Internet Interview

A brief explanation of your company and where it sits in the corporate landscape: Princeton University is one of America’s leading universities. It’s also one of the oldest – established in 1746. For the past three years it has been ranked as the top university in the US, much to the chagrin of second placed Harvard. Princeton is a small university by Australian standards – only 4500 undergraduates and about 1500 graduate students – but outrageously wealthy, with an endowment of about $A14 billion.  The university featured prominently in the film A Beautiful Mind and John Nash still gives an occasional lecture on campus.

The Woodrow Wilson School is home to the university’s graduate programs in public policy and public affairs. Named after the former US and Princeton University president, it is one of the world’s leading public policy schools, with a strong focus on economics. It has an outstanding faculty, including prominent New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and last year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, Daniel Kahneman.

Job last held in Perth (company name and your title there) and when you left it: My last job was as a lawyer at the Australian Government Solicitor’s Perth office. I left that job in September 1997 to work as adviser to the Federal Attorney General, Daryl Williams. From early 1999 until December 2001 I was chief of staff to the Attorney General, and in that job used to return to Perth every four to six weeks.

What is your current role? I have a fellowship from Princeton University to study for a one year mid-career Masters in Public Policy, focusing on international relations. After I get my degree in June this year my plan is either to return to Australia to work in a public policy or related position, or get a position in an international organisation working on governance issues and legal institution building.

What other roles do you play in your industry or local business community? There’s not much scope for that in Princeton.

Explain how you got this particular job: While working for the attorney general I decided that I wanted to spend some time in the US studying for a post-graduate degree. The options were to study for an LLM, an MBA or a public policy degree. I decided that public policy was the path I wanted to follow, and applied to Princeton and Harvard. The offer from Princeton was much more generous than that from the other institution, which made for an easy decision.

Outline your office culture:  The Woodrow Wilson School has two graduate programs. My program is the MPP degree – a small program with only 14 students in total, aged between 33 and 50 – with a requirement of seven years’ prior government or community related experience. Two of us are Australian, there are three US State Department diplomats, a Finnish judge, a community organiser, an Italian diplomat, a South African World Bank employee, a TV journalist, a naval intelligence officer, a community centre manager and an executive officer of a Swedish economic think tank. The two-year Masters of Public Affairs program is the school’s main program, with students aged between 24 and 32, with an intake of about 70 students each year.

How much commuting do you do? I live on campus at Princeton. My only commuting is to New York, about an hour away by train. I travel in to New York on a fairly regular basis, to catch up with friends and colleagues there, visit the sights, and take advantage of the cultural offerings.

Does your job involve travel, if so how much, where to and to what purpose? I’ve managed to get in quite a bit of travel during my nine months here. In October I flew to Bosnia for two weeks with four other students, compliments of Princeton. We were working on a project for the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, and produced a report on strengthening local government in Bosnia. We also travelled to Washington to present the report to the US State Department, and to New York to present the report on the UN Under Secretary General in charge of Peacekeeping. I also flew back to Perth for a couple of weeks for Christmas. And in January I travelled down to the Dominican Republic for a couple of weeks’ holidays with a group of fellow students.

How well did your work in Perth equip you for your current job? My legal training in Perth was a key factor in me getting my job with the attorney general, and that job and experience was the main reason that I gained admission to Princeton.

Can you see yourself returning to Perth, if so how long and under what circumstances? I will definitely be returning to Perth at some stage. How long that might be will depend on where I find my next job. I would be interested in returning to Perth if I could find a challenging public policy position there – but the unfortunate fact is that there are many more of these jobs on offer in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

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