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Policy Lab Fellow Vineet Chovatia on Healthcare and Civic Engagement Research

Vineet Chovatia is a Polis Policy Lab Fellow and Public Policy Undergraduate from West Windsor, New Jersey. His interest in politics and organizing began when he helped on a local mayoral campaign in middle school. As Vineet grew older, he began to research policy issues ranging from healthcare to education equity. Through Policy Lab, he hopes to pursue that interest in a real-world setting. Check out his thoughts on Policy Lab and research below!



As a freshman at Duke, there is such a wide range of opportunities to choose from that it is often challenging to find opportunities that best fit you. With interest in policy work and legislative action, I searched for opportunities that gave me a chance to refine those skills. When I came across Policy Lab, I was instantly drawn to the program as it provides undergrads with the unique ability to do research that can make real change in policymaking and organizing efforts. In class, we learn about policy concepts; in PolicyLab, we put those concepts to work, writing memos for policymakers to help them enact change.

Along with a partner, we researched the benefits of civic engagement and civic engagement as a social determinant of health. We sent our final memo to Forward Montana, an organization that works to engage and mobilize youth in progressive organizing. Our goal was to aid Forward Montana in its youth mobilization efforts. We learned how to effectively read and extract essential information and data from scholarly articles during our research. Not only is this skill critical for memo-writing, but it is a key skill for policy work in the real world. In writing the memo, we established the scope of the issue of low youth civic engagement, proved the connection between civic engagement and community benefits, and finally researched the efficacy of various methods that can be used to boost civic engagement. I specifically focused on civic engagement as a social determinant of health and was exposed to research that showed a clear link between volunteering and a reduced risk of cardiovascular illness. Furthermore, I found that civic engagement greatly improves the probability of graduating high school and pursuing higher education. This exposure to the links that civic engagement has to a diverse range of policy fields opened my eyes to the reality that policy issues across the spectrum are inextricably linked to one another.

Throughout the entire memo-writing process, Dr. Rose and Garrett were extremely helpful in guiding us on format, content, and design. Furthermore, after we completed our memo, Policy Lab connected us with the opportunity to present that memo to the Duke in the DC Office of Governmental Relations. As a result, my partner and I are now preparing to present our research on youth civic engagement to legislative aides on Capitol Hill. The extent of the real-world application of our research was something I would never have imagined.

The first semester of college was filled with tremendous uncertainty, but my work at the Policy Lab strengthened my interest in policy work and pushed me to look for opportunities to continue similar work in the future. Even though applying for such opportunities may seem like a daunting and unlikely task at the outset, I can not stress enough how important it is to put yourself out there because, more often than not, programs will love your interest and enthusiasm. I could not have asked for a better introduction to policy analysis in my PolicyLab experience. This opportunity taught me how to dive into research and hone my policy and data analysis skills. Leaving PolicyLab, I feel ready to keep addressing policy issues in the real world.

— Vineet Chovatia

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Vineet Chovatia is a Polis Policy Lab Fellow and Public Policy Undergraduate