As a senior at Fishers High School, Thomas Bray learned first-hand how to argue on behalf of the U.S. Constitution in front of a panel of legislators. His learning process was part of We the People, a national program that challenges elementary and high school students to participate in simulated congressional hearings.
“The We the People program made me realize that I was really passionate about public service and public affairs,” said Bray. “Even though this was not something I wanted to do specifically, the build-up was something that I found I was pretty good at – the research, the writing, the crafting, the paper that was as good to read as it is to speak. That was something that I really found both challenging and enjoyable.”
Now, Bray, who is pursuing a Master of Public Affairs in Urban Sustainability, is working in the Indiana Senate after being selected for the year-long Lawrence M. Borst Fellowship. After starting the fellowship in August 2016, Bray has spent his first semester examining policy and fiscal issues for the Indiana Senate Republicans and will spend the spring semester working full-time through the Indiana legislative session.
Established in 2006, the Borst Fellowship is funded through an endowed gift from former Sen. Lawrence Borst, a 38-year veteran of the Indiana legislature. The annual fellowship is offered exclusively to a graduate student enrolled in SPEA IUPUI’s Master of Public Affairs program and is selected each year by Indiana senate staff.
One of Bray’s more recent experiences as a Borst Fellow involved sitting in on an exploratory committee on how daily fantasy sports were being regulated in the state. He is also currently researching how other states use a tax revenue base and how a similar process might work in Indiana.
“A big part of my role this semester is also looking at where every piece of legislation is in the process,” Bray said. “Who wrote it, who sponsored it in the other chamber, how the votes were, was it amended, and knowing what, where, and at what point every single potential law will be.”
Before coming to SPEA, Bray attended the University of Alabama where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science. He began attending SPEA as a full-time student just two weeks after graduating in December 2015.
Bray considered staying at the University of Alabama to study Public Administration but was pulled toward Indianapolis and SPEA’s established MPA program.
“I decided I really wanted to live and work in Indianapolis and make a difference here, where I have roots,” he said. “I also knew I wanted to go to a public university where I knew I could do well and that I would get a lot out of it.”
Although he’s unsure what exactly he wants to do following graduation, Bray said he would love to explore other areas of city government and continue to thoroughly understand Indiana’s legislative process.
“I think a lot of what this experience can be boiled down to is the skill of being able to swiftly understand the goals of a piece of legislation and then being able to forecast what is going to happen and what forces would support or oppose it,” he said. “I think a lot of the work in the legislative process boils down to that skill and I think that skill is essential, no matter what I do going forward.”