Alum Spotlight: Kathryn Babbin

For Kathryn Babbin (MPP ’19), the Batten community cannot be underestimated. Babbin who graduated last May with a master’s of public policy was drawn to the Batten School for a variety of reasons, mainly because it offered what seemed like a tight-knit community of students, faculty, and staff, where she felt she could make a real impact.

“I was studying human and organizational development during my undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt but quickly realized that I did not have the hard skills or knowledge to make a real impact in certain policy areas and started looking at graduate school programs that focused on public policy.

“I was drawn to Batten for its interdisciplinary approach to policy, and after talking with the admissions team, I could see how much they cared about creating a well-rounded cohort.

“Coming from a similar-sized program at Vanderbilt, I knew I wanted the same for my graduate school experience and thought because of Batten’s size, I would be able to get know my classmates and professors and make an actual impact in my community.”  

Babbin, who is a 2019 Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) is currently working as a program and management analyst at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, based in Washington, D.C. While cybersecurity may seem like a sharp departure from Babbin’s previous policy interests on education and labor markets, she views this new role as an extension of those interests, and has found her background policy knowledge useful in shedding new light on issues of cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity was not an area that I knew a lot about prior to this position,” said Babbin. “But Batten trains us to learn about different areas of policy quickly and to ask hard questions, which has helped me in my current role.”

Babbin who focuses chiefly on cybersecurity education and awareness says she’s been able to leverage her expertise in education policy and labor markets to help promote a more nuanced portrait of the complexities surrounding cybersecurity and how that relates more broadly to today’s policy landscape.

This would not have been possible without the time and guidance of her Batten professors.

“So many Batten professors sacrificed their office hours, always making themselves available to me and my classmates,” said Babbin. “Whether it was to discuss a certain aspect of a policy, glean career advice, or ask questions about a problem set, Batten faculty always had their door open.”  

Courses with professors like Sally Hudson taught Babbin that sometimes it will take more than twenty hours to solve a problem set—and that is okay. Solving policy problems does not happen instantly and requires time and thought, and not to mention, lots of patience.

“Professors like Hudson made me more enthusiastic about learning, and helped me realize that it was not uncommon to spend a significant chunk of time on a problem set or devote long hours to understanding a certain aspect of a policy,” said Babbin. “This gave me confidence that I can master a new skill set no matter how daunting the challenge.”

Rigorous course assignments, like the Introduction to Policy Analysis 48-hour project, a mid-semester assignment that all MPP students undertake, gave Babbin a real taste of policy analysis.

“Because of the nature of our 48-project, I learned how to discuss and analyze policy from a variety of different angles,” said Babbin. “This proved invaluable during my job hunt—in almost every interview I had to talk about a range of topics—and not just in a general skim-the surface kind of way.”

From her first encounter with the admissions team to reviewing resumes with career services to faculty office hours, Babbin says her experience at Batten was an empowering and enriching one.

“I really loved my time at Batten,” said Babbin. “I am forever grateful to my professors and the overall wonderful experience I had during my time at the School. I would do it all over again!”