Get to Know the Batten MPP from the Student Perspective

With applications opening soon for Fall 2024 admissions, Batten Ambassador and recent MPP graduate Scott Rykala sat down with some of his fellow classmates to get their answers to some of the most frequently asked questions they received from prospective students! Read on to get to know our new members of the alumni community and their advice to applicants to Batten!

I am excited that you want to learn more about aspects of life at Batten! First, I’d suggest making an appointment with one of our awesome admissions staff where your questions will be answered, and while you’re there, think about signing up to attend one of our fall information sessions or Open Houses!

Before jumping into questions, let me introduce some of my fellow classmates who sat down with me to share their experiences.

  • Hey! I’m Matt Trice, a native of Arlington, VA and a recent graduate MPP student at UVA’s Batten School. My policy interests lie in the national security and foreign policy space. Outside of school, I spend my time trying out Charlottesville’s plethora of delicious restaurants, watching Buffalo Bills football, and hitting Trader Joes outside of rush hour. 
  • Hi, I am Charlotte Bradsher from Lorton, Virginia. Before coming to UVA, I attended Elon University and received my B.A. in Political Science with a minor in History. While at Elon, I participated on the track and field team all four years. I am mainly interested in policies around civil rights and criminal justice. Before graduating this spring, you usually could find me in Garrett Hall during one of my shifts at the front desk!
  • Hello, I am Sarah Emily Waldinger originally from New York! I went to Roanoke College where I double majored in Psychology and Political Science, and graduated with my BA in 2019. After undergrad, I joined the 2019 Teach for America - Alabama Corps and taught 7th grade English Language Arts for two years. I am passionate about policy surrounding equity and education. In my free time, she enjoys reading Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut - preferably at the beach!
  • And finally, hey, I’m Scott Rykala. I’m a recent MPP alum from Pittsburgh, PA. I’m a proud first-gen college grad from Waynesburg University and a huge Pittsburgh sports fan. Now that I’ve graduated, I am moving back to Pittsburgh to work in local politics.

Why did you choose to pursue an MPP at the Batten School?

  • Matt: I ultimately chose Batten because of its multidisciplinary versatile curriculum and the close, professional relationships between faculty and students. 
  • Charlotte: I chose Batten because I wanted to challenge myself with a qualitative program. Batten also caught my attention because the average age of the cohort [24.5] was around my age when I applied. 
  • Sarah Emily: I ultimately chose Batten because of the leadership components of the school, Charlottesville itself, and the inspirational professors I would have the opportunity to work with.
  • Scott: I wanted to build a solid quantitative foundation to be an effective policy analyst. UVA is one of the top schools in the country with an awesome alumni base that is so willing to help one another. When looking at those two aspects together, it was an easy decision for me to choose both the Batten School and an MPP.

What are some of your favorite classes and professors? How does the curriculum connect to your post-graduate goals?

  • Matt: My favorite class has been Fundamentals of Political Analysis with Elana DeLozier. Professor DeLozier is a leading practitioner in the field of political analysis. The subject matter knowledge paired with the analytical skill development I’ve taken away from the course has positioned me to immediately have an impact at my place of work during the beginning of my professional career.
  • Charlotte: My favorite classes have been Economics of Public Policy II and all my short courses (Public Speaking, Excel, and Negotiations). What I learned in Econ II helped me with my Applied Policy Project, and Research Methods and Data Analysis has prepared me for articulating my research.
  • Sarah Emily: While at Batten, I have taken Education Policy with Professor Daphna Bassok, Imagining Equitable Policy with Professor Michele Claibourn, and Congress 101 with Professor Gerald Warburg. These courses and the internship experience prepared me for my Applied Policy Project and future career. I hope to continue making positive changes in the education policy field post-graduation.
  • Scott: Overall, I really enjoyed the classes I took at Batten. Some of my favorites are Identity Politics with Professor Higginbotham, Congress 101 with Professor Warburg, and Economics II with Professor Ruhm. I intend on working within local-level policy upon graduation, and each class has equipped me with a toolkit to communicate policy, quantify policy, and get effective policy across the finish line.

Okay, so what do you do after finishing your work for the day? What is there to do in Charlottesville and what do y’all do for fun?

  • Matt: Outside of class, I love playing pickup basketball with my classmates and taking advantage of the nightlife on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. One of my favorite Batten memories came during the first couple of weeks in my first-year when I went to Sunset Series at Carter’s Mountain with folks from my year and the year above me–watching the sun go down with music in the background surrounded by caring, passionate, welcoming people made me feel at home and grateful to be a part of such an awesome community. 
  • Charlotte: I enjoy going to the farmers market on Saturday mornings and trying out local downtown restaurants. I also joined the Charlottesville Crossfit gym, which has helped me stay mentally sane and motivated. My favorite Batten memories are anytime we finished an exam and met up with classmates for post-exam beers. It was fun to come together to de-stress. The best way to survive your first year is to quickly get a study group. Then, try your best to put yourself out there and make new friends. For the most part, everyone wants to band together to get through the graduate experience and make a friend, so utilize that.
  • Sarah Emily: Beyond Batten, I have loved my time in Charlottesville. I have enjoyed walking on the Rivanna Trail, spending time with friends on the Downtown Mall, and I have taken a pottery class at Morehouse Studio. I go to the IX Art Park farmers market every Saturday, and I've enjoyed lots of UVA sports games. Overall, it has been a really fun place to live!
  • Scott: I’m a huge foodie and Charlottesville has a pretty awesome food scene! I try to try a different spot every week (though I have some clear favorites, like the Virginian and Asados). Overall, Charlottesville is beautiful, so I try to spend as much non-study time outside taking in the landscape.

Finally, as you start to think about your application for next year, here are a few application and admissions pointers:

  • Matt: I did my best to reach out to recommenders early on in the process to give them as much time to write on my behalf as possible. I also had a bunch of my friends and family members read my essays, and I incorporated their feedback to ensure I submitted my best work.
  • Charlotte: I did a rough draft for all the essay prompts and consulted my academic advisor to review my work. I checked the edits and gave my career advisor the new draft. Having multiple eyes on my writing samples made my application more robust. If I had more time, I would have had more people look at my work.
  • Sarah Emily: I answered all of the writing prompts very authentically. I wrote about my experience as a teacher during the COVID-19 pandemic and shared what I was looking for in terms of a program to advance my career.
  • Scott: My two big tips are stressing patience in the writing process and authenticity. Admissions wants to learn about you, what makes you tick, and why you want to be in the policy arena. Take all the time necessary to really sit with the questions the application is asking you to answer, and bring your whole self to the table.