Laila Bera ’23 awarded prestigious PPIA graduate scholarship
Laila Bera ’23 is not only a first-generation college student, but the first in her family to travel outside of her home country of South Africa. Now, she’s celebrating another first: Bera has been awarded a full scholarship and yearly stipend by the Public Policy and International Affairs Program to complete a two-year master’s degree program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College School of Public Policy and Management.
Bera, an international relations and quantitative economics and econometrics double major and scholar in Conn’s Global Capitalism Pathway, says she was overwhelmed to learn she’d been awarded the scholarship.
“I am truly grateful for the mentors, educators, family and friends who believed in me and invested in my development. It felt like a win for all of us and a moment of deep pride for my family, who sacrificed so much to provide a foundation for me to explore my interests,” she said.
The Public Policy and International Affairs Program is a nonprofit organization that has been supporting efforts to increase diversity in public policy and international affairs graduate studies and public service for more than 40 years. Bera was eligible for the PPIA scholarship after completing a rigorous and highly selective Junior Summer Institute Fellowship at the Heinz College campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As part of the intensive nine-week program, she took courses taught by Heinz professors, including “Dismantling Systems of Oppression,” “Poverty and Policy,” “Geographic Information Systems” and “Statistics for Social Policy.”
“Being part of an amazing cohort of like-minded students was very motivating,” Bera said of the experience. “One of my biggest takeaways from the program is identifying the humanity behind policy implications. In particular, how can we enable social impact through implementing policies?
As a sophomore, Bera attended “Developing Leadership for Social Justice: Local Lessons from California,” a virtual PPIA program that piqued her interest in further exploring public policy and international affairs. Through Conn’s Global Capitalism Pathway, she was then awarded a Sophomore Summer Research Program grant to study inequities in higher education access in South Africa through the lens of the #FeesMustFall student movement.”
“I am keen on exploring more in education policy as it aligns with youth unemployment, generational trauma and education outcomes,” said Bera, who plans to work closely with her Conn professors on field research during her final semester on campus before heading to Heinz to pursue a master of science degree in public policy and management next fall.
“My long-term goal is to return to South Africa and start my own NGO focused on investing in youth in marginalized communities through scholarships and mentorship. I believe it’s important to pay your privilege forward and see my role as opening avenues for other youth to disrupt the cycle of poverty.”
Connecticut College offers a wide range of fellowship and scholarship opportunities for students and recent graduates. For more information, visit The Walter Commons or email firstname.lastname@example.org.