By Caren Yap MPP 2025

Caren Yap stands smiling at podium in the JFK Forum

My name is Caren Royce “CY” Marasigan Yap. I am a first-year Master in Public Policy student and proud Las Vegan Filipina. Prior to HKS, I worked for the Nevada State Legislature and New American Leaders, expanding civic engagement and voting rights for immigrants and communities of color. Now at HKS, I’m studying participatory democracy and freedom of expression through the lens of civic organizing and film. Throughout my graduate school journey, I’ve gained insight into how to navigate community-building and my own identity.

Find Space, Make Space

There are a wide array of professional interest councils (PIC), student caucuses, research centers, and events to get involved with at HKS–each of them wonderful for developing your professional network and interests. Thanks to the diversity of our community, there is something to learn something from every conversation. 

From conducting research at the Ash Center to hosting events on racial equity with the AAPI Caucus, the greatest thing I have gained through my involvement on campus is community. I have found belonging through spaces that only exist because of the people before me. I think of Shannon’s passion in the Social Policy PIC and Ayesha’s leadership of Muslim Caucus. These HKS women of color have blazed a trail, creating spaces for students to find shared community. 

My advice to new students is to push yourself to explore existing spaces but also dare to create new ones.

Stay Connected to Wherever and Whoever You Call Home

HKS allows you to grow in ways you’d never expect. As a student, I have been able to travel to rural Maine and beautiful Samoa. These experiences have expanded my perspectives on the world and my definitions of change. 

For many students at HKS, especially incoming students, it can seem overwhelming to decide what opportunities to take advantage of and how to enact change.

What has grounded my sense of purpose, is keeping in close company with my ‘why’. My hometown of Las Vegas, and the people in it, mean everything to me and are foundational to who I am. Finding ways to give back and stay in touch with my community has strengthened my identity and allowed me to focus my studies on what I care about most.

HKS has provided me with beautiful experiences that have been incredibly fulfilling. It is a place for those who hope to make a difference in the world. I haven’t always seen myself reflected in public service, but because of HKS, I vividly see a future where I do.

Read Next Post
View All Blog Posts