Degree: MPP, 2003
Location: Washington, D.C.
After graduating from the Humphrey School, the Texas native was
accepted into the Presidential Management Fellowship program, a
competitive program to train future government leaders. She began with
the FBI as an intelligence analyst and moved to the Department of
Defense, where she found a home for her interest in national security,
an interest she honed at the Humphrey School. She later spent two
years at the White House on the National Security Staff as Director
for Defense Policy and Strategy and Director for Libya, and recently
returned to the Pentagon where she serves as an advisor on
international security strategy and policy issues related to Europe,
the Middle East, Africa, and Russia.
What motivated you to pursue a career in public affairs?
When I first entered college, I was very interested in history and anthropology—particularly focusing on ancient cultures. After a few semesters spent learning Classical Greek and archeological practice, I realized I was most interested in the political dynamics of that time and how they were relevant to modern policy debates. I took a required world politics class and from there became a lifelong student of international relations and fascinated with United States’ balance of hard and soft power use over time.
Who at the Humphrey School had a major influence on you, and how?
Steve Andreasen. The theoretical background I received at Humphrey was useful, but Steve had a practitioner’s perspective that brought the theory to life. His classes were bar-none the best preparation I received for my career—particularly being able to dash off a one-page memo!
Do you have any advice for incoming and current students interested in a career like yours?
Read at least one newspaper every single day and have opinions about
what you’re reading. Whatever your interests, make sure you understand
the players and dynamics going on in that issue area, as well as the
long-term trends, opportunities, and challenges. Be the person that
doesn't just admire the problem but brings solutions. Someone who is
thinking ahead, beyond the next day or the next week or the next
email, and thinking innovatively, is invaluable in public policy,
whether in Washington or elsewhere.
What is the biggest career lesson your have learned since graduating from the Humphrey School?
Choose your boss. If you work for someone who is passionate about the
cause they are serving and willing to devote time to your career, the
issue you are working on is far less important. I received this advice
at the Humphrey School, regretted every time I did not follow it, and
benefitted hugely from the times I did. It makes such a difference to
have someone supervising you who you respect, enjoy working with, and
offers you the "freedom to fail."