By Melissa Gentry
Taylor Wright, a sophomore public health major in the Honors College from Goose Creek, S.C., is headed to Harvard University this week.
But the good news for the University of South Carolina is that he’ll be back in Columbia after four days at the 17th annual Public Policy and Leadership Conference at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to be held Feb. 9-12.
Wright is one of 55 students from across the nation selected to attend the conference out of nearly 500 applicants. All expenses are paid for the participants by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Kennedy School.
“To be one of only 55 students selected is a huge honor,” Wright said. “It always feels good to know that your hard work is appreciated.”
The Public Policy and Leadership Conference provides students a look into the field of public policy and features a series of speakers and workshops with the opportunity to learn more about public service careers.
Wright is looking forward to practicing public speaking, policy formation and teamwork with his peers while learning from experts in the field.
“I’m excited about the networking opportunities with not only students from around the country but also with the faculty and guest speakers from Harvard University that we will get to interact with,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to seeing the point of view on public policy issues from people outside of the South because I don’t really get to experience that.”
Wright learned about the conference from Theresa Sexton, coordinator for Student Government. He credits his experiences in Student Government and the Leadership and Service Center as the reason he was selected.
“My work [as deputy director] with UofSC Flood Relief and [as chief of staff with] Lead the Way, the campus voter registration campaign, helped fuel my desire for public policy, even prompting me to change my major from biology to public health,” he said. “It also gave me some amazing leadership experience and stories. I learned lessons in navigating administration and the importance of staying encouraged and focused. Student Government also has taught me teamwork and public speaking skills.”
In addition, Wright is gaining leadership skills as a member of University Ambassadors, a student organization serving as the “front door” to the university by providing tours and information to campus guests.
“As a lifelong Gamecock fan, one of my favorite things that I do on campus is get to show visitors and prospective students why I love this place so much,” he said. “I get to brag about USC, meet amazing new people and develop personal skills, which is an all-around win.”
Although he still has a few more years at Carolina, Wright already has big plans for after graduation, and his experience at Harvard’s Public Policy and Leadership Conference should help him get a head start.
“After I graduate, I plan to attend medical school and enroll in a dual M.D.-M.P.H. program with the goal of getting my Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health in five years. After that, I am leaning toward health care public policy and possibly practicing family medicine.”
Wright knows the leadership skills he is gaining as a student leader on campus while also immersing himself in opportunities like the Public Policy and Leadership Conference benefit him now and in the future.
“Lessons on teamwork, public speaking and overcoming adversity that I gained from leadership positions also spill over into the classroom – for example, group projects and speeches are a lot easier for me now. These skills will also be useful in the workplace when I face difficult situations but can fall back on the lessons I learned during my time at USC.
“USC is truly an amazing place with so many opportunities to not just develop myself but to also make a serious impact on the lives of others. I’ve had the opportunity to learn some incredible things that will stick with me for a lifetime.”
Taylor Wright with some of the Lead the Way team and Athletics Director Ray Tanner after registering Gamecock athletes to vote.
Taylor Wright with the Lead the Way staff from both Carolina and Clemson, who were recognized on the field at the USC vs. Clemson football game in November 2016 for getting 5,834 students registered to vote.
Editor’s note: The conference has been rescheduled for March 31.