Tell us about your journey into the profession:
Looking back when I started my secondary education, I would never have imagined that I would be working in government. In high school, I was very interested in the hard sciences, and as a result, when I was an undergraduate, I pursued biology, and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor degree in chemistry. About the time I graduated, I started looking into possible career paths, and most of them involved working in a laboratory, which did not really interest me at the time. I was conflicted about what path to pursue, and then it all seemed to click one day. I remembered someone’s father from a history class in high school who came in and talked to the class about his time in the Peace Corps. He was very enthusiastic about how he lived with different types of people for two years, he worked on different projects with them, learned their language, ate their food, and learned their culture. He said it was one of the most impactful experiences of his life. Since then, it always lingered in my mind that I would love to do that.
Following the day of my graduation, I applied for the Peace Corps., and about two months later I interviewed over the phone to be a volunteer, after another two months I was told I was on the waiting list, and the month after that, I was accepted to be a Department of Fisheries Extension Agent Volunteer in Zambia, Africa. During my two years in Zambia, I developed and implemented programs in my village based on a needs assessment I conducted, and I was a resource for community members to help them connect with the government, but also to try to help them gain knowledge in many ways. By doing this, I learned of my love for serving people, but I also learned of how much of an impact the government had on people, even in my small village, on a daily basis. I learned that government policy had a huge impact that I never was aware of before.
Coming back to the United States, I knew that I wanted to be in the government to be a part of the process that created new policies and improved existing policies to improve the lives of the people who lived in the community that I would serve. I was fortunate enough to be accepted in the Northern Illinois University Department of Public Administration where I pursued my master’s degree with a focus in comparative administration. For the first year and a half of the program, I was hired as a Management Intern at the City of DeKalb as a component of the Public Administration Program. I was later given the opportunity to study abroad in Nairobi, Kenya for 5 months where I earned both the NIU Master’s Degree of Public Administration and the Strathmore University Master’s Degree of Public Policy Management. Within that two-and-a-half-year period, I was provided with an opportunity to gain a vast amount of experience that has now led me to the good fortune to work for the Community Development Division in the City of Aurora to help impact residents’ lives in a positive manner.
Why is local government a good career path?
Local government is a good career because you can directly improve residents’ lives living in the community you serve through different policies and programs. At the end of the day when I look back at helping someone through our programs for either helping them buy their first home, provide them with a referral for rental assistance to keep them in their homes, or be part of the process of creating affordable and sustainable housing for low to moderate income individuals, it gives me a good feeling to know I am helping people.
Fun fact about yourself:
Since living in Zambia, I love traveling to different countries and connecting with local people. This past year I went to Mexico and Costa Rica, and at the end of the year, I will be traveling to Brazil. Next year I would love to go back to Africa. I just love being able to talk with different types of people and hear their stories.
If you could give one piece of advice to future local government leaders, what would it be?
In my opinion, working in government is all about building relationships with people. Building relationships with the people you work with to instill collaboration and innovation in the policy-making process. Building relationships with local elected leaders and residents to see what policies are working well, and to evaluate where the gaps are and how those gaps could be filled. Building relationships with local resource providers to refer residents to the appropriate resources so their needs are met. So, take the time to get to know people, learn their names, and what types of things they like to do, take an interest in them, and build a relationship with them. Building relationships is the foundation of government work.
Shows/music/books you’re currently watching/listening to/reading:
I am currently reading Rise to Globalism by Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas G. Brinkley and recommend it to anyone interested in U.S. foreign policy.
I consider myself someone who is a life learner, someone who always wants to learn more and looking for ways to improve my life through knowledge. I am currently trying to become fluent in Spanish and begin to learn Portuguese. I also enjoy reading, just about any type of genre, and writing. I also like to be active and spend a few hours a week lifting weights, I enjoy being outside in nature, and I like to travel.