The Betty Jane Narver Policy Fellowship
A unique opportunity for future policy leaders
Jillian Pennyman, our 2013-2014 Betty Jane Narver Fellow, shared her thoughts on her time as a fellow.
She received her master's degree in education policy this past summer.
What did you learn from your experience at B & PC?
I felt I learned a multitude of different things. Last year I moved here from the South, I wasn’t aware of how regressive Washington state’s tax system is. Frankly, I was shocked at that. I learned about how that impacts all areas of the budget, particularly education funding which is very important to me.
I also learned how to collaborate on research projects and other tasks. I came in planning to do a lot of individual tasks, but I was always working with others.
It taught me that crafting policy and doing research and analysis is a collaborative process. No one can do it on their own.
I really enjoyed worked with Kim (Senior Budget Analyst) on education funding. I also worked with the data visualization contractor Nathan to visually represent my work, which was really interesting.
I learned a lot from working with Tara (Communications Director) on messaging, including how to make the analysis clear, concise, and engaging. The messaging piece was really new to me, coming from an academic background. It was so helpful to learn how to reshape and reframe my writing to make it more accessible and less academic.
What are some of your favorite things from your Fellowship?
Far and away, it was having the direct mentorship with Remy (Executive Director). That was phenomenal. He gave me a lot of insight on how policy is developed and implemented. I’d say having Remy as a mentor provided me with a lot of opportunities and allowed me to meet with legislators and leaders throughout the state.
During the legislative session, I shadowed Rep. Reuven Carlyle, Rep. Eric Pettigrew, and lobbyist Frank Ordway from the League of Education Voters.
I loved the days where I was shadowing in Olympia as it gave me the opportunity to see the policy process from different perspectives.
One big takeaway is that you need comfortable shoes to keep up in Olympia. The pace is rigorous; as they are running from meeting to meeting. You need comfortable shoes to make it through the day!
I also really enjoyed attending the State Fiscal Policy Conference in Washington D.C. It gave me the opportunity to get to know B & PC staff and meet with other organizations, and listen to national speakers. It was one of the largest and most interesting conferences I’d ever attended.
Did anything surprise you from your time with B & PC?
I was surprised by the size of the staff. Before I applied for the Fellowship, I looked over the website and different publications. I thought that the staff must be exceptionally large to pull all that off. When I realized that it is fewer than 10 people, I was amazed.
It really is a credit to the staff how much gets done, and the impact they have with a relatively small staff. It made me realize that you don’t have to have a massive staff to make a real impact in the policy world, and will influence how I think of work output in future organizations!
Any advice for future Narver fellows?
You aren’t expected to be an expert. You are here to learn. You need to remember that. Don’t place pressure on yourself to know everything right away. I have learned to take a step back and not always feel like I have to have all the answers. Sometimes it is good to observe and listen.
I can’t stress this enough: don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Everyone at B & PC is very supportive and really wants to see the Narver Fellow (and everyone else) succeed.
Use any project or task as a learning experience. When Andy (Senior Fiscal Analyst) would ask me to work with him on tax policy, I felt nervous or anxious because I didn’t know anything about it. But he was really great and I learned a lot from him. It allowed me to enrich my knowledge in area that I had no background in.
I encourage future Narver Fellows to take risks. Go ahead and jump in as you will learn something.
Also, network, network, network. Ask Remy or other staff to connect you with people in the policy world. They will do it, as they have the relationships.
Don’t let the opportunities pass you by. The staff is great, but the Narver Fellowship is essentially what you make it. This has been a life changing experience for me.
The application period for our 2014-2015 fellowship is now closed.
Thank you to those that applied. Stay tuned for the 2015-2016 fellowship application in summer 2015.
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