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  • Writer's pictureArch Policy Institute

The Importance of Student-Run Think Tanks - Saanvikha Saravanan

Think tanks are organizations that work to solve complex societal problems by identifying policy issues, researching and evaluating ideas, and making recommendations that influence public policy [1]. This week, I would like to discuss the importance of student-run think tanks and their benefits for college students and the local community. The Arch Policy Institute maintains the status of a student-run, non-partisan think tank. Essentially, this means we are dedicated to being an organization where students can discuss, write, and implement policy, particularly locally.  

Throughout my time at the Arch Policy Institute, I have been able to take on positions from a general body member, policy team lead, and executive director. API has maintained a common thread of inspiring students on campus to get involved with policy. We bring together a group of students with a shared passion for using our unique perspectives and ideas to initiate long-lasting change. Student-run think tanks provide a platform for college students to voice their opinions and apply concepts they have learned in class in the real world. When I moved to Athens, GA, for my first year, I knew I wanted to see this town through hands-on action and relationships with community members. API was a means to further my commitment to being an active citizen of Athens. Students can actively engage with stakeholders, county commissioners, and the ACC government through our policy teams to act as informed residents. We challenge students to create tangible change in the community. 

One of the main concerns with this approach is that the turnover of students every four years as they graduate can disrupt continued relationships with the community. However, Arch Policy Institute has existed for over a decade with the same dedication to community activism. There are very few platforms on campus that allow students to be published and recognized for the various policy ideas they have. Our annual Arch Policy Journal showcases the ten best student-written proposals each year from multiple disciplines. This allows students to use their voices to call for local, state, or national policy action. 

Our status as a student-run think tank also allows us to create a network of accomplished alums who continuously give back to our organization. They speak at meetings, provide internship opportunities, give 1-on-1 advice, and are a constant pillar of support. Students can network and get insight into career paths in the policy realm. Policy is constantly around us, whether we realize it or not. Establishing a student-run think tank at UGA has allowed students from all majors and interests to become directly involved. My experience in API has solidified my interest in a future health policy career and commitment to public service.

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