Building bridges for lasting change

First-generation international student Ruthvin Gardiner talks about his passion for collaborative problem-solving, the real-world impact of public policy, and his Minnesota cabin must-haves

Name: Ruthvin Gardiner
Class year: 2023, Humphrey School of Public Affairs 
Home country: Trinidad and Tobago 
Scholarship: Marvin Borman Public Service and Community Engagement Fellowship 

What he’s learned studying at the U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs:  
“One of the most important things I’ve learned is [the need to] really understand your space as a political actor when you go into communities. It shapes and informs the kind of work I want to do and how I engage with people—really listening and hearing what their situations or problems are, and not coming in from a place of, ‘I know better than you and therefore you should do this.’ It’s a lot of listening and bringing people along with you and working with and across differences.”  

Why everyone should care about public policy:  
“Perhaps it is a misconception that policy only operates at the highest levels. But really, policy impacts our everyday life. Decisions that were made about COVID, for example, and masking … even winter weather restrictions, where you park your car on the street, these are things that have daily impact on people.”

On putting his education into action: 
“My true passion really does lie in building bridges, making connections, and bringing people together to solve some of the most intractable problems in the world. I would love to work in the arena of poverty, working with people to solve problems at a really local level, and potentially scale [the solutions] to different heights to have impact in multiple arenas.”   

How scholarship support has impacted his life: 
“Funding is really what makes a huge difference in making education accessible to many people and populations. It has changed my life at the University of Minnesota. I was really happy that I could come here and be able to graduate debt-free, which is huge, especially in the context of post-graduate education. It’s very difficult to be able to pull that off, and the reason I’m able to is through support from generous donors at the University of Minnesota.”    

On embracing “lake life” culture: 
“I’ve been introduced to cabin life in Minnesota, up in Ely, which has been great. I think if I have to stay in Minnesota, I definitely need a cabin, and it must have a fireplace and be on a lake.”

More stories

UMN Morris’ Gavin Zempel wants to revive the Santee dialect of the Dakota language and build new connections to the culture
Youths from the U of M’s Urban Agriculture Initiative transform vacant lots into bright spots
UMD theatre major Oliver Swimeley is committed to bringing underrepresented voices out of the shadows—and on to the stage