By Hensley Carrasco

Natalie Baker MPA 2024 came to HKS with a plan to develop her skills in economics and public policy. Her experience proved to be more impactful than she could have ever anticipated.


Natalie Baker MPA 2024 is an experienced economist and consultant dedicated to advancing economic and environmental outcomes through evidence-based solutions. She has a focus on climate finance, economic development, and social policy and is passionate about leveraging the tools of economics and finance to create a more sustainable and equitable future.

Prior to attending HKS, she worked as a research and public policy manager for the Productivity Commission, the Australian Government’s independent research and advisory agency.

During her time at the Kennedy School, she has served on the Kennedy School Student Government Finance Committee, been an Adaptive Leadership Course Coach, interned with the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP), and participated in the Harvard Climate Internship Program.

Read why education is important to her, why economics gets her up in the morning, and how her HKS experience—in and out of the classroom—proved to be more impactful than she anticipated.


What was your driving factor for coming to HKS? What were you hoping to get out of this experience?

I grew up in Australia in a family that valued education. There are stories throughout my family’s history of strong women working within systems to make change. I was inspired by my grandmother who was one of very few women in her class in rural China. She was lucky enough to get an education and dedicate her career to teaching others. Through that lineage, lessons were passed on to me and is why I see education as such an important and powerful tool. Coming to HKS is such a privilege and opportunity.

I came to HKS with the goal of furthering my technical skills in economics. The flexibility of the MPA Program was incredible. I was able to take PhD-level courses in economics and econometrics and develop my technical skillset. I’ve always thought about public policy through the lens of economics—what I didn’t expect when I came to HKS was that I would explore classes outside of that framework. 


Who or what made an impression on you during your time at HKS?

A lot of the classes I took fundamentally changed the way I think. There are incredible professors here that challenge your worldview. Being exposed to those new ways of thinking was quite a transformative experience, both personally and professionally.

Professor Dan Levy and his class on thinking analytically changed the way that I think through decision-making when it comes to high-impact policy work. Other impactful faculty include Professor Ronald Heifetz and Professor Farayi Chipungu. Professor Chipungu’s class on leadership challenged the way that I approach evidence-based policymaking, but also policy implementation and working with incredibly diverse groups of people to drive change.

One of the incredible things about HKS is that it pulls people from all over the world. There’s such a rich diversity of experience in a school like this—it is unparalleled.

I was part of a study group on industrial policy that turned out to be an amazing experience. The study group provided an opportunity for like-minded students interested in this topic to come together every couple of weeks. We would talk through papers and bring in experts and academics from within the Harvard community as well as the policymaking community more broadly. It all culminated in a trip to D.C. We talked to different U.S. policymakers to understand the salient issues for them, what they're grappling with, and how governments are tackling these issues on the ground. It was such a fantastic experience. As amazing as it was to talk to policymakers, it was even better to build a community of interested students and academics. 

Natalie Baker MPA 2024 (center) with her industrial policy study group in Washington, D.C., after meeting with the Department of Commerce.

Tell us more about your experience with the Harvard Climate Internship Program and Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP).

Working with the Harvard Climate Internship Program shaped the direction that I'm taking after graduation. It changed a lot of what I did at HKS. The program is organized by Professor Joe Aldy, and it gave me the opportunity to work with the Climate Bonds Initiative, which is a global think tank working to mobilize capital for climate action.

It was just such an incredible experience to work with them doing research and looking at how to increase capital into developing and emerging economies. That internship drew on my experience—partly from Australian National University as well—in international and development economics. It gave me the chance to implement a lot of the frameworks that I've been learning over the course of the degree—from economics and finance to thinking about a theory of change.

My experience as a WAPPP intern was also fantastic. I did some work with Professor Michela Carlana—who has been a fantastic mentor—looking into labor market policy and childcare. Another lesson that was handed down to me through my family was the importance of gender equity. Being a WAPPP intern enabled me to get into the detail of evidence-based policy and do the kind of empirical work—applying what I'd learned to my classes in the econometric side.

It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of that. There's such a great community of academics working in that space here in HKS.


What surprised you during your time at HKS?

I was surprised by how much this degree gave me new ways of thinking. I didn’t expect how much it would shape my view of the world.

Another thing that surprised me was just how special the HKS global community is. I’ve had amazing opportunities to meet so many incredible people here. Feeling the energy, having casual interactions with people from around the world, and learning from what’s going on in their home countries, for example, are the kinds of connections that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. 


Natalie Baker MPA 2024 standing and smiling on the HKS campus, wearing a navy blazer and white collared shirt embroidered with flowers.

“Policymaking is what gets me out of bed in the morning and is what I will keep doing for the next 40 years.”

Natalie Baker MPA 2024

How do you think you’d like to apply your HKS degree?

Getting two years to dedicate time to thinking deeply about issues and challenging myself from an intellectual standpoint was such privilege.

Policymaking is what gets me out of bed in the morning and is what I will keep doing for the next 40 years. HKS has given me a very strong analytical toolkit to develop evidence-based policymaking through the lens of economics and finance. I think the other thing that HKS has given me is the motivation to pursue policymaking in the climate and environment space—particularly thinking about the energy transition. This is a challenge that's going to affect every country in the world and in every sector of the economy. These issues aren't going away and now is the time to do it. We have, by some estimates, less than six years to really move the needle on some of these climate change issues.


Why is public service important to you?

Public service is about looking beyond your own experience and contributing to making a better society—a more just and equitable world. There's so much going on in the world that it's easy to miss what's important. But to the extent that we can dedicate our careers and our efforts to making the world a better place, I think that's important. It doesn’t matter what community you’re in, it’s going to take everybody to make a difference.

For me, public service isn't just about government. It's about bringing people into a cause that's bigger than your own world and trying to make a difference and leave the world in a better place.

Portraits by Natalie Montaner. Image provided by Natalie Baker.

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