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CBPP's State Policy Fellowship: A First-Person Account

January 4, 2016 at 10:30 AM
BY
CBPP

Michael Mitchell is a Policy Analyst with the Center’s State Fiscal Policy team.  Before joining CBPP, he worked in Seattle at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center (WBPC) as a part of the Center’s State Policy Fellowship — a program designed to expand the voices that speak with authority in state policy debates across the country.

Here, we talk with Michael about his experience as a Fellow and what it meant to him.

What interested you about the State Policy Fellowship?

I went into graduate school interested in education policy (which I now focus on through my work on state higher education funding here at the Center) – but quickly realized that making sound education policy depended heavily on having the resources available to adequately fund classrooms and teachers.  It wasn’t long before budget and tax policy became my focus.  Very few opportunities like the State Policy Fellowship exist for graduate students to make an impact on state budgets and revenue systems.  Applying was a no-brainer.

Can you explain briefly the kinds of work you did as a Fellow?

I had the opportunity to conduct in-depth research on a wide range of policy issues facing Washington State, from the benefits of implementing a state-level capital gains tax to the effects of the Great Recession on the economic prospects of young adults in the state.  And not only did I conduct research, but I was able to put it into action through legislative testimony, presentations to community and advocacy groups, and media interviews.

What did you learn as a Fellow?

Two things stick out as major lessons of the Fellowship.  First, it was the perfect extension of graduate school in that I had the chance to continue expanding my policy knowledge but in a setting with real-world application.  It’s one thing to read about tax policy in white papers and another thing to actually sit down with legislative staffers and draft tax break reform legislation — something I actually got to do with WBPC.  Second, and perhaps most important, the Fellowship was an opportunity for me to gain confidence in myself and my research and analytical skills.  I think many young policy professionals — especially policy professionals of color — don’t see themselves as able to bring a voice to these kinds of discussions.  The Fellowship showed me not only that I could — but that it’s critical that more diverse voices continue to do so.

What would you say to potential policy Fellows who are thinking about applying?

If you’re really interested in getting intense hands-on experience in state policy and advocacy, the State Policy Fellowship may be the right opportunity for you.  From funding for k-12 schools and spending on prisons to minimum wage policy and public pensions, State Policy Fellows have a chance to come in and immediately shape the course of policy in their state of choice.  But you only get that chance if you apply!

We are accepting applications for the State Policy Fellowship until January 25.