On September 22 Bloustein School students had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with four alumni with work experience in Washington, DC. The panel was moderated by Professor Stuart Shapiro, who remarked that the session was to “help make DC one of the chief destinations for graduates.”
Each of the four panelists has extensive work experience in the DC area, both in various federal agencies and in Washington’s local government. The first speaker was Mary ‘Missy’ Morrison MCRP ‘07. Working as a community planner for the National Park Service (NPS), she is based out of the NPS’ regional office in Philadelphia. Recently, though, she has worked on a fellowship-of-sorts through the Urban Agenda program, administered through the NPS. This has brought her to DC proper, where the NPS maintains jurisdiction over 90% of DC’s park land, accounting for nearly 20% of DC’s total land area. To accomplish this, the NPS employs six managers in DC alone—this has naturally created a thick bureaucracy. In response, the Urban Agenda seeks to study ten model cities in order to better provide park service in the country’s urban areas. In this role, Mary’s experience as a community planner has proved invaluable. Helping communities bring their needs to the NPS, her experience has helped coordinate visioning projects throughout the Philadelphia and Washington areas. Knowing who to bring to the table and assisting communities and planners make connection has been of particular concern to her, and she mentioned the benefit of her studio experiences in preparing her for this type of work.
Speaking next was John Hocker MPP ‘13. Currently working for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), John’s experience has focused primarily on the ‘evaluation stage’ of policy formation. Calling this the “forgotten step” of the process, he brought attention to the fact that, at all levels of government, it is crucial to constantly re-evaluate programs to ensure the goals and objectives are still being met by current practice. Owing to the structure of the government, the GAO oversees all federal programs, generally speaking, and so it has allowed John to rotate through a number of policy areas—the Departments of Labor, justice and currently, energy and environmental programs. This broad-spectrum of knowledge has given John a wide range of experiences and contacts throughout the government and he made the point of stating that everyone he has met has been equally driven and intelligent; DC is a fun place to work, but you end up surrounded by some of the hardest working people in every field. As such, he stressed the importance of the formation course here at the Bloustein School, as well as courses focused on public budgeting and finance.
Coltrane Stansbury MPP ‘04 spoke on his experiences as a Presidential Management Fellow at the Department of Labor and the GAO. Throughout his talk, he stressed the awareness he had of the “Washington/DC divide,” which is to say that he was working hard to help the under-served and economically stressed neighborhoods of the city while also working for the federal agencies located there. This, he noted, was crucial to understanding how the government worked, since “everyone is from a ‘DC’.” Additionally, he worked with the former mayor of Newark, and now U.S. Senator Cory Booker, where his MPP helped him in his role as senior policy advisor.
Laura Montas MPP ‘14 concluded the panel, offering a different view of Washington, working for the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Working with both families and on the data management side of the DC school system, Laura now works as an Education Policy Specialist. She stressed the gratitude she has for being able to take her education at Bloustein and apply it to help create real change for students throughout the District.
All four panelists addressed how their education has helped shape their careers and were able to offer excellent advice on getting a career started in DC post-graduation. Following the talk, students in attendance were able to ask questions to the panel broadly or to individual members. The session ended with a chance to network with the panelists following the conclusion of the question-and-answer session.