MPA Student Nicholas Bovee-Gazett: Why I Chose the Humphrey School

June 12, 2024
Portrait of Nick Bovee-Gazett
Nicholas Bovee-Gazett is a Master of Public Affairs student at the Humphrey School. Photo: Bruce Silcox

By Ann Nordby

Picture a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles. One circle represents emerging technologies, another business, and the third, policy. The sweet spot in the middle is where Nicholas Bovee-Gazett sees his future.

"I've been around technology for most of my professional career," Bovee-Gazett said recently. "I've watched how society engages with technology and the impact it has. Technology has done a lot of great things for us. But there are a lot of issues with technology that we are not addressing, like how Internet echo chambers are contributing to polarization in society, and the negative effects of social media on children." 

The Humphrey School's Master of Public Affairs program is designed for mid-career professionals like Bovee-Gazett. With more than 10 years of experience at Samsung and Best Buy, he wanted to infuse his career with more of his first love: policy. He majored in political science at St. Cloud State University and lives in Hanover, Minnesota, with his wife and two children. 

Humphrey School: A perfect fit

Bovee-Gazett started taking online courses in policy, but found that fully online learning was not for him. He discovered that the Humphrey School's MPA program was designed for busy people like him and enrolled. 

It turned out to be a perfect fit: The monthly weekends on campus are giving him the face-to-face interaction he craves. He can take classes from across the University of Minnesota in areas such as law, business, and sociology. In addition, he was able to transfer the nine credits he had already earned from online courses. He will graduate in 2025. 

The professors are esteemed and inspiring, and that was a major draw for him. 

"They're clearly experts in their domains," Bovee-Gazett said. “That's where the MPA derives a lot of value. You're learning from true experts."

Bovee-Gazett says he reaped benefits from the MPA program during the very first semester. As a senior manager at Best Buy, he was able to make connections with the company’s government affairs team, which “enables me to use the passion I have for getting involved in policy."

Bovee-Gazett sees a role for businesses to work together with government and nonprofit organizations to solve policy issues. "Business leaders are part of the community they live in. They have values that reflect that community." 

While companies are motivated to make a profit, they also care about issues such as ensuring that supply chains are free of conflict minerals and child labor, he said. 

Role of business in addressing policy issues

While consumers are playing a bigger role in holding companies accountable for their environmental and social impacts, businesses rely on a clear regulatory environment to set the rules. 

However, in our current state of polarization, particularly at the federal government level, Bovee-Gazett believes that regulatory agencies are not keeping up. As a result, companies themselves as well as state and local governments are trying to fill the gaps. 

In the MPA program, Bovee-Gazett says he’s gaining the skills in leadership and policy analysis that he can use to help address these issues.

"We all have different interests and values. You'll never get away from that,” he said. “The way you make a democracy work, in my opinion, is by bringing different groups together and deciding how to thread that needle." 

The MPA program has a cohort of 20 to 25 students from all walks of life, including doctors, economists, and nonprofit executives, for example. Most students live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, and they have a wide variety of backgrounds and opinions. 

The design of the cohort program capitalizes on this diversity. Instructors focus class discussion on tough topics, including real-world problems students are facing in their professional lives. Students bring their own perspectives. Discussions reveal where differences lie, and how to bridge them. 

In business and in his personal life, Bovee-Gazett says the return on investment is important, and that includes his graduate studies. He is confident that his master’s degree will enable him to pursue a career at the intersection of technology, business, and policy. 

“I've seen a lot of people who followed a path, and they got to a point where they are not enjoying what they're doing. They're just cashing a check and wishing they had taken a different path,” he said. “How do you want to spend your time, and what impact do you want to have? A mid-career program like the MPA gives you a chance to do something impactful."