Making a difference at home and abroad Students of the Post Graduate Programme in Public Policy and Management at IIMB spend two weeks at Maxwell School, Syracuse University, New York, as part of the International Immersion. Subham Awasthi, PGPPM 2018-19, describes the learning experience

I will always treasure my two-week stay in USA, as a part of the PGPPM International Immersion module. The well-structured classroom sessions, split across Syracuse and Washington DC, strengthened my learning while the various site visits helped me appreciate the rich cultural heritage of the USA. I shall always cherish my visit to the historical monuments and the Smithsonian museums.

A group photo of PGPPM students of IIM Bangalore at Maxwell School, Syracuse University.

The classroom discussions gave us – students of Public Policy and Management at IIM Bangalore – an overview of policymaking in the USA. Talks on ‘American Federalism, Political Institutions, and Policy Change’, and ‘The Contemporary Challenges of Governance and Public Service in the United States’ gave us an understanding of the American political system. They also helped us understand the need for and the nature of independent policy-making and taxing authorities in each of the states in the USA, as contrasted to the governance structure in India.

Listening to the viewpoints of the professors of Maxwell School, on various concepts central to the policymaking, such as leading people and driving change, building coalitions, improving financial literacy, circles of influence, models of decision making, understanding disruption and its evaluation, helped us gain an international perspective.

The beautiful campus.

Celebrating India’s Independence Day in the US.

The classroom discussions also revealed the increasing role of technology in Government, best practices in using strategic human capital in governance and an expanding role of think tanks in policy making in the US.

In his talk, ‘U.S. Health Care System: Comparison, Financing and Reform’, Prof. Thomas Dennison discussed the fact that healthcare in the USA is primarily privately funded. While explaining the underlying structures of Medicare and Medicaid, he described the efforts being made by the Government to achieve a universal health insurance coverage.

In Washington DC, many of us got an opportunity to visit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The meeting was facilitated by one of our batchmates and the discussions with the FCC officials and subject matter experts resulted in a productive exchange of thoughts on number of issues ranging from 5G spectrum and wireless infrastructure policies to closing the digital divide and other wireless-technology related matters.

Our immersion was structured in such a way that we got to visit Government offices, historical monuments, and heritage sites. These visits gave us glimpses of culture, heritage and governance in the US. Our visit to the Onondaga county local Government office and our interaction with the mayor helped us observe decision-making and governance at the county level. We also visited the Onondaga county courthouse, which, we were informed was opened in 1907 and housed the famous trial of Theodore Roosevelt in 1915.

I also discovered that Syracuse, situated on the edge of a lake plain near Onondaga lake, led industrial growth in the US. We learnt about the industrial progress of the state which began with the salt works industries in 1788 and subsequently expanded to include chinaware, alloy steel, automobiles and automotive gears, air-conditioning and typewriters, chemicals and electronics. We also understood the historical importance of the Erie Canal and the Oswego Canal and how they connected Erie in Syracuse with Lake Ontario, and thereby ushered in an era of prosperity and expansion after 1825.

While in Syracuse, our visits to the Niagara Falls and the 1000 Islands showed us nature at her best, our visits to the War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial in the DC, left us in a reflective mood. A lucky encounter with the US Vice President Mike Pence at the US Capitol was a pleasant revelation.

A visit to the 1000 Islands.

I have brought back, with me, an understanding of how the USA has worked on certain complex challenges in the public policy space. The exchange of the ideas makes me wonder if such solutions can be implemented here in India. The discussions also taught me a few new concepts in the area of economic development.

This was my first overseas trip, and like any other first-time traveller, I had many apprehensions. I am glad to say that I never felt away from home – all credit to the efficient and well-organized planning of the IIMB Office of International Affairs and the Maxwell team led by Dan and Ronda. Getting to enjoy an Indian meal at Syracuse was a pleasant surprise.

The lectures and site visits were well organized and every activity kept us absorbed, and before we knew, it was the last day of our stay. That was the moment when I realized the relevance of Dan’s advice at the inaugural session: ‘Use your time wisely because you will not know how quickly things move!’

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