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Department of Anthropology

Madison Blanding awarded PPIA Fellowship

The Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute (JSI) Fellowship Program prepares undergraduate juniors, interested in careers promoting diversity in public service,  for graduate programs. 

What prompted you to apply for the PPIA Fellowship?

Going to graduate school has always been a major dream and goal of mine, and I knew that I wanted to go out of state to do so. However, due to the financial situations of myself and my parents, I would either have to borrow huge amounts of money in student loans or not go at all, and I refused to succumb to either of these options. Therefore, I applied for the PPIA fellowship, which would give me the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree by providing me with the financial assistance I would require to successfully complete a master's degree without getting myself into debt I would be unable to repay. I also applied for PPIA because I want to study disciplines such as Public Policy, International Affairs, Political Science, Human Rights, etc. in graduate school.


How do your major and minor relate to public service?

I am an Anthropology major and a Women's and Gender Studies minor, both of which are interdisciplinary. Therefore, my curriculum discusses topics like justice, human rights, equality, equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, etc., all issues intricate to public service. I will draw on my knowledge from both fields to inform my study and career in public service, as it is impossible to understand it without an intersectional perspective of how different issues connect to create unique forms of experience.


How does public service relate to your career interests?

While I am still uncertain about what exact career I'd like to pursue, I know it involves using my voice and experiences to fight for those whose voices are silenced or ignored. I am particularly passionate about improving the quality of and access to education for children and teens of color, as well as destigmatizing women's health and protecting women's reproductive rights. The avenue through which I plan to achieve these goals is through policy implementation and change.


What experiences have shaped your career interests?

I was fortunate to have gone to the top schools in my districts growing up, and in my family, education is a core value. Therefore, I grew up wanting to extend my privilege to other students of color. Additionally, growing up in a conservative Catholic household, a lot of the issues surrounding what it means to be a woman (periods, sex, birth control, pregnancy) were an unspoken taboo. Having to learn these things on my own and never feeling comfortable talking to my mom made me want to pursue a career in which I can help break the stigma surrounding women's health and advocate for the protection of their reproductive rights.


What are your thoughts on representation of diversity in public service?

While there's no doubt that diversity and inclusion in public service are increasing as time passes, we still have much more work to do. Even today in 2021, many of the most important decisions being made for people and women of color are still being made by middle to upper-class white men, and a small percentage of white women. It would be unfair to say that none of our leaders have our best interests in mind, but it is vital that people and women of color continue to enter positions where decisions are being made about their very realities.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.