Public policy professors empower students to make a difference

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Kristin Grimm (left) and Erin Hart (right), two Master in Public Policy professors. 

“You envision the change, we help make it happen.”  

Professors Kristen Grimm and Erin Hart are determined to teach their Carsey School of Public Policy students how they can identify policy needs and work together to get those policies in place. Between them, Grimm and Hart have more than four decades of experience in the field of public interest communication work. They use their deep knowledge of communication strategy, social science and campaign development to guide students in using influence and persuasion to get policies in place that make the world a better place.   

“When it comes to what works to get policymakers, voters or corporate leaders to change a policy, nothing beats real-world experience. Communication is fast moving. We’re constantly learning from new science that tells us why humans behave the way they do. We can apply that in real time to make real change on issues that matter,” Hart says.  

“The world doesn’t get better on its own. It needs champions.”

Sixteen years ago, Grimm founded Spitfire Strategies in Washington, D.C., a full-service firm that uses strategic communications to engage audiences and build support for ambitious change. Grimm surrounded herself with other mission-driven people who fight discrimination and inequality where they see it and are creative in getting noticed in the attention economy. In 2014, Hart and Grimm met when they were founding an effort to advance the field of public interest communications and collaborate on ways to grow and diversify practitioners.  

Between the two of them, they have worked to make the criminal justice system fairer, helped the Gulf of Mexico get back on its feet after the BP oil spill, advocated for a free and open internet, fought Big Tobacco's efforts to addict smokers as teens, protected endangered species, safeguarded water quality and continued the fight to get workers the paid sick leave they need to take care of themselves and their families.   

Each week, Grimm or Hart travel or video in from D.C. and San Francisco, respectively, to Durham, New Hampshire, to instruct their strategies for policy impact class. Both love working with students who look out on the world and think, “It shouldn’t be like that” and helping them learn ways to change it. They achieve this by bringing their real-world experiences and technical expertise into the classroom, getting their students to pick an actual problem they want to solve and helping them design a strategy to do just that.  

“The world doesn’t get better on its own. It needs champions. We are here to make sure those champions have the skills and expertise they’ll need to end inequality, improve people’s well-being and expand opportunity. We love seeing students try their hand at this and empowering them that change is in their hands,” Grimm said.  

Learn more about Carsey's Master's in Public Policy curriculum and faculty.