Politics and International Relations

Erin Pollard Young

What do you currently do?

I am currently an Education Research Analyst for the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education. I oversee a series of programs (ERIC, the Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, and the What Works Clearinghouse) that help connect educators to research and help them use the research to improve policy and practice.

How do you see the connection between the time you spent as a IR (politics) major and what you’ve been able to do since?

At Ursinus, I primarily focused on inequality and how different institutions make policies that directly impact people’s lives. My thesis was on how education funding impacts student achievement. I used the framework I learned at Ursinus as I worked in different government institutions (the US Senate, a think tank, and a school district) and constantly was looking for policies that would improve the lives of the students who faced the biggest obstacles.

I ended up obtaining a masters of public policy and then was lucky enough to get a position as a researcher for the federal government. In my role today, I am using the themes I learned during my undergraduate career as we help states and districts create policies that will directly impact the lives of students around the country.

What advice do you have for students currently majoring in, or considering to major in IR (or politics)?

The best advice I got was to intern and job shadow as much as possible. I was lucky enough to get my “dream job” of working for my Senator. I quickly learned I absolutely hated working on the legislative branch. I then did 5 or 6 other internships to really help me find my niche and find the type of work that was most fulfilling to me.

I also wish I would have taken a lot more statistics and writing courses. These skills are so key for effective policymaking and I would have had a much easier time in graduate school and my first few years on the job if I had stronger quantitative skills. (Editor’s note: Students majoring in Politics or IR nowadays all take POL 300 (Research Methods), which gives students a robust introduction to social science statistics.)