Bhugra wants to develop structures that help deliver public services like education more efficiently.
Headshot of Rukmini Bhugra
Rukmini Bhugra

Originally from India, Rukmini Bhugra spent her childhood travelling the Middle East with her family. In high school, Bhugra volunteered teaching English at a local orphanage in Cairo, Egypt, which has had a lasting impact on her.

“The caregivers at the orphanage cared deeply about the children, but unfortunately didn’t have the resources to support them in a way that was optimal for their development,” said Bhugra. “That was why I became interested in community empowerment, education, and public service, and since then I've developed an interest in delivering public service in a way that is more accountable, efficient, and effective."

Bhugra subsequently earned her bachelor’s degree in international relations from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. While there, she had the opportunity to explore international development, while keeping a keen eye towards strategies for grassroots engagement and last-mile delivery.

After graduation, Bhugra served as a Teach for India Fellow as a full-time teacher for students in under-resourced schools and later worked with the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, India, where she contributed to research papers examining Indian education policy at the macro level. “Working at the grassroots level, I realized that my interest in public policy is a lot more focused on streamlining and innovating the delivery of public services, by leveraging the needs and experiences of local communities. So the question of optimal public service delivery is a lot more about the people that we're delivering the services to—how we make their lives better, shed light on their stories, and amplify their voices.” 

Interested in pursuing more rigorous work in development programming, Bhugra applied to Harris. Now a second year Master of Public Policy (MPP) student, Bhugra has found the program has helped her level up her toolkit. “The Core courses have allowed me to refine the skillsets I wanted to develop. Of course the first year has been challenging, but very rewarding in that I’ve seen the targets I set for myself coming into the program being met exactly with the courses I’ve taken.”

As she works towards her electives, Bhugra is particularly interested in education and social policy. “I’m especially interested in how we can develop an optimal environment for a child to develop to their full potential beyond the classroom.”

Bhugra also serves on the board of the Education Policy Student Association (EPSA), where she helped pilot a discussion series called “Yes, but Why?” on topics and issues of education policy and practice.

Bhugra served as a teaching assistant for the Office of Civic Engagement in the high school summer program, assisting with a career exploration class. She also secured a summer internship with The World Bank, where she designed a school curriculum for an embedded ethics intervention and contributed to pilot programs that inform scaling school-based reforms in Tanzania.

As for her next steps, Bhugra plans to continue working in community-based development programming through programs for community empowerment, but also more administratively, where she can help to strengthen methods of policy implementation and last-mile delivery. “There’s a lot of energy for change at the grassroots level, and there’s a need for really strong, well-developed structures that help to effectively channel that energy—this is what is guiding my experience at Harris.”