Alumni - Ethics, History, & Public Policy - Carnegie Mellon University


Andrew Peters, ‘09

What made you decide to be an EHPP major?

I actually knew I wanted to be in the EHPP major before I came to school.  I knew that I wanted to major in public policy coming out of high school, but I’m not sure I knew what that meant at the time. When I visited CMU as a high school junior or senior, I saw that the university offered a policy major that combined history, which I enjoyed studying, with ethics and moral philosophy, which I knew practically nothing about. So I took some courses in applied ethics in freshman year to sort of test-drive the major and I loved it. I declared before my freshman year was out.

What advice do you have for current EHPP majors?

I know I sometimes wondered whether EHPP would be enough, or whether I needed another major to make myself, I don’t know, marketable? I think my advice is that if you love the courses, don’t wonder whether you should be doing something more technical, unless you enjoy that sort of thing. Not only does the EHPP major have some of the most fascinating coursework, it also teaches you how to research, think, write, and craft an argument, which are skills that come in handy no matter what you do. Also, for EHPP majors I think it’s important to remember that good things come to those who ask. When you have a major that is only offered in one place and often not easy to describe, sometimes you have invent opportunities for yourself. A couple of the jobs I had in college were actually created for me, not necessarily because I was the most qualified, but because I was there and I asked for them. And if I had not held those jobs, I wouldn't have the one I have now.

Did you have any great internship experiences?

I interned for Sen. Kerry's press office in D.C., and a year later, I got an internship in Pittsburgh at the Heinz Endowments. At Kerry's office, I had sort of the standard Hill intern experience, which some people think is boring, but I thought was great. I got a better understanding of politics and policy, and how people actually communicate with each other and with the public. At Heinz, I got a great feel for the nonprofit world, which I am still a big part of. I think I started being a little more strategic in choosing courses after my internships – I had a better idea of what I wanted to study, and what I could potentially do as a career.

Do you have favorite classes or teachers at CMU?

Why did you like them so much? I gladly risk sounding like a brown-noser to say my favorite professor in the EHPP major was Alex London. His classes on global justice and human rights were the most engaging, policy-relevant, and challenging that I took. On the first paper I turned in to Prof. London, I got the worst grade I had ever received in 14 years of schooling. But after that, he helped me think about how to write a convincing argument methodically and concisely. Learning how to do that, combined with my work at The Tartan and internships, was really how my current career began to take shape. How did being an EHPP major prepare you for the job you are doing now? In my job, I don't ever recite arguments from moral philosophy or analyze historic texts, but I do have to research, write, participate in discussions, articulate my views – these are all things that I know how to do because of EHPP courses. Another big and sort of intangible thing was that EHPP forced me to be a self-starter: having to craft my own academic track, decide what I would concentrate on, choose my own research projects – these things helped me be an independent decision maker, which is a large part of my current job.

Emily Evans ‘05

What made you decide to be an EHPP major?

Originally, I planned on majoring in economics. But after taking Principles of Econ with Professor Klepper - a class I very much enjoyed and did well in - I was worried that I wouldn't have sufficient opportunities to use and continue to develop my writing skills as an Economics major. The EHPP major allowed me to develop and maintain a wider variety of skill sets.

What advice do you have for current EHPP majors?

Take advantage of the opportunity the major allows you to develop a broad and unique set of skills and tools, but try to find an area of particular interest to you so that you can have a context for integrating and applying these skills. (I minored in Health Care Policy and Management.

Did you do research at CMU? Did you study abroad? Have any great internship experiences?

Beginning my junior year and continuing through graduation, I did an independent study with Professor Alex London that focused on key issues in research ethics, and we published a paper in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics based on this work. Professor London also supervised my Honors Thesis which looked at the issue of personal responsibility for health and health care from the perspective of egalitarian moral theories. During my senior year, I worked with Professor Richard Scheines on an Institute of Medicine project (Food Marketing and the Diets of Children and Youth), which focused on issues of causal inference at the policy level. Professor Scheines arranged for another grad student and me to attend the committee's meeting in Woods Hole, MA, which was a very eye-opening experience and cemented my desire to work on public policy challenges. My experiences represented what I loved most about CMU - the opportunity to develop and integrate diverse skill sets to produce ehtically and empirically sound responses to public policy issues. These were also unique opportunities - none of my grad school classmates had these experiences.

What made you decide to pursue law school after CMU? Did you take a year off or go immediately?

After graduating from CMU, I [immediately] entered the PhD program in philosophy at Georgetown University with the intention of pursuing an MPH. It was difficult to find a program outside of CMU that matched my interests in both conceptual and quantitative issues in public policy, so I ended up crafting my own. I took a year off after I finished my course work there to earn my MPH from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg school of Public Health. I'm currently in the dissertation stage of my program at Georgetown, and my research focuses on epistemic and ethical issues in environmental health research and policy. I also currently work as a research assistant for two projects at Hopkins that focus on methodological issues in clinical and public health research.

Alan Eaton, EHPP ‘08, Heinz Accelerated Masters in Public Policy and Management, '09

What made you decide to be an EHPP major?

I was originally a Civil Engineering major. However, I liked the flexibility of EHPP and how all the classes you take in the EHPP major come together. I also really liked having the ability to take a wide variety of classes.

How has EHPP led you to your current job?

Through the EHPP department, I learned about the Friedman Summer Internship Program, which is a program open to CMU undergraduate and gradate students from any college or school who want to spend the summer gaining firsthand policy experience in Washington, D.C. EHPP students are urged to take the initiative to go out and search for grants, scholarships, programs. My experience as an EHPP major led me to work on Capitol Hill and understand how closely intertwined history, policy and philosophy really are.

What do you recommend to EHPP undergraduate students, particularly those who are getting ready to graduate?

Network, and defnitely don't be afraid to reach out to Carnegie Mellon alumi. Everyone has been there
and knows what you are going through. Finding jobs in the real world really depends on random tangential connections. Did you do research at CMU or study abroad? I studied abroad in Australia on our campus there. I also participated in a SURG grant on finding sustainable foods in local Pittsburgh areas and integrating them into our dining services on campus.

What was your biggest regret at CMU?

That I didn’t switch to become an EHPP major sooner!