Rutgers Fulbright Student Advocates for Educational Equity

by Marcia Hannigan
posted on Rutgers Today May 17, 2021

Adriana Scanteianu, who is pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at the Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to teach English and coordinate social justice activities with a nonprofit group in Spain.

She will work at Fundación Secretariado Gitano, which deals with marginalization of the Gitano community in Madrid. The daughter of Romanian immigrants, she is fluent in Romanian and Spanish and is majoring in mathematics with a minor in urban studies. Following a social justice class in high school, she became further interested in equity and diversity while at Rutgers when she found her first math course dominated by male students.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and discussions with classmates, Scanteianu and other Honors College classmates started an organization dedicated to “dismantling systems of oppression at Rutgers University so that every student is valued and supported.” Their initiative, True Inclusion, advocates for systemic equity and inclusion. Scanteianu and her classmates wrote a 50-page report that resulted in changing the Honors College’s mission statement and the content and goal of its first-year classes.

As she progressed through the math program at Rutgers, Scanteianu became interested in how public policy could bring about change. An internship as a reproductive health researcher led to a field trip to Rwanda where she studied that nation’s family planning system.

“The Rwandan government sought to lower the country’s very high fertility rate through the use of Community Health Workers, a volunteer group of trusted members of the community elected to their position,” she said. “Community Health Workers go from house to house to talk about family planning and encourage its use. They are welcomed into households because families want to limit family size to afford school fees and better provide for their children.”

After her internship, Scanteianu’s interest in public policy continued to grow. She was accepted to the Bloustein school’s five-year B.A./Master of Public Policy (MPP) dual degree program. She will graduate in May and pursue the applied field experience requirement while transitioning into the final year of studies toward the MPP degree. Scanteianu will return to her graduate studies in the fall of 2022.

“The applied field experience requirement is designed to provide public policy students with the opportunity to gain professional experience while testing out career options and building on skills learned in the classroom,” said Hetling, an associate professor and director of the Bloustein School’s graduate public policy program. “From an academic and professional perspective, Adriana’s Fulbright is a wonderful match for the applied field experience requirement and a great complement to the MPP curriculum. The work at Fundación Secretariado Gitano will provide Adriana with immeasurable experience and insight into equity issues in the public policy realm.”

“Adriana is truly exceptional—intellectually curious, thoughtful, reflective and broad-minded, with steadfast determination to make a difference in the word,” said Lisa Miller, a professor of political science who got to know Scanteianu as a 2019-20 Lloyd C. Gardner Fellow. “Adriana had to regularly adapt her thinking to new environments and new ideas, and she did so with aplomb. She has that rare combination of deep analytic thinking, critical vision, alongside a real-world pragmatism.”

“I feel like I accomplished a lot at Rutgers, but never on my own,” Scanteianu said. “My classmates who worked with me on the True Inclusion initiative really pushed me forward.”

While math may not be her focus in the immediate future, Scanteianu plans to pursue a career in public policy. She is currently working with her True Inclusion co-founders to form a consulting firm focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.­