Dear NASFAA community,
My name is Abbie Barondess and I am both honored and excited to be NASFAA’s 2023 Dallas Martin Endowment policy intern! As a Michigan native, I look forward to exploring Washington, D.C. this summer and am grateful for the opportunity to be here in person and connect with NASFAA staff and partners.
I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in public policy at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, as well as a master’s degree in higher education through the university’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. I came to the education space after graduating from the University of Michigan with my bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. While I loved my major, some of my most meaningful undergraduate experiences were as a peer mentor and advisor for students through the Science Learning Center. Looking for a similar experience, I took a job as a college advisor with the Michigan College Advising Corps. I worked for two years as a college advisor in Grand Rapids Public Schools, helping students navigate their financial, academic, and socio-emotional transition to college. While it was one of the most challenging experiences I have ever had, working with my students and seeing them overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to higher education inspired me to continue my journey in the field.
After my AmeriCorps service, I worked for Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) coordinating the Grand Rapids Public Schools Early Middle College Program and helping students earn an associate degree for free while still in high school. My time at GRCC demonstrated the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the existing inequities in both K-12 and higher education. Many of my students became caretakers of their families as parents lost jobs or became ill, and for many students, their school was the same access point for food, healthcare, and technology. The return to in-person learning was equally challenging, with many students struggling academically and emotionally.
Seeing the difficulties my students had in overcoming systemic barriers to higher education led me to graduate school with the hope of creating policies that center students and communities who are not being served by our current education systems. Through my graduate education, I am developing a better understanding of higher education institutions and systems, as well as the quantitative skills and methods necessary to understand and develop public policy grounded in research and evidence. This past year I worked at UofM’s Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER), on the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the state of Michigan's GEAR UP grant.
Before starting at NASFAA I spent two weeks in the Bay Area for an experiential higher education course focused on education policy in California. We met with student affairs professionals and administration at a range of institution types, as well as policy research and philanthropic organizations. The trip broadened my understanding of how policy is created at all levels, from grassroots organizations to the legislature.
I am excited to be at a member-based organization like NASFAA, where policy priorities are driven by practitioners who are best positioned to understand how policies will impact higher education institutions and students. I am looking forward to learning from the knowledgeable and experienced policy team here, as well as gaining experience with the policy, communications, and research teams.
Outside of work and school, I enjoy spending time in the outdoors hiking and camping. This summer I hope to explore D.C.’s parks and plan a camping trip to Shenandoah National Park! Back in Ann Arbor, I love attending any and all Michigan sporting events — especially basketball. While I haven’t had much free time while in graduate school, I also love reading, rock climbing, and visiting local coffee shops.
Thank you for reading my introductory article and I look forward to working with you all this summer! If you are in the D.C. area, I would love to connect. Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].
Publication Date: 6/13/2023