Passion Projects Provide SPP Students with Opportunities for Learning in Action

March 17, 2015

Representatives from the European Stability Initiative (ESI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and The Linkage Project traveled to Budapest to participate in a Passion Project workshop with SPP students on Saturday, March 14. This is the second day-long workshop that Passion Project Program Director Jenny Choi-Fitzpatrick has organized so that SPP students and their clients can sit down together and clarify the objectives, timelines, and deliverables for their Passion Projects. "These workshops require a significant commitment from our students, and from our outside clients who in some cases travel long distances to spend time with our students," said Choi-Fitzpatrick, "But the benefit of face-to-face time on the projects is enormous."

MPA '16 students Meiko Boynton, Vu Giang, and Ursula Sanchez are working with two graduate students from Harvard University and Stanford University (Andrew Bergman and Toly Rinberg respectively) on their Passion Project, "Estimating Internally Displaced Populations to Improve Aid Delivery with New Analytics Software." "I cannot imagine working on our Passion Project without this opportunity for my team to meet in person with Andrew and Toly from the Linkage Project," said Sanchez. "Through face to face interactions, our team was able to work out an effective communication strategy which will allow us to engage with each other for the next year and a half," said Boynton.

The Linkage Project Passion Project team brainstorm with The Linkage Project founders. Photo: Daniel Vegel/SPP

Nataliya Novakova and Saman Sardar, both MPA '16, benefited enormously from their close consultation with Alexandra Stiglmayer on their project, "Raising Awareness and Mobilizing Action to Release Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan." "It is not just the students who gain value from these Passion Projects," said Stiglmayer, who is a senior analyst at ESI, "the clients do too."

Nataliya Novakova (MPA '16) works with her teammate and Passion Project partner ESI. Photo: Daniel Vegel/SPP

SPP student Katalin Nemeth (MPA '16) has a personal interest in her Passion Project that she is working on with Yana Ropaieva and Katarina Sladakovic, both MPA '16: "One of the reasons I picked this project with Human Rights Watch ("Curbing Ethnic Profiling and Discrimination by Police in the European Union") "is that in many European countries Roma people—including some of my close friends of Roma origin—are often victims of ethnic profiling," she said.

SPP Director of Career Services and Alumni Relations Ann Gagliardi also attended Saturday's workshop. "This was a great opportunity for me to learn about a key component of SPP's MPA program," she said. "This is a rich and valuable experience for our students."

"For me," said SPP Founding Dean Wolfgang H. Reinicke, "what is most important about these face-to-face meetings is that our students come away reassured that they are working on a manageable project, and better understanding the value that it brings to and for them."

Passion Project teams and partners smile after a rewarding day. Photo: Daniel Vegel/SPP

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