For Humphrey School Graduate Rachel Dame, Relationships Are At The Heart of Public Policy
Rachel Dame is described as a natural leader, so it’s no wonder she spent the past year as president of the Humphrey School’s Public Affairs Student Association (PASA), even while she was completing her Master of Public Policy degree.
Dame was continuing her tradition of servant leadership: She was president of her senior class of 7,000 at North Carolina State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 2014, and was also senior class president at her high school in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
After finishing her undergraduate degree, Dame worked with various international sporting organizations including the US Olympic Committee, Ironman, and Special Olympics.
“Eventually I realized my passion wasn’t sports, it was the diplomacy aspect of international sporting events,” Dame said. So she decided to pursue a master’s degree in public policy, and applied to nine graduate schools.
“As I visited other schools, I was disillusioned with their student bodies’ desire to undermine their classmates to achieve personal success,” she recalled. “This was a stark contrast to my visit day at the Humphrey School, where students and professors were concerned with the collective good rather than their individual success.”
She began her studies at the Humphrey School in the fall of 2017, “thinking, but not daring to say, that I wanted to go into global policy.” After participating in a two-day global crisis negotiation simulation led by the Humphrey School’s Diplomat-in-Residence Mary Curtin, a St. Paul native who spent 25 years in the US Foreign Service, Dame was convinced.
“Seeing that a woman from Minnesota could do diplomatic work was the impetus for me to pursue a concentration in global policy,” said Dame.
She’s pursued that goal with great energy and enthusiasm, having participated in internships at the Stimson Center in Washington, DC, and the US State Department.
Commencement speech: It's about relationships
Dame was chosen by her peers to deliver the student address at the Humphrey School’s commencement ceremony on May 18, and focused her remarks on the importance of establishing relationships with others.
“Public policy is striving to better the communities where we live and work, and the only way to better our communities is through relationships,” Dame said. “We need to remember the common good only advances when we grow individually through exposure to the personal experiences of others.”
Dame said she’s thankful for the supportive relationships she has developed at the Humphrey School, which allowed her to speak publicly for the first time about her mental health.
“I struggle daily with chronic anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression,” Dame said. “Humphrey is [the place] where classmates and professors talked about their own mental health openly. Humphrey professors created a culture where mental health issues did not impede my ability to learn. Because of the relationships with peers and professors, I am no longer afraid to talk about mental health.”
Humphrey School Dean Laura Bloomberg said it’s been an honor to get to know Dame over the past two years.
“Most especially, I developed a tremendous sense of admiration for Rachel as she carried out her duties as PASA president. In that role she demonstrated a powerful blend of leadership, creativity, thoughtfulness, courage—and humor!”
Now that she’s graduated, Dame has not one, but two exciting opportunities lined up: a position with the US Census Bureau, and a Fulbright fellowship to study in Albania.
“My plan is to first work for the Census Bureau and then go to Albania sometime next year, where I’ll be researching that country’s progress as it makes reforms in hopes of joining the European Union,” Dame said. “My long-term goal is to work for the State Department or an international institution such as the United Nations. Either one would be a dream job.”