Mannino ’25 Attends Harvard Public Policy Leadership Conference

December 13, 2023

By Jessica Firpi ’11

Rollins student Elle Mannino ’25

The opportunities Elle Mannino ’25 has seized just two years into her Rollins journey prepared her to earn a spot at the prestigious Public Policy Leadership Conference (PPLC) at Harvard Kennedy School.

Driven by an unwavering passion for shaping a better world, Elle Mannino ’25—who is double-majoring in philosophy and public policy and political economy and minoring in sustainable development and the environment—has wanted to pursue a career in public policy ever since coming to Rollins. And it’s at Rollins where she’s received support to bring her closer to achieving her goals.

“My Rollins experience has been a transformative journey,” says Mannino, “with key elements both in and outside the classroom shaping my path and providing invaluable preparation for this conference and beyond.”

At Rollins, Mannino has studied everything from racial inequality and immigration policy to climate change and artificial intelligence. In her courses, she’s learning how to think about these issues through a critical and ethical lens with the goal of devising well-founded solutions. She has put her knowledge and skills into practice as a legislation and advocacy fellow at Seaside Sustainability and as a member of the Rollins debate team, the Democracy Project, and Campus Vote Project, where she demonstrates a commitment to community service that the PPLC looks for in public service leaders.

“The mentorship I’ve received from dedicated faculty, staff, and accomplished alumni has played a pivotal role in my development,” says Mannino, crediting emeritus political science professor Don Davison and fellowships advisor Kimberly Dennis for connecting her academic pursuits to real-world applications. “These relationships encouraged me to explore diverse perspectives and fueled my aspiration to contribute meaningfully to discussions at conferences like the PPLC.”

Rollins student Elle Mannino ’25 speaks at Harvard Public Policy Leadership Conference.

The Scoop

The Public Policy Leadership Conference was held this past October on the Harvard Kennedy School campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For the past 23 years, the PPLC has aimed to inspire talented undergraduate students to pursue careers in public policy leadership, offering insights into opportunities in federal, state, or local governments, NGOs, nonprofits, intergovernmental organizations, international institutions, and social enterprises.

The highly competitive PPLC accepts around just 75 students from an applicant pool made up of undergrads from around the country. Eligibility criteria include enrollment in a two- or four-year U.S. undergraduate institution, completion of at least two academic semesters, a GPA of 3.0 or above, and a demonstrated commitment to public service through activism, leadership, civic engagement, or volunteering. The Harvard Kennedy School covers all expenses related to participating in the conference, including transportation, accommodation, and meals during the event.

Students gain a glimpse into the graduate school environment for public policy studies, connecting with current students, faculty, and staff at Harvard Kennedy School through informational panels and Q&A sessions. They also forge connections with fellow high-achieving undergraduates, even attending mock graduate-level courses. The conference also provides valuable information on fellowship and scholarship opportunities to support prospective graduate studies.

Favorite Moment

“My favorite moment was hearing from Dr. Sara Bleich on the Legacy of Slavery Initiative at Harvard,” shares Mannino. “I was inspired by her incredible accomplishments from Harvard to the Biden Administration to Harvard again, and I saw potential applications for the project back at Rollins, especially with ongoing DEI initiatives on campus. Most importantly, I saw a path forward for myself in her incredible example—rising to be a minority woman leader in the male-dominated field.”

Biggest Takeaway

“I learned about the feasibility of pursuing a career in public service and public policy,” she shares. “Particularly, the abundant resources out there for people like me, especially women and minorities, looking to advance their position in policy work and obtain future degrees in public policy. The program definitely influenced my next steps. I hope to take advantage of these opportunities, such as the nonprofit Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA), and continue on my path toward a dual master’s degree in public policy and law.”

A Rollins professor leads a discussion in an outdoor classroom.

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