July 25, 2016

Batten Alumna Moves Policy Forward at OMB

Name and graduation year: Saha Khaterzai, MPP 2014
Job Title: Presidential Management Fellow, Director’s Office
Organization: White House Office of Management and Budget

Tell us about what you do in your job?

I currently work on the Community Solutions team which is in the Director’s Office at the Office of Management and Budget. Our team works on advancing a new approach to Federal engagement with high-need communities that face steep poverty as well as lower capacity to respond to both challenges and opportunities. We work to ensure that our engagement with communities is driven by partnership with local officials, philanthropic partners and reliance on data to guide what works. In particular, I work on the administration’s Promise Zone initiative which pairs Federal government partners with local leaders to streamline resources across agencies and deliver comprehensive support. The Promise Zone designation has conferred 10 years of significant Federal support for local leaders in 22 high-poverty communities.

Are there any courses or experiences at Batten that prepared you for your role?

I found that learning to write a proper policy memo was very valuable as I do that on a regular basis. On a broader scale, Batten provided me with a series of lenses for analysis of complex issues and the ability to delve deeply with the aim of providing a meaningful solution. Prior to joining Batten, I was only interested in health policy, but Batten taught me a greater appreciation for the interconnection of various policy problems. For instance, a community that struggles with poor health may also be struggling with underperforming schools, rundown housing and neighborhood violence. Batten taught me how to approach these interconnected challenges and offer comprehensive solutions.

What brought you to Batten?

Prior to enrolling at UVA as an undergrad, I spent a gap year in Afghanistan where I worked with a number of non-profit organizations. That is when I realized I wanted to pursue a degree in a field that would equip with the skills necessary to be able to make a meaningful difference. Batten School’s curriculum offered a unique combination of quantitative and qualitative classes.  In particular, I was drawn to the small size of the school and the caliber of other students. After meeting many of the Batten students, I realized that I wouldn’t just be learning from my professors, but my peers as well. The school has an inspiring student body who are passionate about making a difference in the world.

What advice would you give prospective or current students about the Batten experience?

The Batten School and UVA have countless opportunities available which allows students to tailor their experiences to their career and life goals. However it is up to you to take advantage of those opportunities. Take a class in another graduate program (Law or Darden), attend speaking engagements, develop relationships with your professors outside of the classroom, become involved with an organization in the Charlottesville community that interests you. The experience is what you make it.