Asha Bellduboset just completed her Betty Jane Narver Policy Fellowship with the Budget & Policy Center. She will receive her master’s degree from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington this June – with a capstone project focused on assessing the economic impact of the Woodland Park Zoo’s educational, community outreach, and conservation programs and operations in the greater Seattle region. 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 became aware of the Budget & Policy Center early into my master’s program at the Evans School through some of the organization’s tax policy analyses and social program advocacy efforts. When I found out there was a fellowship where I could learn from some of Washington’s top researchers and advocates who write and research reports and policies that I avidly support, I knew I had to apply. I really value the policy work that comes out of the Budget & Policy Center, and I wanted to gain a better understanding of what goes into high-level policy analysis and how to effectively impact changes in state level policies. I am very interested in the gambit of topics and policy areas that the Budget and Policy Center works on, so being able to work with everyone has been such a meaningful experience.
What are some highlights of what you’ve learned? I was lucky to work closely with the center’s senior policy analyst, Jennifer Tran. Working with her provided me with the opportunity to learn strategies for analyzing large data sets, incorporating equity and social justice into these analyses when they are buried in the details, and highlighting the key findings in an informative but not overwhelming way. Gaining real-world and relevant experience in performing this kind of analysis was invaluable to me.
I also learned how the legislative process works in Washington state, who key legislators are, and how to advocate for policies during session. At the same time, the Budget & Policy Center’s collaborative efforts with statewide community advocacy organizations introduced me to a network of regional decision makers and activist organizations. All of which was completely new to me. I now feel comfortable navigating the legislative environment, and I have learned so much about how different institutions throughout the state interact and what the impact on the public can be. The fellowship really impressed upon me the importance of staying informed and working to advocate for all of Washington’s communities.
What were some of your favorite experiences during your fellowship? I’ve had many wonderful experiences as a Narver Fellow. From the informative panel discussions and networking opportunities at the Budget Matters conference to my experience shadowing Senator Rebecca Saldaña, I gained access and insight to areas of the policymaking and advocacy world that I would not have had without this fellowship.
The mentorship I received on a regular basis helped me understand many aspects of the policy world on a new level, and of course, working with the talented employees at the Budget & Policy Center has been enlightening and impactful. Truly, being able to see how to plan, facilitate, and advocate for a legislative agenda that supports the best interests of all Washingtonians was so valuable.
I also really enjoyed learning how to work with public officials. On one of my most memorable days, I got to learn from Senator Saldaña about what happens on a day-to-day basis at the state capitol and gain first-hand perspective on what it takes to be a devoted public servant at the state level.
Did anything surprise you from your time with us? I was surprised by how everyone can be working on so many different projects and yet still provide help and insight to other members of the team. The level of camaraderie and professionalism I experienced while working here was such a pleasant surprise. The way everyone works to share important information and pushes for developing policies and analyses that support Washingtonians from many different backgrounds is noble.
A lot of work goes into making sure complex ideas and policies are digestible for a wide segment of the population. And it was great to see how the staff makes sure that anyone seeking to understand tax policy or social program policy can read a schmudget blog post and be informed enough to have a meaningful dialogue with their public officials or colleagues. I was especially impressed with how the policy team organized community meetings to get feedback from different stakeholder groups on some of their research.
What do you hope to do in your career? I hope to create more space for equity and diversity in the policy arena through policy advocacy, analysis, and education. I want to use the tools I’ve gained through the Narver Fellowship to work on policy in a manner that reflects the community, is useful to community members, and advances social justice and equity. Getting exposure to so many paths toward impacting state policies has invigorated me in my goal of doing policy analyses using a social equity lens.
All of us at the Budget & Policy Center wish Asha the best of luck in the future!