Get to know Mary Peng, POGO intern

After living in China, Canada, and New Hampshire, Mary Peng landed in Washington in June 2012 to intern at POGO.  Mary is a rising sophomore at Dartmouth, where she studies economics, French, and public policy and is involved with several campus organizations that deal with international affairs. At POGO, she’s been working closely with investigator Michael Smallberg on research involving financial regulation.

The Watercooler caught up with Mary to chat about how she fits in at POGO, why she plays Ultimate Frisbee, and where she’ll finally settle down in the future.

Watercooler: How did you become interested in interning at POGO?

MP: I actually applied to POGO through a program at my school, and in my application, I said that I’ve been interested in politics because I believe in the power of politics to better the rules that govern our society. Even though there are so many people who are very disappointed with politics and disgusted with it, I feel that there’s so much potential for change for the better. I think when the professors were matching me up with a program that fit, they immediately thought of POGO. I’m also interested in so many different policy branches, and that also fits perfectly with POGO because there are so many different projects in so many different areas, so I’m not limited in just one area.

Watercooler: Do you have a favorite out of all of the places you’ve lived?

Mary Peng: It’s really hard. I think Ottawa and Changsha [China] are definitely two of my favorite cities, but now, having lived in D.C. for one summer, it’s also up there on the list. And then Hong Kong is also one of my favorite places in the world. It’s just so gorgeous. It’s by the sea … and it’s just so bursting with life all the time. I can totally picture myself living there in the future.

Watercooler: We understand you’re interested in development economics. Is there a particular country or region that especially appeals to you?

MP: When I first got into college, my biggest interest was in Africa, and it still is. This summer, I originally was going to apply to a bunch of internships in Africa, and then my parents were a little hesitant to let me go off to Africa my freshman summer. I’m also really interested in development in Asia because despite all the prosperity in recent years in Asia, there’s still so much room for development, even in China. I’ve been to a lot of parts of western China, and it’s completely different from what we see in pictures of Beijing or Shanghai or Hong Kong. There are just so many people, especially children, who don’t have the same opportunities as a lot of people here in the U.S. or a lot of the opportunities I’ve had. One of my missions is to give them those opportunities and just enable people to realize their fullest potential.

Watercooler: Imagine you land your dream job after graduating from college. What is it?

MP: I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. … Maybe something related to investment in social enterprises. There is one company that I heard about—it’s called Acumen Fund— and there are many companies like that where they invest in new projects that solve social problems in developing countries. These projects tend to be very innovative, but they need the start-up money. I really like to work on new projects, and I think I would be really inspired by these new ideas. I think that would probably combine a lot of my different interests.

Watercooler: Tell the Watercooler about playing Ultimate Frisbee!

MP: The reason that I joined the Ultimate team was that during orientation, my trip leader said there were so many cool kids on the Frisbee team, and I’d never really played Frisbee before. College is all about trying out new things, so I just showed up at practice. … I just really like the atmosphere where everyone’s really friendly but also really intense about the sport. I didn’t really get a chance to play team sports in high school because my school didn’t have teams, but I’ve always loved sports, especially team sports where I have to work together with other people. … Sometimes I have to step out of my comfort zone, but it’s always just so fun to be with [my teammates] and experience something I’ve never done before.

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