Degree: MPP 2007
Location: Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A.
Between graduating from Macalester College and beginning her graduate work at the Humphrey School, Sarah Roberts held a number of education-related positions. She traveled to China to teach kindergarten students, coordinated literacy tutors, and worked with families and children in an after-school program. Since graduating from the Humphrey School, she has worked at the Office of the Legislative Auditor, focusing on in-depth evaluations of school district transportation programs and charter school performance.
Where did your passion for policy issues originate?
I have always been a person with strong opinions, but I also am extremely empathetic and believe in the basic goodness of people. When I encounter people with opinions that differ from my own, I am interested in what makes them feel the way they do and what (presumably good) reasons they have for holding their beliefs. I chose to study public policy because I wanted to learn about how policy decisions get made and the different schools of thought that shape our public arena. I also love data and am fascinated by how statistics and economics are used (and misused) in the creation of public policy.
Why did you choose the Humphrey School?
I already lived in the Twin Cities prior to choosing my graduate program and I planned to stay in the area. When I decided to pursue public policy, I was very fortunate to have such a wonderful option right in my own back yard.
What is one thing about the Institute, the University, or the Twin Cities that you didn’t expect?
I did not realize the extent to which Humphrey graduates make up the Minnesota policy world. In my interactions at the Capitol and with the agencies and organizations I have worked with over the course of many evaluations, I have encountered countless Humphrey alums. Current Humphrey students would do well to keep that in mind and maintain good relationships with their classmates; many of them will be running the state someday.
How has your Humphrey education got you to where you are today?
It was staff at the Career Services Office at the Humphrey School who first suggested I look into possible jobs with the Office of the Legislative Auditor. As for the education I received, I believe the quantitative skills I acquired at the institute (such as statistical knowledge and facility with SPSS) definitely made me an attractive hire for the office and allowed me to jump right into data analysis once I started.
What do you like best about your work/field/career?
I love that the Office of the Legislative Auditor is a nonpartisan office and that we work on new topics every year. We are expected to provide independent and unbiased reports, which allows us to limit our political considerations and focus on the facts we collect and the data we analyze. Our project schedule allows us to go quite in depth on a topic over a period of eight to 10 months and then we change to new projects. New projects every year keeps the job fresh and interesting.
Do you have any advice for incoming and current students interested in a career like yours?
The Humphrey School will offer you a number of opportunities—some of them exciting and others challenging—to gain experiences that are helpful in the professional world. Group work, internships, and capstone projects all are examples of things that you have to “get through” in order to graduate.
But if you take advantage of those experiences, you will have a lot more to talk about when interviewing with an office like the Office of the Legislative Auditor. We want to hear about the survey you designed, administered, and analyzed, or the leadership role you took in evaluating an organization for your capstone project. Take on as much real-world work as you can, and you will be more attractive to any potential employer.
June 4, 2014