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GSAS Alumni Spotlight: Nancy Brune, Executive Director, Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities

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What did you study at Yale, and what is your current profession/job?

I am currently the (founding) Executive Director of the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, a bipartisan think tank in Nevada that provides data-driven research and policy analysis to decision-makers in Nevada and the region. I studied political science at Yale, although I took as many classes in the Economics Department and the School of Management. I graduated in 2006.

What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/ or rewarding?

I love the ability to do research and apply it to real-life policy issues and challenges.  I also enjoy the fact that I am learning information on a wide range of policy topics that I didn’t study while at Yale (e.g., tax policy, water, health care). The thing I like least about my job is the administration part. While I always wanted to run my own business/non-profit, I didn’t anticipate how time-consuming the administrative tasks can be. As we’ve grown, I’ve had to find and set up benefit plans, set up bank accounts, set up accounting procedures, and conduct performance evaluations. These tasks take me away what I most love—the research and process of inquiry.

How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?

Yale provides its graduate students an opportunity to explore. So, I was able to take classes in other disciplines. And by having guest lecturers come through the various schools, I was able to learn about different careers.

What are the main skills that you acquired as a PhD student which help make you successful in your current career?

Solid research and quantitative analysis skills (e.g., regression analysis, forecasting).

Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school?

While at Yale, I had a wonderful graduate school adviser (faculty member) who understood my desire to find opportunities where I could work on applied research projects.  As such, he was supportive when I chose to engage in short-term consulting contracts with the World Bank, the Harvard School of Public Health’s International Health Systems, and other organizations.

What advice would you offer PhDs who are interested in your line of work?

The path of academia is uncertain. It is very difficult to land that tenure track job at the school you want, in the city you want. As such, one has to be prepared for the unexpected and be prepared to explore life outside of academia. Thus, one should try to find opportunities to build skills and/or professional experience while one is in graduate school. There is little downside and lots of upside.

 

GSAS Alumni Spotlight

This GSAS Alumni Spotlight is part of an ongoing series featuring alumni who have chosen non-faculty careers.