IPPAM Graduation 2011

Global Reach:

IPPAM Experience Helps Transform Students into ‘Global Citizens’

From SPPD staff reports

IPPAM Graduation 2011

The 13th International Public Policy and Management (IPPAM) class graduated from the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development in July 2011. Every year, the IPPAM program brings together about 40 students from about 14 countries around the world for intensive study on policy development and management. Despite – or perhaps partly due to – the language barriers from communicating with each other, IPPAM students spend more time together on assignments that require teamwork and collaboration.

It is not simply a graduate program, “It is an experience in working together to produce results despite extraordinarily diverse cultures and opinions, and mirrors the challenges and triumphs in international collaboration,” SPPD Dean Jack Knott said.

In just this past year, IPPAM-13 watched alongside their Chilean classmate as miners emerged after two months of being trapped underground; and then several months later supported a Japanese classmate who anxiously awaited word on the fate of his wife’s family who lived in one of the coastal villages in Japan inundated by the tsunami-driven waves. After four long days of not being able to reach his family, he and his classmates collectively breathed a sigh of relief when he received word that all survived, most miraculously his father-in-law who managed to avoid being swept away by wrapping his arms around a strong tree as the water surged over him. Later in the spring, the class gathered together impromptu to discuss and deconstruct in real time democracy unfolding in the Middle East, comparing it to previous examples of people power and its aftermath in some of their own countries, like Indonesia and the Philippines.

What emerges is a truly international citizen capable of great empathy and insight, skills and diplomacy, and a public service consciousness that readily reaches across borders.

During the graduation ceremony at Town & Gown, IPPAM-13 students had the opportunity to speak about their unique Trojan experience.

“I learned how powerful a group can be, and how important team work is,” noted Shih-Chun Chen, a news reporter from Taiwan, reflecting a sentiment that was echoed several times by other students.

“We come together to serve people, to work as a team,” said Jo Tzu Chen, IPPAM’s Student Senate president.

“When I came to America, I never expected to gain insights about my own country, and yet somehow in working with American, Japanese, Korean, Taiwan and fellow mainland China students and others, we came to a deep understanding of the problems faced by local governments adapting to worldwide forces of economic change,” said Miaomiao He from China. “Although we could not be physically present in these countries, we learned how to find their research institutes, access their data and analyze papers written by their experts. I feel that I am now a global citizen.”

Joanna Yu, IPPAM’s director of executive education, spoke of the program’s efforts to continually challenge the students with broadening their perspectives.

“I always felt at home in IPPAM and at SPPD, because of its international perspective,” said Jeewon Yang from Korea .“What will link us together in the future are the contributions to the world we will all go on to make with what we’ve learned.”

“We were exposed to faculty with tremendous academic, professional, and human quality,” added Yael Stekel, a civil engineer who transitioned to working in education policy in Chile before coming to IPPAM.

While in theory it is a noble ideal to be able to work with people from different countries and cultures, trained in different disciplines, according to IPPAM Director Joyce Mann, the reality can sometimes be painful for individuals as they work through differences in approaches, language and cultural outlook.

“Over the months, though, we witnessed the students creating a better reality as the misunderstandings led to better communication,” she explained. “Through this process they found common ground and empowered each other.”

“IPPAM has the strongest network at USC, and USC has a strong network. And what do I get? The most fantastic family,” said Wenyu Zhang from China.

During the graduation, Mann noted how, “The path to policy is rarely a direct one,” observing that many students veered into policy from careers in other fields.

“It usually comes from working and wanting to change something that you see is causing fundamental problems,” she said. “It is the search for the skills and means to address these problems that brings many of the students to SPPD and to our program.“