Kyle McKay started his journey at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with an interest in social policy and finance, and he graduated in 2013 with the technical skills and experience necessary to be successful as an analyst. McKay currently works as an analyst for the Texas Legislative Budget Board, a dream job that he says he landed thanks in part to the experience he gained with his capstone project work at UMD School of Public Policy.
“I knew I wanted to go to policy school in DC because of the opportunities to work in DC,” McKay says. “I liked Maryland because of the atmosphere, being in a research university, it had a good reputation.” He adds that he decided to choose social policy and finance because he wanted to be in the room when people talked about funding programs. “It’s an interesting way to participate in the decision-making process,” McKay says. “A lot of the technical skills that I learned in the budgeting class at UMD have been helpful in my career.”
“I don’t think you go to public policy school to gain skills you don’t already have, I think it helps your ability to process large amounts of information and boil it down,” he says. “I learned how to understand public finance and the organization of the American government. I gained the ability to understand how programs are funded at different levels of government and nonprofits in different policy areas.”
There are a lot of internships that are available for people in graduate school, so there were a lot of opportunities I had to do internships and gave me a good network and helped me understand the kind of job I was interested in.Kyle McKay '13
McKay says that his capstone instructor and graduate assistantship supervisor Jacqueline Rogers was influential during his time at the school, connecting him with his first job with the Department of Legislative Services where he completed his capstone project. The project and first job were helpful stepping stones in his career field, McKay says. “It was the perfect segue into my career.”
He adds that his experience with internships was helpful in building the career that he wanted. “I think that one of the big things was that there are a lot of internships that are available for people in graduate school, so there were a lot of opportunities I had to do internships and gave me a good network and helped me understand the kind of job I was interested in,” McKay says.
In May, McKay was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Budget Committee’s Government Performance Task Force about the impact of social bonds, which related to his capstone project that he completed at UMD. During his testimony, he expressed thoughts on why the benefits of social impact bonds would not be as attainable as others might think. He has also completed a study on social impact bonds and wrote about the subject in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
But the classes and real-world experiences weren’t the only things about the school that McKay enjoyed. He also adds that the interaction with faculty and fellow students was valuable. He says, “My favorite part about studying at Maryland was just meeting other people who were really interested and passionate about public policy.”
For prospective SPP students, he suggests creating a plan for what you want to do in school. “My plan changed a bunch while I was in school,” he says. “Having a plan will help keep you on track to reach your goal. I would suggest you try to think about the types of jobs you’re interested in and not necessarily the subject matter. Sometimes you don’t realize until later that the subject of the policy is not as important as the type of work you want to be doing.”
McKay adds, “I would say probably the most important thing is to develop a support network for yourself personally and professionally. Grad school can be stressful with the amount of papers you have to write and read and internships to do. It’s important to have peers you can talk to, professional mentors to guide you, and personal support to help you.”