Inema is bringing her DPSS experience to fruition as an MPP candidate.
Headshot of Christelle Inema
Christelle Inema

Inema says she first encountered how policy impacts people’s lives while doing community service in high school. 

Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, she was attending school at Gashora Girls Academy, located near the border of Burundi. “At the time, Burundi was going through political unrest, and there was a camp near the school for refugees. Once a week, my classmates and I would visit the camp to spend time with the kids living in the camp. I didn't even know about public policy, but I really wondered how a government couldn’t care less about its people,” Inema said.

Inema soon found her way to Friday Harbor, Washington on a scholarship to attend her final two years of high school at Spring Street International. She said she initially wanted to become a doctor, since they are in high demand in Rwanda. “But after taking economics classes, I realized my life was going to take me on a different path.”

Inema subsequently enrolled at Soka University of America, where she is currently a senior studying economics. She remained interested in public policy, however, especially data-driven policymaking. “Another student at Soka knew about my interest in policy, and she told me about the Data and Policy Summer Scholar (DPSS) Program at Harris. She said she loved it, and it would help me improve my policymaking toolkit.” Inema applied and joined the DPSS program last summer and is now an incoming Master of Public Policy (MPP) student.

“I really enjoyed the material: it was my first time coding! At first I was like, ‘How does this even work?’ But Professor [Austin] Wright made it really easy to follow,” Inema said. “Our homework group was also incredibly valuable because some people knew how to work in R.”

Inema said the decision to apply to Harris to pursue her Master of Public Policy was an easy choice—especially after her DPSS experience. “I was impressed by the Harris administration’s communication and accommodations while I was participating in the DPSS program from Rwanda. The professors are amazing, and the Harris community has been, and continues to be, so welcoming. I’ve already talked to some of my classmates, and they seem really great,” Inema said. “I’m excited for my classes to begin and to start working with more data.”

Inema, who also was awarded the Pearson Fellowship from the Pearson Institute, plans on looking at how to use international development to improve social equity—an area in which she plans to pursue a career. Her family is still in Rwanda, and eventually she wants to go back. But first, she said, she wants to travel the world and learn from various societies. “I want to gain a concrete set of experiences outside of school so that I can bring more skills when going back to Rwanda.”