Scrivner Institute Community Profiles: Clayton King (MPP '22)
Clayton King (MPP '22)
- What made you choose the MPP program at Korbel?
I chose the MPP program because I wanted a more technical, skills-based degree but with an international scope. The MPP’s placement within the Korbel school allowed me to do just that.
- Can you name one class that changed the way you think about the world and one which helped you to improve a practical skill?
I took a class called Electoral Integrity with Professor Timothy Sisk, which included professionals from organizations like International IDEA, IFES, and the Carter Center. This class opened my eyes to how top experts addressed key elections challenges, as well as where these organizations were focusing their efforts. I really appreciated the perspectives of long-term monitoring, evaluation, and learning to understand which assumptions about election monitoring were wrong, and how we can use systematic reporting to learn from this and improve programming in the future.
- What are you doing now? How did your program/Korbel help prepare you for what you’re doing now?
I recently started a new role as a Program Officer with the International Republican Institute. The most important way Korbel helped prepare me for this role is the overall exposure to the key conversations that are occurring within these international spaces, and understanding which organizations are developing materials to define and attempt to solve some of these challenges. The classes also helped fill in some of the technical gaps to best understand the statistics, surveying methods, and metrics that go into these types of reports.
- Were you involved in any clubs, organizations, or graduate assistantships outside of your program? If so, can you tell us more about them and how they impacted your experience?
I supported the Social Movement Support Lab through the law school over the interim summer. During this program, I volunteered with law students to analyze city and county budgets for clients who were focused on improving community-focused funding, holding police departments accountable, and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. This was an incredible experience for seeing how widely useful and applicable the skills you receive from an MPP degree can be.
- What was your internship experience like? What about your policy memo?
I had multiple internships during my time at DU, but the most informative was my time with the National Endowment for Democracy. I participated in the Korbel@DC program, where I spent the fall semester of my second year in Washington, DC. I took classes at Syracuse’s Maxwell School at night, and during the day I helped with the Sharp Power Portal. The Portal is a research tool for analyzing foreign use of soft power for malign purposes, such as purchasing soccer teams for “reputation laundering” or purchasing stock in Hollywood production companies to prevent films from straying from the party line. The experience and networking within the organization was incredibly helpful for finding a position after graduation.
My policy memo focused on assessing U.S. foreign democracy support tools to see which may be of use in a domestic setting. I amalgamated findings from reports like Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Report, International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy, etc. as well as OAS and OSCE elections monitoring reports to understand the challenges to U.S. democracy, and then compared these to the types of tools that the U.S. uses within the foreign policy sphere to combat these same challenges. This scope was more than recommended, but the background research was eye-opening for understanding the structures of U.S. democracy promotion. I, of course, did not find all the answers, but I have now entered this industry to continue learning lessons that I hope I can use when I pivot back to the domestic sphere later in my career.
- You also worked with Scrivner Institute on the Denver Democracy Summit as a student employee. Can you share more about this experience?
While supporting the Denver Democracy Summit I supported building briefing materials for the moderators. I performed background research on the panelists, and used this to draft questions for the moderators that would intentionally relate to multiple panelists and create conversation among common themes. It was a great experience for understanding how programs like the DDS are developed, as well as understanding how much background work goes into making sure these conversations are fruitful for participants and viewers.
- What advice would you give to current MPP students?
Enjoy building bonds within the MPP cohort and with the other programs as well. The MPP program is unique in that students enter with a wide variety of interests and experiences. Some MPP students tend to take classes that overlap heavily with other degree programs at Korbel, which gave students the opportunity to operate within multiple spheres and better connect across more of the school.
- Any fun facts or other information you would like to share?
Many Korbel alumni move to Washington, DC after graduation. I highly recommend participating in the Korbel@DC program if you are interested in working in DC, and networking with the alumni during the program. It is a small city, and you might just wind up living down the street from some of your friends from your time at DU!