By: Colleen Kropp

Two hardworking, driven, ambitious Temple University students have earned the tremendous opportunity to attend the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute. Morrease Leftwich and Razin Karu are both College of Liberal Arts juniors, and each has an interesting backstory of how they came to develop such a keen interest in public policy. The PPIA is a rigorous program allowing both students to ardently pursue their interests.

Dr. Barbara Gorka describes the nature of the PPIA as an “intensive seven-week program that prepares students for graduate programs in public and international affairs and careers as policy professionals, public administrators and other leadership roles in public service. This summer's institutes take place at Carnegie Mellon, Princeton (where Karu will be), University of California at Berkeley (where Leftwich will be), University of Michigan, and University of Minnesota. During the summer institutes, fellows take classes focused on economics, statistics, policy analysis, policy writing and public speaking. They also participate in seminars with experienced practitioners and researchers on a range of policy topics.”

The experience is meant to empower and enable students to tenaciously develop their skills and more deeply understand their passions for public policy and international affairs.

Morrease Leftwich

Morrease Leftwich is a political science and Africology double-major from Jersey City. Since starting at Temple, Leftwich knew he wanted to go to law school after undergrad, so he pursued a path that continued to build towards that goal and a future career. While in Jersey City, he chaired a campaign for the Jersey City Board of Education. His candidate, Mussab Ali, who was only 19 at the time, won. This experience helped to refine his interests in law and policy, specifically gearing him more towards campaign financing.

Leftwich also serves as a judge in the Temple Student Government (TSG) and as President of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA). He joined the BLSA as a freshman, and he describes it as “a great organization that is much more laidback than most student professional organizations on campus but still provides great resources and networking opportunities. For example, we are sponsored by Princeton Review, which provides all members with discounted rates on materials and classes.

“Additionally, we hold annual events like our law school admissions panel, our legal professional networking event, as well as provide opportunities to prepare for the LSAT like an introductory strategy session each semester. I would say I'm very much like BLSA, extremely laidback but always hustling.”

That sense of drive and hustle is certainly self-evident and extends into various arenas in Leftwich’s life. Starting last spring in the TSG, for instance, he became “the leader of the first judicial branch that we have had. In that role, I make sure that all disputes regarding the constitution are handled in a consistent manner, and I love my job.”  

Leftwich is attending the PPIA at Berkeley, which he describes as the most competitive because it’s the only program geared towards students interested in both policy and law. While he attends the institute, Leftwich will take graduate courses on policy analysis, economics and the legal aspect of policy. These courses will be bolstered through a series of networking events and professional development workshops. Leftwich’s sincerity coupled with his desire to learn has placed him in this position to truly cultivate meaningful connections and find out even more about himself as a young professional.

Razin Karu

Razin Karu’s interest in public policy emerged in a different, serendipitous way. He was born and raised in India and moved to the United States in 2013 with no plans to go to college. He was working a bunch of part-time jobs before eventually attending community college.

“I met this guy who used to work for the State Department, and he encouraged me to take classes,” recalls Karu. “I got involved on campus in terms of student government, and I earned my associate [degree] in May 2017 with history honors, and I was awarded the President’s Cup Award and picked by the faculty to be the commencement speaker. My idea was to do something in foreign services, and I developed an interest in international relations.”

When Karu transferred to Temple, he learned of the PPIA opportunity about a week before the deadline and is immensely grateful for Dr. Gorka’s generous support during his application process. Even so, Karu remained skeptical upon completing his application, believing his chances of actually receiving the fellowship to be less than 10 percent.

That skepticism was quickly dissolved, and Karu will be joining an elite cohort of 30 students from all over the nation this summer in Princeton. There he’ll be taking four courses, including a policy workshop where the students work on formulating their own policy. Karu’s focus is going to be on international trade and security.

Here at Temple, he was recently elected as President of the Muslim Students Association and, like Leftwich, is involved in TSG, where he will fill in as the student transfer representative. As the leader of the Muslim Student Association, Karu’s responsibility is to perform long-term instruction planning for the organization and hold events for all Temple students to come and attend.

“They can meet American-Muslim people and also know more about the faith and debunk myths and misconceptions related to the faith,” he says.

In his other role, he represents transfer students in the general assembly and in the student government. He explains that “transfer students form almost half the population at Temple, and they are historically under-involved in the clubs and organizations. So I am working along with the administration in terms of making their experience at Temple University a good one.”

Karu currently works with an organization called NextGen America. NextGen visits college campuses across 10 states, educating people on various issues that affect young people. He plans to get more involved within the organization, especially with the department that works with educating people. Opportunities include managing the literature the organization distributes.

Remember that Karu came here five years ago with no prospects or plans to go to college., Now, however, he feels “like one thing is leading to another, and it feels great that I am appreciated, and it feels like if I put in my work and apply myself to something I am going to get bigger and better things.”

Beyond PPIA

As PPIA participants, both Karu and Leftwich are carving out incredible future opportunities for themselves that extend well beyond the summer program.

So, what happens after PPIA?

As fellows, it is one of their obligations to pursue a master’s degree in international affairs or public policy after graduating from Temple, either immediately after graduation or a few years following. They can apply to one of the schools of the consortium. Most graduate schools that teach international affairs and public policy also offer substantial scholarships. That includes more than 30-40 graduate schools in the United States.

Temple University Undergraduate Chair of Political Science Heath Fogg Davis continually puts forth the effort to make sure that political science undergraduates are aware of these opportunities, developing a distinct culture of fellowships in political science. Both Leftwich and Karu are eager to embrace this opportunity in Berkeley and Princeton this summer and will bring back what they have learned to continue to share with and add to the vibrancy of Temple’s growing community.

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