Alumni Story: Andrew Snyder, Researcher in Public Health Policy

Andrew Snyder, class of 2000, majored in history and minored in economics. He is currently a researcher at the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that helps state government officials learn from one another about best practices related to health programs.

Andrew Snyder headshotIn Snyder's own words, "The NASHP does a lot of work on health coverage (Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act) and delivery system reforms (changing how hospitals and medical providers work, to reduce costs and improve quality). I personally lead a set of projects looking at how oral health fits into all those things. It's a niche topic, and I kind of stumbled into it, but it's provided me an opportunity to do some really interesting work."

How did he parlay his history degree into working as a researcher in public health? He majored in history and minored in economics, but, according to Snyder, he got interested in health care and health insurance after spending a junior year in England where he had some personal (and good) experiences with the National Health Service in the U.K. So he applied for a master's in public policy and received a fellowship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, at the La Follette School of Public Affairs. During his MA, he worked as a project assistant at the Institute for Research on Poverty, which solidified his interest in working on health policy. After grad school, he got a position with the Wisconsin Medicaid program, as a policy analyst for the dental and vision benefits.

His history-major skills were incredibly useful in his state government job. As Snyder says, "Entering into a 40-year-old program, I found that I had a lot of learning to do to find out about and understand the decades of decisions and events that shaped the program into what it was when I joined. Also, analyzing and developing policy options for high-level decision makers involved pulling a story out of disparate data points, talking to stakeholders, and reconciling various viewpoints all skills I picked up in my history degree. I found those skills incredibly useful when I was tasked with staffing a governor's task force on access to dental care."

Later, Snyder moved back to the East Coast and joined NASHP. According to Snyder, "What I'm doing now is really closely tied to my history degree. I do a lot of briefs and reports which all involve writing, research, interviewing, and interpretation of historical documents (statutes, administrative rules, etc.). My main job is to draw a story out of these sources in an accurate and compelling way.

"Looking back, I think a really formative experience in my professional life was doing my senior thesis at IUP with Dr. Bailey. I researched and wrote about a 1909 strike at a rail car factory in McKees Rocks, Pa. It was a little corner of history that hadn't been thoroughly explored by historians. I spent my Christmas break that year in the Pa. state archives, on a microfiche machine, photocopying pages from Pittsburgh-area newspapers. It really let me know that I liked analyzing primary sources and finding an untold story inside those sources. And that's something that I've carried forward through all my work since."

Are you an IUP alumni who majored in history and loves your current job? Get in touch with the department! E-mail Dr. Christine Baker and let the department know what you're up to!