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When I applied to the Capitol Pathways Program, I was looking for an opportunity to experience public policy and learn if it was a good career choice for me. I was given the opportunity to select a specific sector in the application process; I chose sustainability and environmental issues as a top choice. Capitol Pathways program organizers matched me with the Great Plains Institute and I was excited to begin my journey in this inaugural program. You can read more about the Capitol Pathways program here and here.

At the start of the Capitol Pathways program I expected three things:

  • I would meet passionate people with common interest;
  • I would learn if a focus on sustainability and the environment was right for me; and
  • I would decide between a career in public policy or economics. I was expecting to learn a lot about myself.

What I learned instead went beyond myself and what I wanted. I learned more about what we truly need at the Capitol and in Minnesota. We need more interest in public policy and less in power. We need policy that is embracing and supporting all our communities and that focuses on the humanity of every person in this state and not just the few that have always been heard and noticed.

Throughout the legislative session I noticed and realized things that I hadn’t before. First, there is more waiting involved in the legislative process than I imagined.

Second, I became more aware of who my representatives are and what they are doing for my district.

And third, I started thinking about what my district needs; serious policy that improves our communities, and less policy that is focused on a political agenda.

Thanks to the Great Plains Institute, I saw the amount of hard work that is put into policy making and the passion and motivation that it requires. I was able to learn the legislative process while following Amanda Bilek’s and Brendan Jordan’s work on separate bills supported by the Bioeconomy Coalition and Drive Electric Minnesota. I saw how much time, effort, and love is put in by our communities and lobbyists in policy making while learning more about Minnesota’s key environmental issues.

I also discovered that in the final days of session, the decision making comes down to a few people behind closed doors while the rest of us wait. I experienced the existence of power and politics over policy. However, I also experienced that even when all your work doesn’t get the final support from the legislature, you are one year closer to what you want to accomplish. That is why I am glad to extend my stay at GPI over the summer to see how staff continue to work to support policy during next year’s legislative session.

At the end of session I realized that this is only the beginning of a career in public policy and economics for me. I am determined to pursue a graduate level education in economics. Afterwards, I hope to bring my knowledge back to public policy either directly at the Capitol or through economic research to advise policy making.

My biggest takeaway from this past session was that the reminder of my education and career will not be about me or for me. Instead, my career in public policy and economic research will be about the service to my community through my work.

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