Naomi Ducat (MPP 2020) spent the first several weeks of the Master of Public Policy (MPP) logging in from Washington DC to join classmates both in Oxford and across the globe.
The two-week induction period at the start of the academic year – featuring a packed schedule of skill development workshops, case studies and team building activities – provided an intensive, engaging introduction to the MPP and her fellow classmates – even when time differences led to some early starts: “We can all agree that it’s a challenge to inspire someone to feel genuine excitement about waking up at 03:45 in preparation for a morning workshop, but the MPP managed to inspire that excitement in me,” she says. (Find out how we adapted our teaching during the first term.)
Beyond induction, the interactive nature of the MPP curriculum enabled Naomi to continue developing connections with her classmates, which facilitated her arrival in Oxford towards the end of the first term. “I arrived in a new country during an uncertain time, without knowing anyone personally – but it didn’t feel like that at all,” she says.
“The MPP has perfected the art of fostering a supportive and cohesive culture, even from afar. This is evidenced by the leadership and compassion exercised by my classmates during this particularly challenging time.”
A business and strategic communications specialist, Naomi worked as a management consultant for the US Department of Defense before embarking on the MPP. “During my experiences consulting, I was exposed to the critical thinking of leaders who aspired to transform their organisations,” she explains. This experience – along with previous internships at the Department of Defense and the White House – gave Naomi an insight into the process of government decision making and policy development, which reinforced her desire to play an active role in contributing to such processes.
To develop her career in this direction, Naomi felt that pursuing a master’s degree would be a necessary step. She joined the School as an Eisenhower Global Scholar in the inaugural year of the programme (see information on funding opportunities). Through her scholarship, she has access to a community of peers and mentors across the globe. True to the spirit of public service which the Blavatnik School seeks in its applicants, Naomi wanted to apply for organisations to which she could contribute upon graduation. “I look forward to continuing to engage with the Eisenhower Fellowships and being able to make a difference through the organisation.”
With a keen interest in working to strengthen and evolve the US’s multilateral relationships, Naomi was motivated to apply for the MPP largely due to its international environment and outlook.
“Studying on a programme that pertains to foreign affairs and international public policy while in a multilateral environment has been incredibly valuable. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find an environment like this elsewhere.”
The course structure, which combines theory and practice, as well as offering ample opportunities for professional skills development, is helping Naomi to cement her new knowledge and skills. “Policy Challenge in particular enabled me to apply lessons from first term modules in Economics and Foundations, as well as the public speaking and writing workshops. Learning in an environment where different interests and viewpoints are represented not only prepares us to better understand the perspectives of others, but also encourages us to question our own before we promote them in the collective environment.”
Naomi envisages using the skills she is gaining on the MPP to recharacterise discussions around national security, highlighting topics that are often left off the agenda. “The issue of human rights violations is critical to global security, but it’s often compartmentalised, and at times, it is merely condemned symbolically. I hope to reshape the agenda and reprioritise key human rights issues such as human trafficking within the security context.”
In light of this, Naomi is keen to use her summer project to work at the intersection of security and humanitarianism: “The summer project will enable me to complement my existing experience within the US Government by exploring my policy interests in a new environment – whether that’s in academia or a multilateral organisation.”
While pursuing the MPP this year has brought unique challenges, Naomi is making the most of the opportunity to draw lessons from the current circumstances: “I couldn’t think of a more meaningful moment – one of collective vulnerability – to join a group of aspiring leaders from around the globe to examine some of our world's greatest policy challenges and dissect the underpinning principles shaping how we deal with the trials of our time.”
“During such uncertain times, the Blavatnik School has provided an example of how to lead the way and adapt to create better outcomes than one could have possibly imagined. I will graduate not just with a sense of gratitude for the immense efforts that have been invested into the programme, but also with a profound sense of inspiration for what is possible.”
Naomi is an Eisenhower Global Scholar