My schooling in politics started at an early age. I am the product of government food assistance and subsidized housing loans. My father worked as a janitor for our local school district. My mother made and sold artisan crafts. Despite my parents' best efforts, our family of six was a portrait of the working poor. Dinner table conversations discussed grievances in my father's union, the influx of cheap crafts from abroad, and the fate of the Earned Income Tax Credit. These childhood experiences fomented a zeal for understanding politics and public policy.
After graduating from Hope College (Holland, MI) with a B.A. in political science, Spanish, and mathematics, I spent two years implementing micro-scale community and economic development initiatives with impoverished communities in El Salvador. Afterward, I directed the Washington, D.C.-based Guatemala Human Rights Commission researching and lobbying for improved human rights in Central America. I helped draft model U.S. legislation addressing violence against women, government corruption, and foreign-aid appropriations. To gain a fresh, business-oriented perspective and a more holistic approach to public policy, I managed $3.6 million in sales for a Fortune Magazine Top 100 small multinational corporation for three years before starting the doctoral program at Michigan State University.
This amalgam of personal and professional experiences has given me a unique lens to see the political world. It's what motivates me to try to solve policy puzzles and help students put research into practice. But by far, my most challenging and rewarding life experience has been raising my two precocious daughters---Gracie (5) and Dot (2)---with my spouse, Elly (a survivor and victims' rights attorney). In my free time, I read the news, talk politics, volunteer in my community, go on the occasional run, travel, take camping trips, and engage in numismatics (coin collecting).