it has been interesting to see how they are applied (or not) working in a political environment with competing interests, short timelines and frankly - lots of emotion! Being able to explore theories and practice at the same time is a great gift. 

2. What has been the most interesting class you’ve taken during the program?

Tough question. I am going to choose two:

One, I did an independent study on applying abolitionist theory to interpersonal violence policy in Colorado. The study made me reconcile with my own beliefs around policy making, the role of the state, community building and applied empathy. 

Two, The Policy Lab! I learned SO MUCH about fiscal policy and honestly, I dig it. It made me realize that everything starts with the budget and our culture defines how it is spent rather than obvious (to me) need. I think fiscal policy is going to be super trendy as more progressive politicians build power. 

3. What are your future career goals? How has the MPP program/Korbel helped prepare you for what you’re interested in pursuing?

I am looking forward to building powerful coalitions that will hold politicians accountable, end TABOR, secure access to safe abortions and ensure that Black, Latinx and Indigenous people are in positions of power in municipal and state government as the Political Director at New Era Colorado. The MPP gave me the tools to analyze the complex political climate in Colorado, and identify strategies to overcome those barriers. I am excited to use them in my new job!

4. Are you involved in any clubs, organizations, or jobs outside of your program? If so, what are you involved in?

I am currently working with Earthjustice and Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca to craft a community based, equity informed toxic carcinogen policy at the municipal level. I’m also working with GSSW PhD Student Rebecca Zimmerman (and a new Emerge Program participant!!) on coding, analyzing, writing and recommending IPV policies that are informed by survivor experiences. 

5. Outside of class, what do you like to do for fun?

I can’t decide if it is fun or not but my husband and I are training for a half-marathon. I’ve never done anything like it before so we will see how it goes!

6. Any fun facts or other information you would like to share?

I was terrified to get into policy and politics. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, who to talk to, what the language and codes were and what I had to offer.  I admitted my fears to Ean Tafoya one day and he told me, “just be yourself. Own it. Say to the world this is me and this is what I think.” His advice meant a lot to me because he is such a force in the community and was honored that he thought I had something to offer. Every MPP major needs Ean’s advice. You’ve got this.

Daniel Wilkins
MPP '23
Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellow

Photo of MPP student Daniel Wilkins

1. What made you choose the MPP program at DU?

I chose the MPP program at Korbel for several reasons. First, I've lived in CO for 25 years, and so Korbel has always been on my radar. Additionally, Josef Korbel was a Czech diplomat, and having been born in the Czech Republic and still maintaining ties to family there, I always wanted to secretly attend Korbel so I can contribute to the history of the school in my own unique way. But what really drew me in was the freedom of the program. You're able to tailor your degree, policy emphasis, and even capstone project all based on whatever you're passionate about, and I think that's a super unique and holistic approach to a traditional MPP degree that may be more rigid in other schools. 

2. What has been the most interesting class you’ve taken during the program?

I'd have to say PPOL 4500: "Cost-Benefit Analysis for Public Policy". While it's been the most mentally demanding course in this program so far, it's also the most rewarding for me. Each class I can see just how much data, budgets, and financial considerations go into the creation of even the most basic of policies; it's getting into the weeds of policy-making. 

3. What are your future career goals? How has the MPP program/Korbel helped prepare you for what you’re interested in pursuing?

I hope to make the most of my dual citizenship to the Czech Republic by moving to Europe, and work in either the public or private sector helping to advance the decarbonization of transportation in the EU. I hope to make it back to the United States and Colorado in the future, bringing lessons and experience learned across the Atlantic back to advance decarbonization here as well. 

4. Are you involved in any clubs, organizations, job outside of your program? If so, what are you involved in?

I'm currently also a Research Assistant at the Pardee Center for International Futures, serving on the Literature Review team.

5. Outside of class, what do you like to do for fun?

I've been a (very amateur) photographer for a little over 11 years now, and I love to take my camera on adventures, be it a mile away or a thousand. It helps to clear my mind and allows me to get creative with my surroundings. In the warmer months, I LOVE to get outdoors and do anything in nature, from camping to hiking and even rock climbing. 

6. Any fun facts or other information you would like to share?

I'm excited to say I was selected to be an EDF Climate Corps Fellow for Summer 2022! I'll be spending the coming months working with the nonprofit Sustainable Jersey to advise municipalities and school districts within New Jersey on how to reduce energy use, increase efficiencies, and make a business case for sustainability.


Kelsie George
MPP '19
Policy Analyst, National Conference of State Legislatures

Photo of MPP alum Kelsie George

1. What made you choose the MPP program at DU?

Once I decided to pursue my Master of Public Policy degree, I narrowed my choices down to a handful -- some in Boston where I was living at the time, some in D.C. and Korbel. I ultimately chose DU for the faculty I already knew here from my previous job -- Dr. Jennifer Greenfield (Social Work) and Dr. Cecilia Orphan (Higher Education). While neither were based in Korbel, I knew I would be able to take classes outside the program and build my degree to meet my professional goals. 

2. What were the most interesting classes you took during your program?

I took a class over December term where we met with people across Denver -- city planners, developers, reporters, former and current city council members, the mayor's office and more. It provided a head-first dive into the City and County of Denver and (re)ignited my passion for local government. 

3. What are you doing now? How did your program/Korbel help prepare you for what you’re doing now?

I am a policy analyst within the health program at the National Conference of State Legislatures. I provide state legislators and legislative staff with research and state policy examples on health policy topics--like supportive housing, emergency medical services, health workforce and social determinants of health. I track legislation in several of NCSL's databases and write publications on health policy trends. I collaborate with NCSL staff to host events for our members, including NCSL's upcoming Legislative Summit. 

I interned with NCSL's health program for a year before starting full-time on the same team. Through my internship, I became curious about health workforce topics and tailored my final policy memo to dive deeper. I built a great relationship with my supervisor at NCSL, Sydne, who served on my memo review committee and is now one of my colleagues. 

My job requires many of the skills I learned through Korbel's MPP program, including researching and summarizing legislation, identifying and analyzing policy trends over time, understanding regulatory policy and more. 

4. Were you involved in any clubs, organizations, jobs outside of your program? If so, what were you involved in?

I held several jobs during my time at Korbel with Denver Public Library (grant writing), Colorado Preservation Inc. (conference planning), the Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges (policy research) and the National Conference of State Legislatures, where I currently work. Each experience provided me with skills for the job I'm currently in, and helped me identify the type of position, team and organization I would thrive in.  

5. What advice would you give to current MPP students?

Get to know your faculty! I wouldn't have made it through my MPP program without the incredible support, advocacy and mentoring from faculty, both within ) and outside of Korbel. They served as incredible role models of what it looks like to do brilliant and insightful research, but also to get it into the hands of decision-makers and individuals who are impacted most by policy decisions. I still stay in contact with several faculty today--which led to my white paper being published with the Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges in 2021 and returning to Korbel for Career Conversations this year!

6. Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?

All of my free time is spent with my dog, Bella. We like to go for long walks exploring all of Denver and finding new hikes around the state. I recently purchased a paddle board, so we will be spending as much time as possible on the water this summer.