For students interested in public policy, a think tank offers an ideal environment to begin exploring a range of policies, methods of research, and potential solutions to current issues. Elizabeth “Betsy” Bilharz ’12, an economics major with a public policy minor, plans to take full advantage of a think-tank environment; she will spend her summer as an intern for the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies in Concord, N. H. A recipient of a summer 2011 Public Service Internship Grant from the Levitt Center, Bilharz will work with public service professionals to conduct research, report her findings and further her own knowledge.
The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies is among the most respected think tanks in New Hampshire. Founded in 1996 to conduct projects on public school funding and budget programs, the independent organization has since expanded to focus on a wider range of issues facing New Hampshire, including education, healthcare, and the economic climate. The Center aims to provide policymakers with efficient policy solutions through data-based research. According to Bilharz, high efficiency maximizes the gains from any particular project or policy, and so organizations such as the Center play a crucial role in providing good legislation to citizens.
Bilharz will work with the Center’s staff to compile and analyze data, conduct literature reviews, and write reports about her findings. Specifically, Bilharz states, “My projects will include analysis of New Hampshire’s changes to the state budget, the impact of aging on New Hampshire’s health care system, education outcomes in public schools, and health impact of the state budget.” She looks forward to making meaningful contributions which will be used to enact positive change in the lives of New Hampshire residents. Bilharz’s personal experience with nonprofit organizations has taught her the value to distributing finite resources with the highest possible efficiency, and she hopes to carry this experience over to her work with the Center.
The Center’s data-based research method grants Bilharz the opportunity to apply her classes and experiences at Hamilton in a new environment. Her statistics courses, for example, have prepared her for the sort of research methods the Center employs, and her coursework in public policy lends her some background on the issues she will investigate.
Furthermore, she notes, “Data-based research is something that I have wanted to pursue since before even coming to Hamilton,” and this internship allows her to explore a longtime passion. Bilharz has been involved in nonprofit work for years, and she is three-year executive board member and current director of Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach, and Charity (HAVOC). She believes that volunteering offers a personal, direct way of interacting with others that isn’t found in data analysis, and in fall ’11 she plans to continue her volunteer work by taking on an assessment role as a fellow for the Community Outreach and Opportunity Project (COOP).
Hands-on volunteer work offers a very different experience from the data-based work that Bilharz will be doing this summer, even though both efforts could share the same goals. While Bilharz has extensive experience with volunteer work for nonprofit organizations in the Utica area, she looks forward to applying her statistical and research skills to a very different environment over the summer.
Elizabeth Bilharz is a graduate of Exeter High School in New Hampshire.