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As an immigrant to the United States, my summer trips to Istanbul were a window into how growth can radically transform societies. The mangled roads and dilapidated buildings were left behind for skyscrapers dominating the historic skyline and luxury cars in the city’s alleyways. Despite my amazement and pride with this intense growth, I quickly became overwhelmed by the unevenness of this transformation. Storefronts flaunting the latest styles from London diverted attention from persistent poverty in rural Turkey. The inequitable distribution of growth was striking and inspired my decision to pursue a career in the field of international development.
As I began to study development policy, it became clear that many policymakers and international organizations were focused on implementing predetermined, "best practice" solutions, rather than understanding the source, extent, and magnitude of the problems that a developing country faces. Evidence was used to evaluate whether projects worked, but was rarely used to understand whether the intervention was necessary or to clearly define a problem in the local context. The political feasibility of a proposed project was assumed, and scaling up the intervention similarly assumed state capability (often the same capability that the project was trying to develop).
A willingness to question this status quo is what attracted me to the MPA/ID Program. Intertwining theoretical and analytical frameworks, experiences, and management skills to define, diagnose, and address development challenges has been a refreshing learning experience. I've had the immense privilege of having access to faculty that not only invest in my professional development, but also challenge my preconceived notions and biases to make me an effective policy maker.
The MPA/ID is often lauded for the strong quantitative skill set that it imparts, but it is the ability to tie those skills to the political and administrative realities in developing nations that makes the curriculum truly stand out. It is this ability to think holistically about policy making in the developing world that will be invaluable to my career.
Before enrolling in the MPA/ID Program, Mehmet worked as an economic consultant in Turkey and in the US, focusing on competition policy, antitrust, and private sector regulation. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Economics.