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Kell Hoofnagle chats with alum Matt Kopans

Due to the Public Policy Career Chats program, I was lucky to be able to interview Matt Kopans on the subject of his current work, his career path, and his advice for public policy students. Mr. Kopans received a degree in Public Policy with a minor in Theater from William and Mary in 1997. He currently works at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York as the Director of Individual Giving. His job includes being a frontline fundraiser, working in groups, small and large, and one-on-one with people looking to support Planned Parenthood’s mission. 

Mr. Kopans deals with all kinds of policy issues on a regular basis. Obviously, at the forefront is the subject of abortion rights, but LGBTQ+ health issues and religious hospital takeovers are also very important subjects for him right now. His work also involves topics which may not seem obvious at first, like providing broadband internet to rural areas to help facilitate telehealth appointments by Planned Parenthood. 

In his job he identified a few skills as key: primarily critical thinking and communication both written and oral. He noted a lot of software he learned in college has since been replaced by newer tools, but one skill that never expires is the ability to connect questions to things people are doing. 

When asked what advice he would give his younger self he doled out three pieces of wisdom. First: “Don’t worry. It’ll all be okay.” Worrying about something you can’t control doesn’t make it happen in a way more conducive to you. Second: “Your first job is not that important.” You may feel a pressure to get the very first step correct, but your career path may go all kinds of places you don’t expect. A large part of Mr. Kopans’ career was managing small arts nonprofits, which doesn’t seem to lead directly to Planned Parenthood, but it all worked out. Finally: “Enjoy college to the fullest extent.” This is a unique period in your life and you should take advantage of that fact. Make friends, go to class, have fun. 

Relatedly, I asked Mr. Kopans what advice he’d have for me, or someone in my position, as a student pursuing public policy. He said several things. Get real world experiences via internships. Don’t be afraid to apply for a wide variety of jobs, even those not directly in your field. Look for the place you want to live and then apply for jobs there. And finally, explore. Take time to see the options and figure out what you want.