What’s Up Alum? – Lauren Walizer

4 May

Lauren Walizer, CCAS & UHP '05

Lauren Walizer, CCAS ’05, graduated from the University Honors Program cum laude. A Political Science major and Business minor, Lauren received her MSEd in Education Policy and her MPA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. She currently works for the U.S. Department of Education on student financial assistance programs in higher education.

In my senior year at GW, I received endless (unsolicited) advice about what to do after graduation.  Most of it was not helpful, and much of it served to confuse me further.  I knew I loved political science (my major) but I had other interests as well, particularly in education.  Did I want to serve my interest in politics to the detriment of all others?  I thought about staying in DC, moving back near my family in Pennsylvania, or even frantically applying to graduate schools.

In the end, I did none of those things.  Instead, I moved with my then-boyfriend (now husband) to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He was returning to finish school, and I saw it as an opportunity I would not likely have again for quite some time: to live somewhere beyond the east coast (where I had spent my whole life) and spend my days pursing personal interests before going to graduate school.

Up to this point, my interest in education was largely explored through following research studies or discussions of policy in the media.  No Child Left Behind had been in place for about four years, and the debates about the effectiveness of the law were much more frequent than today.  In order to better understand how a real school was adapting to the regulations and standards in the law, I found a job at an elementary school working as a paraprofessional (similar to an on-staff tutor).  I worked in the classroom one-on-one with students, assisting teachers, and running detention.

My greatest learning experience came from seeing the struggles the school had in making sure all its students could follow along, and succeed, in the classroom – let alone excel on a standardized exam – because of language barriers.  Grand Rapids is a significant refugee resettlement area.  I worked daily with children who were born in Vietnam, Iran, Somalia, the Sudan, Liberia, Serbia, among other countries.  It was amazing to me how much those 9 and 10 year olds with whom I worked had seen in their lifetimes already; my desire to experience living in another part of the United States seemed extraordinarily unambitious in comparison.  I wondered, what policy changes should be made for the betterment of these students?

This experience drew me further into education, but also firmed my attraction to government and the creation, and effects, of policy.  Because my interests lay in both areas, I decided after my two years in Grand Rapids I would go to the University of Pennsylvania and study both Education Policy and Government.  Since earning my degrees, I’ve been at the U.S. Department of Education, where I work on the higher education student financial assistance programs.  Part of my job is to work with policymakers to explore and pursue policy changes for these programs.  In the future, I plan on continuing what I’ve done in the past: follow my interests, and use the knowledge of what I want, what I don’t, and what I’m capable of to guide me.


One Response to “What’s Up Alum? – Lauren Walizer”

  1. Robin N. October 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Very admirable accomplishments!

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