You’ve been in DC for several years. How did you end up moving here? I wanted to live in New York, San Francisco or DC after grad school just because it sounded fun. DC was the easiest for me. I had basically decided I wanted to do policy and that’s kind of where it was at. . . So I moved to DC without a job or any contacts.
Where did you go to graduate school and what was your focus? I went to Oxford for a master’s program. I did a program called Nature, Society and Environmental Policy, it was a geography program. It geared us towards the non-profit sector or government or to become an environmental consultant for corporations or something like that.
Was being at Oxford an incredible experience? Yes, it was really fun. It was definitely a different system. It’s just a year long program. Oxford was cool because they have an attitude that if you want to do something or try something or learn something just do it and do it well. So there were so many opportunities to learn and try new things. Even in specific classes they would give us a huge reading list to tailor as we wanted.
|Planting chilies at the USDA in celebration of|
New Mexico chilies.
Did you always have a passion for environmentalism? Do you remember what sparked that in you? I remember being in Young Women’s and writing a letter to myself that was like ‘Save the World!’, 'just keep trying to save the world’. . . I was convinced I wanted to save the world. Which now I’m kind of embarrassed about. It definitely started with an interest in the environment, I learned about endangered species and I was fascinated. . . By the time I got to college I was more interested in international development. The grad program I did was really a merging of hard science and international development, basically an environmental policy program. We studied cities and how they worked, water supply, agriculture and food systems.
And then you moved to the DC area? I moved to DC and started interning with a congressman who was my representative from New Mexico. They were really nice, they didn’t have any openings so I just asked, ‘Hey, can I just intern until I find something else?’ I did a full 4 months of interning, which was a little frustrating with a master’s degree, while I was applying for other stuff. I temped for a couple of months until a position opened up in the Congressman’s office. I started off as a Staff Assistant which was also frustrating but you have to climb the ladder. You have to get work experience.
What’s your day-to-day on your job? I’m a Legislative Assistant for a senator on Capitol Hill. Legislative Assistants are sort of like a filing cabinet for the senator and we have to keep track of specific issues. I report to him on anything going on related to certain specific issues in New Mexico or on the Senate floor or in the committees. I prep him for hearings. If we have bills going through a committee I’ll shepherd them, get them written, research, do whatever it takes to get these bills moved through the committee and on to the Senate floor. I’m also the contact for special interest groups and lobbyists.
What tips can you give others who would like to work for a senator or congressman? I came here not even realizing you could work on the Hill. . . I did a few informational interviews on both sides of the isle partly because I was trying to find out if you have to be a Republican or a Democrat to work for a Republican or Democrat – yes, you do [laughs]. For the most part if someone in your congressman or your senator’s office would be nice enough to talk to you that’s a good start. A lot of people say it’s kind of luck. There has to be an opening. You just have to wait for something to open up. Talk to representatives and senators in states you’re connected with. If you apply for a job you should show your connection to their District, even if it’s sort of far fetched. . . They’ll either look for someone from their District or who has a strong connection or has an expertise in a certain area that they need help on. And the ideal connection is both of those things.
What’s your perspective on politics? When I first registered to vote I didn’t register for either party. . . I had no concept of Democrat/Republican by the time I was 18, which is probably a little embarrassing. But then I went to college and had these interests. I got involved in a lot of student groups. It became clear that a lot of the things I cared about aligned with the Democratic Party. If you’re going to work on the Hill you have to be one or the other. I think a lot of people are really comfortable voting on the issue or don’t necessarily feel comfortable calling themselves a Democrat or Republican, which I think is actually a pretty healthy place to be, I think it’s logical. I kind of think it’s an excuse sometimes too but to work on the Hill you have to declare one way or the other.
To be continued . . .