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Eritrea Habtemarium just completed her (highly successful) Narver fellowship with the Budget & Policy Center. She will receive her M.A. in policy studies this June from University of Washington Bothell – with a capstone project focused on immigrant perceptions of crime and policing in Seattle. We checked in with her to hear more about her time with us and what her hopes are for the future.
What made you decide to apply for the Narver fellowship with us?
I decided to apply for the Narver fellowship because it was a fantastic opportunity to learn about policy in Washington state from an advocacy-oriented policy research center. Up until this point, most of my policy-related work experience and educational background focused on national and international issues. The fellowship presented an opportunity to learn about Washington state policies and politics from a variety of perspectives. It also offered me a great chance to gain hands-on experience and develop critical skills in research and analysis.
What are some highlights of what you’ve learned?
I learned so many things about the dynamic policy arena in Washington state and about policy work in general. One of the most significant things I learned is how important messaging is, especially when dealing with contentious and sensitive issues. For instance, while I was working on my blog series on immigrants, I learned that it is not enough to have sound research. In order to get that research across, you must understand the perspective of those who will read and use your work. And you must message the piece in a way that will reach those audiences and resonate with them.
Also, I learned how involved it is to move policy in our state. I now have a better understanding of the importance of coalition-building and strategizing.
What were some of your favorite experiences during your fellowship?
I was fortunate enough to have several incredible experiences during my fellowship. My field placement with OneAmerica was fantastic. It offered me an opportunity to get another organizational perspective on legislative engagement. As a result, I saw how organizations with different focus areas take varied approaches to reach shared goals. The staff at OneAmerica was so welcoming and I was able to learn about a variety of issues on the local, state, national, and international level that impact immigrants.
I also got to shadow Senator Pramila Jayapal in Olympia. This experience gave me great insight into the tremendous work our legislators undertake to serve our state. Senator Jayapal is incredibly inspirational. My shadowing experience provided me with great perspective and encouragement that I will carry with me as I continue my work.
Above all, direct mentorship from (former Executive Director and now Senior Adviser of the Budget & Policy Center) Remy Trupin was my favorite experience. Learning from his insight on policy, politics, and advocacy in the state laid a great foundation for my fellowship. He helped me understand the dynamic policy environment in Washington state and the processes beyond research that help move great policies from ideas to law. I will forever be grateful for his honesty and encouragement throughout this experience.
Did anything surprise you from your time with us?
I was surprised by how vibrant the policy arena is in Washington state. It was interesting to see how progressive we are in some aspects and to see how far we have to go in others. I was also surprised by how fast-paced a legislative session is and how demanding it can be on all involved in the process. Despite having a tremendous workload, the Budget & Policy Center staff was involved in numerous important policy decisions debated in the state Legislature this session. I was impressed by their ability to manage it all and by their deep passion for the topics and policies they were involved in forming. It was truly motivating working with and witnessing the staff’s dedication and commitment to the work.
What do you hope to do in your career?
In my career, I hope to be involved in policy work centered on immigrant and refugee populations that combines research and advocacy. This fellowship helped me understand the importance of research and data, and has ultimately solidified my desire to use research to advocate for social and economic justice.
All of us at the Budget & Policy Center wish Eritrea the best of luck in the future!