Hello NASFAA Community,
It is with great honor and enthusiasm that I introduce myself as NASFAA's 2021 Dallas Martin Endowment Policy Intern. I know I'm not alone in saying that the past year has been a rollercoaster. With that being said, I would like to sincerely thank the supporters of the endowment and the NASFAA team for making this internship opportunity possible. While we are still dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am truly grateful for the chance to virtually intern with such an esteemed association that is committed to opening doors of educational opportunity for all.
My name is Richard, and I am a native of New Orleans. I am currently pursuing my master's degree in public administration at Louisiana State University (LSU). Prior to my current studies, I earned a bachelor's degree in middle school education at Southeastern Louisiana University. While my time at LSU has certainly sharpened my skills and knowledge, it was at Southeastern where my passion for education policy and advocacy was sparked.
At Southeastern, I had the honor of being elected by my peers to serve as student body president in 2018. Following the election, my peers further entrusted me to serve as the student member to the University of Louisiana System's Board of Supervisors and the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance's Advisory Board. At the time, our state was facing a budget shortfall and cuts to two of our critical student aid programs: the TOPS Scholarship, a merit-based program, and the GO Grant, a need-based program. As a first-generation college student, both programs were key to my ability to attend and succeed in college, so I personally understood how cutting them would impact many students in need.
Throughout my term, I, along with our Council of Student Body Presidents, spearheaded advocacy efforts on behalf of students. By phone banking, hosting rallies, and meeting one-on-one with legislators at the state capitol, the voices of students were heard: both student aid programs were spared, and higher education was fully funded for the first time in nearly a decade. Through this experience, I learned our country's students need strong voices that are willing to amplify their concerns and speak truth to power — even when it may feel uncomfortable.
Following my term as student body president, I had an opportunity to participate in the Lamar Governor's Fellows Program in Louisiana Government. I was placed in the education office within the Department of Corrections where I spent the summer of 2019 working with state leaders to write a grant aimed at improving postsecondary education and workforce outcomes for our incarcerated and reentering populations. This experience reaffirmed my interest in education policy and public service, which ultimately led me to my graduate program.
At LSU — despite learning in the throes of a pandemic — I have had time to reflect on my undergraduate experiences and where I would like to land, as it relates to my career. While I am not afraid to use my voice to advocate for those who are underserved, I am eager to learn how to effectively leverage research and data to become a better informed advocate. During my time at NASFAA, I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge and learning from the talented professionals who commit themselves to this work daily. Upon graduation, I aspire to pursue a career that will allow me to work at the intersection of education and public policy, either at the state or federal level.
Finally, to tell you more about myself outside of my academics and career interests, just like most Louisianans, in my free time you can catch me fishing in the lakes and bayous around the state. I also enjoy traveling, so I am looking forward to stamping my passport as soon as it is safe to do so. Also like many, I have picked up a few quarantine hobbies, including baking, reading, and watching way too many hours of shows and movies on Netflix and Hulu.
Thank you so much for reading my introductory article! I look forward to connecting with you all virtually throughout the summer. Make sure to stay tuned to Today's News, where I will be providing updates about my internship experience at NASFAA. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments at [email protected].
Publication Date: 5/25/2021