A group of about 25 graduate students will be heading to the Philippines next week to study various aspects of economics and government in the country. But the trip, which is part of a Public Policy course, was harder to fund this year than in years past due to the down economy.
During spring break, the students will be meeting with government officials and policy makers in the Philippines as part of Public Policy 674. The course gives students the chance to study a given country’s economy in depth and then travel to that country. The trip is usually largely funded through the University, but that funding was a little harder to secure this year, according to Matt Schaar, a business school graduate student, who directed fundraising efforts for the class.
Schaar said the class had to compensate for departmental budget constraints that haven’t been hurdles in past years.
“The recession didn’t hurt most of the programs we usually get our funding from until this year,” Schaar said. “We go to different departments. We go to (the Ross School of Business), we go to (the School of Public Health), and a lot of those groups just didn’t have the extra funding to support us this year.”
Schaar said students enrolled in the class had to take fundraising into their own hands, holding events at clubs around Ann Arbor that earned a total of about $1,200. Despite the efforts to raise money, Schaar said, funding for the trip was 15 percent short of the target a little over a week ago.
“We were going to have some students pay for the trip themselves, or a portion of it, which, in the 10 years we’ve had this program, (has) never happened before,” he said.
Schaar said a last-ditch effort to reach the chief administrative officer at the Ford School of Public Policy for departmental funding helped close the budget gap.
“I feel like we earned our way over there,” Schaar said. “I kind of like the fact that we have to put in some of our own effort to make it happen.”
In addition to fundraising for the trip, students coordinated meeting with government officials through a public policy school in the Philippines, according to Aileen Payumo, a business school graduate student and Philippines native.
“I’m friends with Tony La Vina, the dean of the Ateno School of Government, … (and) he was able to put me in touch with various officials,” Payumo said.
Payumo added that she is excited to go on the trip because her connection to the country will give her a special perspective on the project.
“I think I’ll get something very different than what everyone else will because I am Filipino. I think it’s going to give me the ability to be an ambassador to my country, which I’m always excited to do,” she said.
Egan Reich, a second-year public policy student, said the students chose to go to the Philippines to observe its unusual patterns of economic growth and development.
“The Philippines has all sorts of economic growth indicators, and yet it still has pretty significant poverty, and a lot of the things you would normally look at to see what has an effect on poverty don’t seem to work,” he said.
Reich added that the students have been divided into six groups with different research topics like economics and public health and will meet with government officials to discuss these topics.
“We’re going to interview several policy makers, and see what sort of insights they have to offer,” said Reich. “We have our background research and what we’ve done in class, and then to add to that, people who are actually working there and doing it.”