Jenina Soto is all about the process. Spending her summer with the Office of Management and Budget’s Budget Review Division, Jenina has had a front row seat to the inner workings of government. “There are a lot of checks and balances in place, which people forget,” she explains. “Everyone learns what the different branches of government do in elementary school, but to see it actually taking place is really cool.” We discuss this process, getting involved, and the love of a good cup of coffee in her mini-profile.
What areas of public policy interest you?
I’ve always been interested in policy areas where the public and private sector intersect, which, as I’ve learned, is every area. Given my background in finance and my involvement with different nonprofits, though, I’m most interested in financial regulation, healthcare, and education. The great thing about being at the OMB is that I get to cover all topics, but I’ve been able to focus on those three areas specifically.
What is the first thing you do when you get to the office every morning?
Read my emails. I’m not able to check my emails outside of the office, so every morning is like playing catch-up. We also get a news update with all the different mentions of appropriations happening on the Hill that’s useful to see what’s going on with the budget.
What does a typical day in DC look like for you?
One of my Wharton classmates owns an apartment in DC right in Dupont Circle, which is where I’m staying this summer. I really lucked out. It’s about a fifteen minute walk to work, so I’ll catch up on my podcasts (NPR, Politico) as I walk. Once I get to the office, I check my email and get settled. It’s an interesting time to be in DC, to say the least, because there’s been so much uncertainty. The full budget didn’t come out until May, so our branch has been playing catch up with other work-products. We cover all twelve of the Appropriations bills, and those have been hitting the House floor in the last couple weeks. Everyday there’s something new going on upon the Hill. After work, I go to the gym. There’s a White House Athletic Center, so I make time to work out. After my workout, I’ll either catch up with friends or go home, cook dinner, and relax.
Have there been any surprises regarding living and working as an intern in DC?
I was a little apprehensive about coming to DC. I thought there would be polarizing viewpoints, which do exist, but there is also a genuine desire to somehow work together. Finding a way for the parties to work together, as we have seen, is a struggle, but I’m happy to be here during a transition period to see the challenges. If it was all the same, then maybe I wouldn’t learn as much. Now I’m actually seeing how people have to work together to get things done.
Name one object that you brought with you to DC that reflects your personality.
I have two French presses: one for the office and one for home. I’m very, very adamant about my coffee, and I tend to work hard and late, so it’s nice to have a fresh cup of good coffee when you want it.
In 30 years, what will you remember about living and working in DC?
I’ll remember that people have to make sacrifices. Sometimes you have to know when to compromise, which applies in all aspects of life, not just in government. You need to make progress at some point, and I think it’s easy for people to point fingers and say, “This is why this didn’t work.”
I’ll be happy that I came here this summer, because although I had heard that morale was low and could easily see there were a lot of unhappy people, few were doing anything about it. I wanted to get into it and see where I could get involved with how things are really going. It’s good to stay informed, but it’s good to get your hands dirty sometimes.