Reflections from a year with Eagleton

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This past academic year, I was selected as a Raimondo Fellow as part of the Eagleton Fellowship program. This fellowship allows selected students to gain a better understanding of government, public affairs, and the legislative process through a class offered in the fall and an internship completed  in the spring. In addition to this, fellows also attend seminars and other events that discuss current issues in New Jersey and national politics, and highlight the accomplishments of prominent political figures. This year we had the opportunity to attend an event with Congressman John Lewis discussing his graphic novel March. If you want to learn more and apply for the fellowship yourself, click here. If you need to catch up on my previous adventures, click here

My time as an Eagleton Fellow ended on May 11th with an intimate graduation ceremony. It was a wonderful evening with commencement speeches from a few classmates and a keynote address from Governor James Florio. I think, like many of my classmates, that the night was filled with a great sense of accomplishment. While this past academic year has been a challenge juggling both lab and the requirements of the Eagleton Fellowship, I can say with confidence that it will be the most memorable year of my time as a graduate student. I made friends in new fields, gained a sense of where I would like to see myself in the coming years, and became a part of an incredible professional network.

It is almost cliché at this point in the blog to suggest the importance of experiences outside of the lab, but I truly cannot stress this point enough. Before I started my adventure with Eagleton, I knew I was interested in policy work that would support science and allow me to apply my scientific skills and knowledge. However, my focus was primarily on careers at the federal level. Through Eagleton, I really gained an appreciation and understanding of the importance of state government. In many respects, what happens in our local governments can be even more impactful than the decisions made at the federal level. The idea of working at the state level was completely new to me. While opportunities at the federal level for scientists are more well-established than local policy careers, the experience this past year has opened my eyes to parallel opportunities that aren’t based in Washington DC. Opportunities in governmental affairs at a pharmaceutical company, lobbying for a biotech start-up, running for a position in local government, or working as a staffer for a local politician are just a few positions that would be complimented by a scientific background and the bevy of translatable skills that go along with it.

My internship and hands-on experience at the Statehouse, which I obtained through the Eagleton Fellowship, were also priceless. The idea of starting a desk job completely terrified me – no pipets, no manufactures’ protocols to follow, no cell culture. This world was completely different from my norm of working hands-on at a lab bench. From the first day when I walked into the Statehouse with little confidence and understanding of what my internship experience would entail to my current standing now in seeing some of the legislative process first hand, my time at the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) has really solidified my appreciation for the legislative process and has given me a better understanding of the role I want to play in it. I do not want to be a legislator, but I enjoy the work that supports these positions such as those provided by the OLS. I want to provide information to the decision-makers, but not necessarily be the one to make the final decision.

I hope that you all have learned a lot from my experience with Eagleton. If you are interested in learning more, check out their website for public events and get involved. Last, but not least, if you can shadow or gain an experience outside of the lab do not hesitate to run with it. Good luck!!

Picture from: http://www.dailytargum.com/article/2017/03/eagleton-institute-prepares-students-to-run-for-public-office

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