My degree has proved to be enormously useful. I not only gained knowledge and research skills, but also a way of thinking about and approaching policy that guides my work on a daily basis.
Why did you choose Georgetown?
I came to Georgetown because it provided me with two invaluable resources: access to a rigorous academic program delivered by professors engaged in their fields as both researchers and practitioners, and access to the world of policymaking, advocacy, and influence beyond campus in the nation’s capital. After working in policy at the state-level directly out of college, I knew I needed additional skills—from statistical analysis and data visualization to writing and public speaking—in order to progress in my career. I had been running a pilot program for the state of Virginia, but, frankly, I didn’t have the knowledge base to justify many of my decisions or demonstrate the pilot’s effectiveness. Attending Georgetown allowed me to gain these particular skills, but it also broadened my skill set and opened new career opportunities beyond the policy work I had been doing before.
How was your experience at Georgetown?
I enjoyed my time at Georgetown immensely. Everyone I encountered was either incredibly smart, or incredibly passionate about solving complicated public problems, or both. And unlike so much of my undergraduate work, my Georgetown classes somehow managed to strike the right balance between academic theory and practical application. Sure, I learned the difference between taxing property and consumption in public finance, but I was learning it from the former director of the Congressional Budget Office. And while I received a crash course on the ins-and-outs of federal grant programs and education reform in my electives, I also learned how to give an effective group presentation and how to write an op-ed. Finally, I appreciated that there was time beyond class to participate in internship, volunteer, and research opportunities. These experiences, coupled with Georgetown’s academic program, proved to be essential.
Describe your current position and what led you to your job.
I work as a policy analyst with the Education Policy Program at New America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. While I'm always working on long-term research projects and producing policy briefs and reports, I also spend a good deal of time following, reacting to, and commenting on the day’s K-12 education news. This means I read (a lot), blog, talk to the media, and meet with others who are working to shape education policy, including policymakers and their staff. Before New America, I worked in a similar role at another D.C.-based think tank, Education Sector—my first job out of grad school. I heard about the position from a fellow student who was interning there. They were looking for someone with quantitative and qualitative research skills, education policy savvy, an analytical, inquisitive mindset, and the ability to communicate complex ideas. I think my experience at Georgetown, including my coursework, thesis, and internships, helped make the case for why I would be a good fit.
How has your degree from Georgetown helped your career?
My degree has proved to be enormously useful. I not only gained knowledge and research skills, but also a way of thinking about and approaching policy that guides my work on a daily basis. Importantly, when I was learning these skills in the classroom, I could also begin to apply them outside of it. Internships, research opportunities, and working as a teaching assistant let me “try out” various roles, in different areas of policy and with different kinds of organizations, while the stakes were relatively low. I then had a much clearer sense of what I did and didn’t want to do once I graduated. Finally, I gained valuable mentors through my relationships with faculty members—relationships I still draw on today.
What advice would you give to a prospective McCourt School student?
Think about the end goal. Georgetown has so much to offer, but it comes with a trade-off: it can be tough to choose between the various offerings and opportunities and to maximize your time in the program. I’m not saying students need to know all of their future plans before attending. I certainly didn’t. But even a vague aspiration, like “working in a think tank on education sounds like a really cool job,” helps. That’s what I told myself before going to Georgetown, and knowing it helped me make smarter, more deliberate decisions about the courses I chose, the internships I pursued, and the professors I worked with. Most important of all, those decisions paid off once I began my job search.