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The Student Experience – Update on the Tax Policy Class and Why I am glad I came to Maxwell!

Tax Policy and Politics Class Dinner: Ronald Mak (far L) , classmates and Professor/Chef Burman (C) at a gathering this past weekend.

Tax Policy and Politics Class Dinner: Ronald Mak (far L) , classmates and Professor/Chef Burman (Center) at a gathering this past weekend.

Every so often – more than you might think – and probably less that they might get to (they get so busy) – a student will pop by my office or send off a note of appreciation and share how their studies are going. I was welcomed to the office this past Monday with this charming email from current student, Ronald Mak.

Ronald is a second year student in the MPA/MA Economics joint degree. He is taking the winter course, Tax Policy and Politics with Professor Len Burman at our Maxwell in Washington campus (see Blog Post on our Winter Courses). He found his way to Maxwell by way of Redlands University in California. Ronald’s note so captured the spirit that is Maxwell and the Maxwell community – I asked permission of him and Professor Burman to share with you. I hope you enjoy!

(email from Ronald Mak- Jan 9, 2017)


It’s times when I’m stressing out about calculating marginal tax rates and preparing for a presentation on the Earned Income Tax Credit that I am reminded of all of opportunities afforded to me in my Tax Policy class. 

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to not only take Tax Policy and Politics for a winter session course in

Ronald Mak, Maxwell MPA/MA Econ (2017 expected)

Ronald Mak,
Maxwell MPA/MA Econ (2017 expected)

Washington, DC, but also to serve as Professor Burman’s Graduate Assistant. It is empowering seeing firsthand how many connections Professor Burman has made in his professional career, and a neat reminder that he is a professor of practice.  He had around 10 tax experts—colleagues from the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute—come share their insights to our class.

I wanted to share some positive updates from the Tax Policy class. 

Last Friday evening, he invited the course’s students over for dinner to connect with around 10 recent alumni of the class.  He went out of his way to cook a meal (he baked pizza and cheesecake!) for all and opened up his house to us.  We were able to meet his wife Missie and their family dog, Paul.  Some of my classmates joked that the most important networking we did that night was meeting Paul, their adorable dachshund.  The course’s alumni shared what they’re up to right now, how they got their job, how the Tax Policy class is relevant to the work that they do, and advice they wish they’d known in thinking about work/life balance.  It was just extremely helpful to get blunt advice from alumni, such as “don’t – out of sheer excitement – immediately accept your first job offer.”  I really appreciated it, and in a few years, I hope to be the one providing advice to a new Maxwell cohort, as our alumni have upheld a “pay it forward” attitude.  

Most importantly, the alumni shared how Professor Burman still mentors some of them to this day.  He’ll go out of his way to grab lunch with them and advise them on certain job positions, since he’s so well-connected and present in DC.  It was nights like this that reminded me how helpful, familial, and humble our faculty and alumni network are. 

The class is going great so far.  It’s intense and rigorous; we have hours of readings and assignments every night.  However, it’s worth it because tax policy (and money) is relevant to everything in public affairs.  The course and my tax project on the Earned Income Tax Credit is helping me hone in on my interests in public finance and social policy specifically for low-income communities and disadvantaged groups.  I am looking into a state fiscal fellowship at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where an alumnus who took the winter session course in 2011 currently works.

In addition, I was able to finally meet Eliana Briceno (the then Maxwell Admissions Graduate Assistant and student ambassador) in person last night, and thank her for convincing me to attend Maxwell after a phone conversation in March 2015.  As she said to the native Californian, “the winters are worth the Maxwell degree.” 

Long story short – thank you again for thinking of me for the opportunity to be Burman’s GA!  I am extremely grateful to work with him and have him as a resource/mentor.  He is a wonderful man with a good heart for his students. 

Best wishes from DC and Happy New Year!
Ronald Mak

 

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