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Students in White House Challenge
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Students in White House ChallengeSeton Hall University students presented a proposal on fostering innovation in United States national policy before a panel of expert judges and D.C. decision-makers in the final round of the national Policy Challenge, a competition organized by the Arizona State University School of Public Affairs and inspired by the White House’s Startup America Policy Challenge. The students, including Paul Palamattam, Smijai Peter, Alejandro Rodas, Subarna Saha, and David Smith, were named finalists in the education division of the challenge.

Assistant Professor Heath A. Brown, Ph.D., worked closely with the students on the Policy Challenge. "The five students who I collaborated with for this Policy Challenge represent the best that the Seton Hall Master's of Public Administration program has to offer,” Brown said. “Like other students in the program, they are each ambitious, hard-workers, and learning the analytical skills to solve policy problems. They each have a bright future in the public sector."

The team, all graduate dual-degree International Relations students at the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and the College of Arts and Sciences, presented a proposal entitled “Foreign Students Fostering Innovation in the U.S. Labor Market - Removing the ‘Intent to Return’ Clause.” The proposal analyzed the “intent to return” clause in visa policy for foreign students, which requires them to return home after completing their studies on U.S. soil. “The ‘intent to return’ policy threatens to deter foreign students from applying to U.S. universities and instead enroll in universities in Europe, Australia, and Asia,” reads the proposal, “Removing this procedure will send the right message to the best and brightest students in the world that the U.S. is the leading nation for innovation and technology.”

“We wanted to address the problem that we’re losing our place as the intellectual leader of the world and we wanted to find something that would be really easy to implement and not cost the government a single dollar. There are a ton of problems facing our country, so simplicity and cost-effectiveness is crucial,” said Paul Palamattam, Seton Hall team member. “Changing the policy just takes a memo.”

The proposal, which then went onto call for the establishment of a more coherent national policy for attracting international talent through the creation of a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, social media companies, and universities in order to facilitate recruitment of outstanding foreign students, ranked among the top three teams in the education division.

“Apart from the simple administrative change of removing the intent to return provision, we wanted to streamline the process of applying to schools, as well as provide foreign students with an easy way to learn about our schools. To accomplish this, we proposed the creation of the United States International College Application Service, which would provide students a platform to upload their application materials into one specific server and disseminate their information to multiple universities,” said Palamattam.

The Policy Challenge, consisting of a short-form proposal stage, long-form proposal stage, and final presentation stage, is geared toward allowing university students across the country the opportunity to create an innovative and feasible administrative change for federal agencies geared at education, clean energy, and healthcare.

"By opening up to the public the opportunity to brain storm with the White House and other federal leaders about key national challenges, the Policy Challenge helps democratize the policy process that too many Americans view as closed to them. The chance for students to participate in the future can bring new ideas to the debate about how to advance the country," noted Brown.

The judging panel at the event included Kannan Grant, Director of the University of Alabama-Huntsville Office of Technology Commercialization, Elizabeth Hart-Wells, Assistant Vice President and Director of the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization, Rick Murray, Chief Executive Officer of the Arizona Small Business Association, Linda Lopez, Arizona State Senator, Aneesh Chopra, Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director for Technology of the White House Office of Science and Technology, Costis Toregas, PhD, Lecturer at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University, Megan Cantwell, Senior Consultant for Special Initiatives at the AASSCU Grant Resource Center, and John Karagaac, PhD, Lecturer in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Bloomington.

The Policy Challenge, sponsored by Arizona State University, is an example of a participatory challenge platform with a public intent – an emerging approach that can increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and legitimacy of the public policy development and implementation process in an increasingly complex, interconnected, and resource-constrained governance environment. It seeks to give voice to, tap into, empower, and focus the vast array of expertise, experience, and democratic surplus possessed by diverse individuals throughout the nation in the governance process to develop innovative and practical solutions to shared public challenges.

For more information please contact:
Jessica Camp
(201) 618-1295


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