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Center for Women in Government Fellowship: Diversifying the Pool of Public Policy Makers

April 21, 2010



UAlbany Grad Student Abby Ramsarran

The Fellowship on Women and Public Policy has provided Abby Ramsarran the opportunity to study the mental health of women from immigrant backgrounds. (Photos Mark Schmidt)

Abby Ramsarran, a summa cum laude graduate of the University at Albany, is among 10 young professionals selected to participate in the 2010 Fellows on Women and Public Policy program at the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society (CWGCS). Ramsarran's field placement at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS) allows her an opportunity to study the mental health of women and children from immigrant backgrounds.

"The fellowship provided an opportunity to delve in depth in issues that I am passionate about and explore policies that promote equity in public service and encourage government to be more responsive to the needs of women, children, families, and communities in New York," said Ramsarran, who received her bachelor's degree in psychology. 

Ramsarran is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work (MSW) at UAlbany's School of Social Welfare. Her dedication to serving disenfranchised populations charted her professional and educational pathways. "Arriving in Bronx, New York, I was amazed to see women as doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs which are roles quite different from the traditional women’s roles seen in my native country," said Ramsarran, who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. She later relocated to Long Island, before coming to Guilderland, N.Y., for high school.

"For more than 27 years, the Fellowship on Women and Public Policy has been filling the pipelines of women's leadership," said Dina Refki, director of CWGCS. The Center, part of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, has  provided fellows with access to real-life policy experiences at New York State executive and legislative branches, as well as in statewide advocacy organizations. The fellowship also provides theoretical grounding in policy making and policy influencing.

UAlbany Grad Student Abby Ramsarran and Center for Women in Government Director Dina Refki

UAlbany School of Social Welfare student Abby Ramsarran and Center for Women in Government and Civil Society Director Dina Refki.

"Alumnae Fellows form a 270-strong member community that mentors those who come behind them," said Refki. "Many fellows hold influential policy positions in government and civil society and continue to lead lives of activism and political and civic engagement."

The Fellowship on Women and Public Policy is an intensive leadership development program designed to promote equity and excellence in public service, and encourage government to be more responsive to the needs of women, children, families, and communities in New York State.

Fellows receive field experience and academic coursework in public policy and advocacy, and engage in an intensive professional development program designed to strengthen their leadership skills and prepare them for careers in public policy. In addition, fellows are connected to a network mentoring program that gives access to the alumnae fellows and other accomplished policy leaders. They also receive a stipend to support them during their fellowship. 

At NYSOCFS, Ramsarran works on multiple division-wide projects including analysis of child care regulations.  "The experience has provided a great foundation for my future. My goal is to work on addressing the needs of immigrant and refugee women," she said, "Women who often face barriers in accessing healthcare, education and employment,  and those who may experience physical and sexual violence."

Ramsarran is interested in learning about policies and programs  that address the many challenges facing immigrant and refugee populations. Her hope for the future is that many immigrants, particularly women, can successfully integrate into American society, fully utilize their skills and talents, and productively contribute to American society.

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