Primary job responsibilities:
My main task is focused on higher education policy research, mostly related to for-profit universities. I look at sector differences between public, private, and for-profit universities and how these differences affect, and are affected by, government regulations.
I keep an eye on state and federal activity related to higher education policy and prepare briefs on relevant policy proposals for my boss, a faculty advisor to the university president. Each week, I scan news items to report on media coverage of for-profit universities.
I also do background research on potential collaborators in ASU partnerships, and I help research and prepare presentations for legislative hearings.
Typical day on the job:
One of my favorite things about my job is that I don't have very many typical days. On average I probably spend about 2/3 of my time researching and writing short reports on various topics, with the rest divided up between writing papers and helping organize events. I only have to spend a couple hours each week in meetings, which is really nice.
I work primarily in a shared office at the ASU downtown Phoenix campus. This is definitely a more businesslike environment than the main campus in Tempe. Most of the programs at this campus are on the graduate level. My job is flexible enough that I can occasionally work from home.
I generally work 40 hours a week with little to no overtime. The pace of the work varies so much that it's hard to describe as either fast or slow. Most weeks I have at least a couple of relatively relaxed days, where I'm working on long-term projects. However, those stretches are broken up by times when something big comes up and we're suddenly jumping into overdrive.
For example, if a new rule or regulation is announced, the university president may request a briefing on it the same day. I occasionally get told in the morning that I need to drop everything, learn about a new topic, and write an issue brief on it by the end of the day, sometimes even in just a couple of hours.
What you like most about your job:
I really enjoy the variety of the work. My primary task is focused on education policy, but that is only occasionally more than half my time. The rest of the time I could be working on any number of projects. For example right now, I'm helping organize a conference we're hosting, finalizing the design of a website for a new research center on campus, and writing an academic paper that I'm planning to publish with my boss.
Best productivity trick:
Set deadlines for everything. I found this out sort of by accident when I realized that I always get things done quicker when I'm busiest because it forces me to focus. So now I put deadlines and goals for each project on my calendar, so I know what I need to get done each day.
Best career advice you've received:
Be open to opportunities and don't be afraid to say yes. If you'd asked me five years ago what I would be doing for a career, this would not even have been on my radar. When I graduated from college, I didn't know that science policy existed as a career option. Today, I really like the work I do. If I'd been afraid to make the leap from lab work to policy, it never would have happened.
Skills or talents that make you a good fit for your job:
Two major things: I'm a naturally curious person who likes to learn new things, and I'm a good writer. I have to learn about a pretty wide variety of topics for this job, which fits me perfectly. And I've found that if you're not a good writer, you won't come across as knowing what you're talking about no matter how smart you are.
My science background helps me in working with data. My undergraduate training taught me how to think critically and analytically, and to approach situations logically. I'm taking a class now on statistics for social science research, which will help with my analysis work.
Essential habit you wish you'd started much earlier:
This goes back to my productivity trick: daily deadlines and goals. Through college, and even part of my masters program, I wasn't in the habit of scheduling my day. Since I've started writing out daily goals, I've been able to accomplish so much more with my time.