MA in Policy Studies alumni work in a variety of policy settings, including public agencies, advocacy, research, nonprofit leadership, and corporations. Read what some of our graduates have to say about their experience in the program and the ways in which it influences their work.
Mike Irons, '13
Juvenile Court Programs Manager,
Mike Irons’ reason for pursuing a master’s was part personal, part professional. On a personal level, his daughter was leaving for college, creating an opening in Mike’s life. Professionally, he derived great satisfaction from his work but had reached a point where advancement required further education. Mike had spent his entire career in the juvenile justice system as a probation counselor and staff supervisor, and he wanted to better serve youth and families in Snohomish County.
These two dynamics led Mike to graduate school. A lifelong learner drawn to challenges, advanced education promised a theoretical base and increased ability to affect social change. Because evidence-based programming was the norm in his field, Mike desired greater understanding of data and policy. The Policy Studies program gave him a solid foundation in research and analysis which complemented his direct service background, making him a more effective leader. Since graduating, Mike has been promoted to the position of Snohomish County Juvenile Court Programs Manager and named a Juvenile Justice Fellow for the Snohomish County Reclaiming Futures program. In these capacities, he plans, coordinates, and oversees juvenile court services, creating improved outcomes for youth.
Shawn Miller, '10
Director of Enrollment Services,
Cacadia Community College
As Director of Enrollment Services at Cascadia Community College, Shawn Miller serves as an intermediary between legislators, students, and other stakeholders. Supervising a department which serves more than 5,000 students, Shawn influences and implements policies that contribute to student recruitment initiatives and retention strategies.
Shawn’s career in higher education was not planned. In fact, he had not considered attending college until his senior year in high school when he realized that a college education could provide greater opportunities in life. Shawn enrolled in Central Washington University (CWU) and became the first person in his family to earn a Bachelor’s degree. During his years as a undergraduate, he developed a deep appreciation for higher education and a commitment to help students succeed. Sean left CWU to pursue various administrative and leadership roles at Skagit Valley College, Shoreline Community College, and Lake Washington Technical College, and recently joined Cascadia Community College to manage enrollment services.
Along the way, Shawn chose to pursue an advanced degree in Policy Studies to develop the skills and abilities necessary to more deeply influence the policy-making process. Shawn’s graduate training has enabled him to more effectively participate as an advocate for greater access to higher education opportunities.
Mary Houston, '10
Director of Enterprise Development,
HopeWorks Social Enterprises
Near the end of her undergraduate studies at UW Bothell, Mary Houston traveled to Washington DC to participate in a human rights seminar and was exposed to variety of institutions and policy makers. Profoundly inspired, Mary realized that she had the power to affect real and lasting social change but that she needed more training to be that type of agent. She decided to pursue an MA in Policy Studies, and while working on her degree, she interned with Workforce Development Council Snohomish County. Mary’s internship sharpened her skills base while enhancing her knowledge of complex labor and workforce development issues. It also grew her professional network and created a pathway to her current role as Director of Enterprise Development for HopeWorks Social Enterprises, a nonprofit organization and affiliate of Housing Hope, which serves homeless and low income families and individuals in Snohomish County. In her position, Mary develops new business enterprises which provide alternate career pathways to sustainable and progressive wage opportunities.
Abigail Echo-Hawk, '09
Tribal Liaison, Institute for Translational Health Sciences
As Tribal Liaison for Institute for Translational Health Sciences at University of Washington, Abigail Echo-Hawk works with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes in a five-state region to identify health priorities and assist tribes in creating policies that regulate research impacting their communities. In addition to this full-time role, Abigail is a dedicated advocate of women’s issues and has served on the Seattle Women’s Commission for three terms by appointment of the mayor. She has contributed to policy advocacy in the areas of health, domestic violence, sexual assault, youth prostitution and educational disparities.
Abigail chose the MA in Policy Studies program as a vehicle to strengthen her social justice work. She was keenly aware that people of color and low-income populations did not have the same level of access or opportunities as their counterparts and understood that these limitations were perpetuated by policies. Abigail wanted to break down the structures that impeded access by bringing the voices of marginalized people into the policy process. The Policy Studies program gave her a solid foundation in ethics and human rights and provided her with the skills to influence policy through research and effective communication.
Brooke Magnusson, '09
Senior Research Grant Manager, Alere Wellbeing
Brooke Magnusson had worked in the healthcare sector for several years when she chose to pursue a graduate degree in Policy Studies. Brooke was content to be working in this field, but she also knew that the greatest impact she could have was in the policy arena. The MA in Policy Studies program helped Brooke take her commitment to the next level. The curriculum provided advanced training in research analysis, project management, and statistics, and she pursued numerous internships which provided important, complimentary learning experiences, clarified her career direction, and grew her professional network.
After earning her degree, Brooke went onto work for Alere Wellbeing, a company committed to preventing the onset and progression of chronic disease through evidence-based products and programs. As Senior Research Grant Manager, Brooke collaborates with scientific leadership to oversee and implement research studies, ensuring that studies are implemented according to the funders’ regulatory guidelines. Brooke is pleased to be on the forefront of break-through research and technology which positively impacts hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Jennifer Clarke, '08
Category B Licensee Program Manager,
Fair Labor Association
Jennifer Clarke (2008) first learned about the MA in Policy Studies program while working as a Social Responsibility Specialist in the Nordstrom private label division. In this role, she managed remediation in apparel, footwear and hard goods facilities and traveled overseas to work with factories in China and India. At the time, Jennifer firmly believed that corporations played a key role in labor reform, but she also knew that companies could only do so much to address large systemic issues. Recognizing the existence of governance gaps, she enrolled in the Policy Studies program to sharpen her analytical skills and understanding of the policy process. After completing her degree, Jennifer joined the Fair Labor Association in Washington D.C. as a Category B Licensee Program Manager. In this capacity, she assists colleges and universities in developing sustainable strategies for improving compliance with labor standards among their manufacturing partners. Jennifer reflects on her time in the Policy Studies program as foundational to her current work. The program gave her the confidence to acknowledge when there is no policy and to craft guidelines and messaging that achieve lasting impact.
Courtney Normand, '08
Washington State Public Affairs Manager,
Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest
As Washington State Public Affairs Manager at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, Courtney Normand manages a statewide team of community organizers who promote Planned Parenthood's advocacy agenda by engaging supporters and volunteers to speak up and take action on issues of reproductive justice. She also conducts community outreach and works with external organizations, media, government, elected officials, and businesses for the advancement of strategic issue priorities.
The Policy Studies program provided Courtney multiple opportunities to learn more about the practice of advocacy and how to work with stakeholders from diverse sectors. While in the program, Courtney conducted a capstone research project which assessed the impact of sex education curricula in Washington State. Aiming to work in the sexual and reproductive health arena beyond graduation, Courtney’s capstone project allowed her to engage with stakeholders in the industry and to demonstrate her knowledge. This experience built her credibility and helped Courtney secure her current role with Planned Parenthood.
Teresa Tam, '08
Senior Analyst, U.S. Government Accountability Office
As a Senior Analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Health Care team, Teresa Tam has been a major contributor to reports on Medicaid preventive and dental services, as well as health care financing.
Teresa’s desire to improve health care in the United States led her to the MA in Policy Studies program. Through the program, she developed a strong set of skills - namely, how to find, understand, and present evidence-based data, formulate research designs, and write succinctly and powerfully. The Policy Studies program prepared Teresa for her current role as an analyst, allowing her to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people.
Melinda Bocci, '06
Human Services Specialist II, Snohomish County
Melinda Bocci had worked several years in the developmental disabilities sector when she decided to obtain a graduate degree in Policy Studies. Much of her work was driven by policy, and she knew a master's would enable her to effect systemic change within her field.
While in the Policy Studies program, pivotal disability legislation was being implemented in Washington State. Melinda chose to align her capstone research project with this new policy, which would allow all individuals with developmental disabilities between the ages of 21 and 62 the opportunity for gainful employment in their communities. Her capstone research highlighted the impact of this policy of on four stakeholder groups, and the credibility Melinda she built through this in-depth research project helped secure her current position with Snohomish County Developmental Disabilities.
Ken Pierro, '06
Response Department Head,
Sector New York, U.S. Coast Guard
A career military professional, Ken Pierro (2006) currently serves as Response Department Head of the largest field unit in the U. S. Coast Guard. Based out of Staten Island, NY, Ken is responsible for law enforcement, maritime security, Search & Rescue, and oil spill response operations from New York City to Albany, NY. Previously, Ken was stationed in Honolulu, HI where he traveled extensively to Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other Pacific Island nations bringing unique Coast Guard expertise to support Department of Defense and U. S. Embassy counter-drug programs designed to help local law enforcement combat illegal activities in the region. Reflecting on his Policy Studies training, Ken credits the program for providing him with a critical framework for investigation and an impartial, measured approach to problem-solving. Additionally, the program’s emphasis on stakeholder involvement has greatly enhanced Ken’s efficacy in the areas of leadership and management.
Kristin Hallgren, '04
Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research
Kristin Hallgren was a high school civics teacher when she decided to pursue a graduate degree. At the time, she desired greater intellectual stimulation and a rigorous education which would enhance her teaching practice and ultimately, benefit her students.
The Policy Studies program provided Kristin with many opportunities to sharpen her critical thinking skills and understanding of policy and decision-making processes. It also exposed her to an array of professional pathways, and eventually, Kristin shifted her career into the field of program evaluation for education and early childhood programs. Having been recently promoted from Research Analyst to Researcher at Mathematica Policy Research, she attributes much of the refinement of her skills to the training she received in the Policy Studies program.
Read where other MA in Policy Studies alumni are working!