As an intern for the Education, Income Management, and Labor (EIML) Division of the OMB, Pauline Alvarado (G’20) assists the Higher Education team in their work to perform policy, program management, and regulatory analyses related to the Department of Education. She swears it’s less stuffy than it sounds. “In the Education Branch, everyone is intelligent, very purposeful with how they communicate and approach an issue while having a delightful sense of humor. It’s nice to be a part of a team with such great rapport!” Outside the office, Pauline discusses comfort found in one of her oldest passions, and just how important connections are in DC (especially for her portable fan).
What areas of public policy interest you?
My interest in the minutiae of implementing policy and managing programs was cultivated at the Council of State Governments Justice Center. I worked to optimize the operational efforts of the 26-state Justice Reinvestment Program, a data-driven approach to improve public safety, reduce corrections and related criminal justice spending. There, I noticed the importance of strategic fiscal planning and establishing program metrics in the enactment of a legislation. I chose to spend my summer at OMB to challenge myself in not only learning the nuances of a new issue area (higher education finance) but how data and evidence are used in the decision-making process within the agency.
What is the first thing you do when you get to the office every morning?
I usually go through my emails and figure out what is cresting at the moment whether it be the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee mark up on Appropriations Bill, FY2019 or the status of regulatory rulemaking related to higher education such as gainful employment and postsecondary institution accreditation. Then, I touch base with the Program Examiners regarding any immediate assistance or upcoming scheduled meetings that I can attend. Some ongoing projects include enhancing the fiscal oversight capability of the team through the usage of government-wide database tools and legislative analysis of higher education bills proposed by Congress related to the Higher Education Act.
What does a typical day in DC look like for you?
Of course, the day is spent in the office during regular business hours. After work, I usually take a dance class around the corner from my apartment in Columbia Heights. I’ve done about fifteen years of training in ballet so having a place to go that’s familiar has been a great comfort. As a plus, it’s great to support small business that are run by people of color. The dance studio was initially founded to provide equal access to ballet and the arts.
Have there been any surprises regarding living and working as an intern in DC?
Networking. Is. Everything.
Wharton PPI organizes small, intimate dinners with Penn alum to foster fruitful discussion and relationship building with current students. From our conversations, a common theme I picked up is that DC is a small town. Various anecdotes demonstrate that one day, an intern may end up being the director of an organization or be the key person to give approval to move a budget proposal to Congress.
Name one object that you brought with you to DC that reflects your personality.
I brought a handheld mini electric fan. My mom came back from the Philippines and told me, “This is going to change your life.” It reflects my personality because it’s useful, it gets the job done, it helps people feel comfortable, but it’s compact like me (I’m 4’11”). I feel a little ridiculous walking around with it, but I love it. This summer, I beat the heat across the country taking this wonderful gadget with me from Miami up to Boston and all the way to San Francisco.
In 30 years, what will you remember about living and working in DC?
A deep respect for career public servants. No matter the administration, they keep the government running. Folks at OMB develop, review, and advise on the preparation of formal documents, such as the Budget, State of the Union messages, and Executive Orders. It’s been a pleasure to be around professionals who demonstrate deep dedication to their work and the country. I take with me a discipline that include careful analysis of policy and programs in consideration of key stakeholders, data, evidence, and pragmatism.