Each year, we spotlight our Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Seniors. We enjoy hearing about their journey through the program and how their perspective on the importance of sound policy evolved when combined with their own academic interests. This year, we asked our incoming and current scholars to interview the seniors and were delighted by the conversations captured.
Jackson Covert ’23 interviewed Ammaar Kazi ’21 to learn more about his experience as a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar and why science and public policy matter to him.
Why did you decide to apply to the Tower Scholars Program? How has the study of PPIA shaped your time here at SMU?
I have always been interested in public policy and politics, and I feel that the Tower Scholars Program is the best way to delve into public policy while still being able to pursue my other academic interests. I feel that having a minor in PPIA expands my view of the world through engagement with real-world politics and international affairs as well as with theoretical aspects of policy. Furthermore, learning from the amazing Tower Scholars Program faculty and interacting with fellow scholars helps me to broaden my worldview and understand their diverse backgrounds and policy interests.
Why does a pre-med student have a role to play in defining public policy? How do you plan to influence policy discourse with your perspective?
I feel that a minor in PPIA is a huge benefit regardless of profession or major. As an aspiring physician, I hope to combine public policy and medicine in a meaningful way. As seen by our less-than-optimal response to Covid-19, listening to medical professionals and having a better understanding of medicine should have a more prominent role in defining public policy. Most of my professional mentors in medicine are not just doctors focused on their private practices; they also impact the community through non-profit work and by developing new public policy solutions to our public health problems.
How does your background as a student of history and Arabic and a practicing Muslim impact your view of American politics and foreign policy?
Given the recent events in France and the response by foreign leaders worldwide, my background as a practicing Muslim and a student of history helps immensely in formulating my public policy opinions. If it were based solely on bigoted portrayals by the media and political rhetoric and not on my familiarity with the subject, my view of Muslims would be vastly different. I feel the current administration has a dangerous and highly inaccurate view of Muslims both abroad and domestically. America needs more politicians and public policymakers with a background in history and an accurate knowledge of Islam.
What has been your favorite experience in the Tower Scholars Program?
My favorite experience has been interning for the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for my senior policy practicum where I have been working on developing and implementing a new response to mental health incidents by police departments in Texas cities. Given the recent protests for Black Live Matters, I wanted to contribute to the movement to the best of my ability. I feel that I am making a real-world impact at Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute which I would not be able to without the Tower Scholars Program.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
After graduation, I am taking a gap year before I attend medical school. During my gap year, I plan to volunteer abroad with an NGO or another charity organization. I also plan on learning more about my religion while at the same time pursuing my various other interests.
Ammaar Kazi ’21 is majoring in biochemistry and earning minors in Arabic and History in addition to his Tower Scholars Program minor in public policy and international affairs.