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COEHD students reflect on Archer Fellowship

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Two graduate students from the UTSA College of Education and Human Development recently completed the Archer Fellowship through the Archer Center's Summer 2018 Graduate Program in Public Policy. For 12 weeks, Alyse Gray Parker, doctoral student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and Zoe Douglas, master's student in the Department of Counseling, worked with various government agencies in Washington, D.C. to gain first-hand experience in policy making. Both Parker and Douglas took time to reflected on their experience the program.

Alyse Gray Parker

What I Did

Over the summer, I was a policy intern with the Lumina Foundation as an Archer Center Fellow. The Lumina Foundation works to increase the proportion of Americans with postsecondary credentials to 60% by 2025. I worked with the Lumina DC team, which focuses on federal higher education policy and higher education finance and affordability. I was excited to intern with Lumina this summer as a PhD student because I am interested in higher education policy, specifically as it relates to making college affordable and accessible for students of color. 

Not only did I write policy memos and other documents while an intern, I attended events all over the city related to higher education. I was also able to meet many stakeholders in the field of higher education policy. With the Archer Center, we were able to meet many people important to the field of public policy in Washington DC including Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. 

What I Learned

I learned so much! The Archer Center provided many opportunities to be part of the Washington DC bubble. Being able to live right in the middle of the city was a huge part of the experience. It was also great to learn from other Archer Fellows about public policy in areas I am unfamiliar with such as health and national security. At Lumina, I was able to learn more about how higher education policy impacts college affordability. 

What I Took Away

I am glad I was able to contribute to the field of higher education policy through my internship. I learned that there is a difference between policy and politics, and that public service is key to making a change in our policies. The Archer Center experience has motivated me to get more civically engaged while a PhD student. I hope to use my research skills in a policy setting in the future through public service. My time with The Archer Center and Lumina Foundation provided an invaluable experience that I plan to reflect on as I finish my degree at UTSA. 

Zoe Douglas

My experience in the Archer program exposed me to a lot of things I was not previously familiar with. Being that I had no policy or political experience, I underestimated what I was getting myself into. The program ended up being much more rigorous academically than I had anticipated, but I learned so much. I learned how to write policy briefs, create infographics, how to lobby at the federal level, and how to utilize resources in D.C. that are not accessible everywhere such as the Library of Congress. 

Outside of the classroom, I made friends and connections that I'll have for a lifetime. I now know future doctors, senators, social workers, educators, and policymakers. I became the Mental Health Ambassador for the Archer Center for their new Mental Health Initiative. I have taken on the role of helping develop this initiative as well as teaching future fellows about self-care, how to find a therapist, and how to mentally prepare for the fellowship.

This experience has also made me want to be a counselor in a government agency. Speaking to politicians and employees in the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other government entities has made me realize how important it is to provide counseling for the people that make life-changing decisions in the nation's Capitol. They need competent mental health professionals. It has made me realize I would be helping more people if I first help those who are making the decisions for all Americans. I plan on going back to D.C. after I graduate and get licensed there. I think sometimes we forget that politicians are regular people too who hold the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in their hands. That must be a scary and stressful job and I believe it is my responsibility as a counselor to ensure that they are mentally well enough to perform that job.  

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