From the West Wing to East Campus

MIT Sloan MBA ’15 brings wealth of policy knowledge to her management studies

January 29, 2014

Dina Grossman, MBA ’15 (front row, third from left), with President Barack Obama and the Council of Economic Advisers staff in the White House Rose Garden in spring 2013 (White House Photo: Lawrence J

Dina Grossman, MBA ’15 (front row, third from left), with President Barack Obama and the Council of Economic Advisers staff in the White House Rose Garden in spring 2013 (White House Photo: Lawrence Jackson)

Just three years out of Yale University with a B.A. in economics, Dina Grossman, MBA ’15, has already seen first-hand how economic research translates into policy—both in remote regions of the developing world and in the White House.

She also happens to know her way around MIT.

Grossman first arrived at the Institute in 2010 as a policy analyst for the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a research center that studies and measures the impact of poverty-reduction policies. At J-PAL, Grossman adapted the lab’s rigorous academic research into digestible policy briefs for leaders in Kenya, India, and elsewhere in the developing world.

“J-PAL was a great place. I loved it. What it solidified for me was that I’m very interested in policy work,” she said.

   Dina Grossman with co-worker Spencer Smith outside the West WingDina Grossman with co-worker Spencer Smith outside the West Wing

Next, Grossman spent a year working for the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House, an agency charged with providing the president with objective advice on economic policy. Grossman heard about the opportunity from an email the CEA sent to recruit economics majors at Yale.

In Washington, Grossman was able to apply her newfound expertise in labor and health issues—mainstays of J-PAL’s research—to domestic policy-making as a research economist. While enjoying the many perks of the job—including giving friends tours of the White House’s West Wing (which is not open to the public) and taking in shows from the president’s box at the Kennedy Center—Grossman helped produce the annual Economic Report of the President, a major undertaking that lays out the state of the U.S. economy in every area, from agriculture and trade to health care and the environment.

She even got the chance to meet President Barack Obama when the council was invited to the White House to mark the report’s release in February 2013. “I have the pictures to prove it,” Grossman said.

Still, Grossman wanted to broaden her understanding of management theory and practice, so she left the Council of Economic Advisers in July to attend MIT Sloan.

“Since I come from the nonprofit and public sector, I thought there was a gap in my knowledge and experience,” she said, noting that she had seen many well-intentioned nonprofits fall short of their goals as a result of poor management. “That’s where I saw business school as valuable. If I could go and get the skills missing from this sector and bring them back, that would really make an impact,” she said.

Thus far, Grossman has taken MBA core courses in accounting, economic analysis, statistics, communications, organizational processes, and leadership as well as an elective, Introduction to Operations Management, which acquainted her with the concepts and techniques fundamental to running organizations efficiently. “That very analytical way of thinking about processes in organizations has been really fascinating to me,” she said.

Grossman has also been learning to improve “soft” skills such as leadership and public speaking. “The core draws those things out and says, ‘We’re not going to just let it be implicit, we’re going to talk about how can you be a good listener,’” Grossman said. “It’s really useful to stop and think about the way you do things and the impact that might have.”

Above all, Grossman said she has been impressed with her MIT Sloan classmates. “Just watching how motivated all the students are—and not just to get jobs, but to do amazing things while they’re at MIT Sloan—is just incredible,” she said. “Here, students are organizing classes and consulting with amazing companies … just because they thought it would be a cool thing to do.”

In the future, Grossman said she plans to put her new skills to work in an internship and gain some private-sector experience before one day heading back to either a nonprofit leadership or government position. In the meantime, she’s getting all she can out of MIT Sloan. The experience, she said, is “way beyond what I imagined.”