A couple weeks ago some friends and classmates of mine at MIIS came up with a competition – who would hear the word “policy” the most times by the end of the term? Being in Policy Analysis, I am obviously winning. However, what seemed like a silly game has turned out to be much more.
As a first semester student of International Policy Studies, the word “policy” has already been said, written and heard so many times it has almost lost all meaning. A framework through which we construct our studies has become a lens through which we see the world. The word carries beyond the classroom and beyond campus. It is present in every news article I read, on every sidewalk I walk, and in every isle of the grocery store I peruse. The War on Drugs is a failed policy; or is it the drug war I should be more concerned about? Do regressive sales taxes paid at hoity toity Trader Joes pay for those little blue plaques – No Dumping – above sewer drains on every block? That reminds me; I shouldn’t litter my Cliff bar wrapper in fear of further endangering those damn sea lions that keep me up all night.
Viewing the world through the lens of policy adds this other layer to everyday activities. Each day I learn more about policy and apply those studies to these everyday activities. Each time I hear the word, I change – even just a little bit – what I want to do when I grow up. Yesterday I woke up excited to get my PhD in development economics and demolish inequality in the world. Today I woke up wanting to tie myself to the sand to protect our coasts for those damn sea lions.
The culture and atmosphere at MIIS, I believe, encourages this type of fluidity. Each and every student brings something new to the meaning of policy. Whether it be his or her Peace Corps experience in Costa Rica, anti-money laundering conferences in New York, interpretation of Hugo Chavez at the U.N. or his or her hope to one day be a librarian; every student at MIIS is discovering what policy means to them and how it affects and contributes to their passions.
I have yet to come up with a concrete definition of “policy” for myself. But every time I hear the word, I begin to appreciate the word (and the world) a little differently based on who says it and what it means to them. I still have three and a quarter semesters left at MIIS and, at this rate, am likely to continue hearing the word “policy” 728 times a day for the remainder of my time here. That is 529,984 “policy”s. And all of those “policy”s should provide me with enough understanding and passion to squash inequality, find a way to protect the sea lions and put an end to the drug war. Perhaps, I should just choose one. I wonder what I’ll want to do tomorrow after policy analysis today.