Student Spotlight: Alyssa Tulabut MPP/MBA '24

After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2015 with a degree in economics and psychology, I spent a number of years working with a national civil rights advocacy organization in DC. My career thus far had been incredibly affirming of my ability to affect change. From managing coalitions to rolling out campaigns, I spent my time in the nonprofit space strengthening my leadership muscles. However, I’d also encountered the limitations of working solely within the civil rights sector. I'd witnessed firsthand the challenge juggling pressing community needs, funders' expectations, and shifts in the political landscape. I wanted to move beyond reliance on philanthropy and (often overburdened and under-resourced) nonprofits; I wanted to build with other sectors in a joint pursuit of equity.

I recognized that I needed to develop as a leader capable of producing nuanced analyses for a variety of stakeholders to facilitate multisector collaborations. I wanted to grow in ways that I couldn’t necessarily by staying in the workforce. As such, I turned my attention to graduate school.

Throughout my process of speaking with alumni of various programs, a common theme rang clear: Understand your why to figure out your where. Graduate school is an investment, so you should be ready to make that jump into the program(s) that will help you take the next step on your professional journey.

My personal vision of successful leadership became clear upon introspection. It involved combining systems-level analysis, coalition building, and strategic decision-making to leave the civil rights sector more poised to achieve transformative, societal change. With its unique emphasis on public policy and leadership and its multidisciplinary problem-solving approach, Batten was aligned with these goals. Additionally, I saw immense value in the flexibility to pursue my MPP and MBA degrees in tandem at UVA. I could become a well-rounded changemaker who could operate at the intersections of industries and supercharge my capacity. The icing on the cake was the chance to spend this time — years of taxing academic demands — in Charlottesville, a picturesque incubator with few enough distractions but ample opportunities for escape from the grind. Charlottesville had been my home for four years before, and I was ready to make the return and enjoy time there as a graduate student.

Halfway through my first year, I remain confident in my decision to return to UVA and how this time in Charlottesville will serve my goals to affect large-scale change. I embrace the school’s philosophy of fostering lifelong learners who move forward in their journeys with intellectual humility and curiosity. I believe I am on such a path at Batten, and at UVA at large. As the Batten saying goes, “Policy is everywhere. Lead from anywhere.” In just two and a half years, I will walk down the Lawn graduating as a proud triple ‘Hoo ready to lead from the intersections — of informed and ethical, of policy and business, and of great and good.

Alyssa Tulabut