Public Policies for Humans by Professor Matthew G. Nagler

This past summer I served as an Academic Affiliate of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST). A cross-agency group of applied behavioral scientists authorized to advise Federal agencies by an Executive Order of President Obama, SBST applies findings from the social and behavioral sciences to improve Federal policies and programs. For me – an economist whose research incorporates psychological research findings into models of economic behavior – this gig offered an opportunity to see directly how my research interests could be put to real-world use.

SBST’s job is an important one. Many Federal programs face serious challenges when it comes to the way in which real-live people interact with them. Websites often present constituents with information about Federal programs that is daunting to read and sort through. Intended beneficiaries often fail to find out about key Federal programs, causing the money allocated to help them to go unutilized or to go to people whose need is not as great. Perhaps you can recall a time when someone told you about a Federal program you should consider taking advantage of, but you didn’t because you feared having to navigate the various web pages, publications, and forms. SBST’s task is to provide Federal agencies the help they need to make government work better for real humans, so that we humans can benefit more – and more easily – from what government does.

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Five Minutes with: Preeya Saikia


***A note from Ms. Saikia: All views expressed are my personal views and are not necessarily the views or the position of the Administration or the Government of the United States of America. Thank you.


1. You have been working in the Office of Management and Budget and we wonder, when you first applied to the PSM program, where did you imagine your degree would take you? 

I pursued an MPA at The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership because it was my understanding that in order to advocate powerfully on behalf of the public I needed to further my education.

When I applied to the PSM program, I was two years out of my undergraduate program, during which I spent some time working at a human rights advocacy firm in Cambodia. I was inspired to make this trip because by the time I had my diploma I decided that a career in the public sector or social services would best fit my values. My training in economics prepared me to approach problems analytically, but I wanted to learn how to approach problem solving through a macroscopic lens.

My MPA experience certainly added to my ability to think critically, but it also taught me how to evaluate policy ideas and articulate abstract concepts, and it provided me with ample practice to hone skills to work well on a team, which is fundamental to my job.

2. You’re living and working in DC during a time of great change. Can you tell us a little about what that means for your department and the work you do? Can you tell us a bit about where you hope your current experiences will take you in the future?
My immediate plans after this Administration are to look at career opportunities at the local and state government level, as well as management consulting for public and social sector clients.