Liberal arts alumna helps create policy think-tank aimed at millennials, Gen Z

Michaela Harpster
March 19, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Despite the fact that millennials and Generation Z are now the United States’ largest voting block, they are underrepresented in government policy — which is why Penn State alumna Susan Nahvi, along with 11 other millennials, created an online resource guide with policy recommendations called "Foreign Policy Generation" (FPGen).

Susan Nahvi headshot

Susan Nahvi

IMAGE: Provided

The Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar graduated with two degrees from the College of the Liberal Arts in 2017, one in international politics and the other in French and francophone studies. She credits her time at Penn State for driving her towards involvement in FPGen.

“Both of my degrees in the College of the Liberal Arts challenged me to think of issues and culture from a different perspective. I was always interested in politics, but doing these degrees affirmed that I wanted to seek a career in affecting our political system," said Nahvi.

In one of her undergraduate English courses, she had to create a mock think-tank website. “Talk about a class project imitating life!” Nahvi said. “The skills that I took from my degrees — critical thinking, writing and an interest for dissecting foreign policy — led me to my first advocacy job out of college.”

While she is more of an indirect advocate in her current job, direct advocacy is still something that is very important to Nahvi, which is why she is so excited to be part of FPGen.

Nahvi said she believes getting the younger generations politically involved is essential for our country’s progress.

“Young people need to be involved in the political process in order to make the changes we want to see,” she said.

Why the focus on foreign policy? Nahvi explained that “foreign policy is often seen as being ‘less relevant’ or disconnected from our daily lives, and yet it's actually inextricable from domestic policy.” FPGen, said Nahvi, wants everyone to understand the intersection of foreign and domestic policy.

Policy recommendations on the FPGen website touch on several topical issues such as climate change and immigration. These policies are centered around empathetic values and research, Nahvi said.

“Our policies are values-based and fact-driven. We want to create foreign policies that uphold our values of compassion, justice, and solidarity, and that are likely to achieve the goals we want to see," she explained.

The group used this ideology to decide on which policies take precedence, said Nahvi. However, she said she is confident that these values would organically transfer over to other missed topics. “By trying to create policies based on empathy and a collective view of security, rather than the current narrow view of national security, we hope that, if there's a particular topic we did not touch on, that those values could logically be extended to address that issue,” she said.

FPGen's goal, said Nahvi, is for political representatives to consider using its policy recommendations as a guide for writing new policy and laws. Not only do members of FPGen hope that members of Congress consider this resource but also congressional and presidential candidates. Nahvi said, “Even if some offices are pulling bits and pieces of policy planks into their platforms, that would be great.”

The group has been spreading as much awareness about the website as possible, and FPGen is already starting to see some success in gaining policymakers' attention, said Nahvi. “We've even gotten some positive responses from a couple of offices and candidates,” she added. While she said the group has had some difficulty getting taken seriously by larger media outlets, the majority of responses they have received have been positive. As the group spreads awareness for FPGen, it hopes that policymakers and lawmakers will consider what it has to say. 

The College of the Liberal Arts is currently in the midst of celebrating its 2020 college-wide theme, "Moments of Change: A Century of Women’s Activism." Through events, presentations, lectures and courses, the Penn State community has the opportunity to engage with the theme and examine the impact of women’s activism since the 19th Amendment’s ratification in 1920 gave women the right to vote. Learn more at womensactivism.psu.edu

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Last Updated March 20, 2020