Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Alissa (Miller) Harrington
Education (UR and additional): BA (Religious Studies & Political Science), University of Rochester, 2004; Master of Advocacy & Political Leadership, University of Minnesota-Duluth
Current city/state of residence: St. Paul, MN
Job Title: Policy Analyst; political consultant
Employer: State of Minnesota; self
Family: Husband, Christopher (’03) & 2 dogs: Meliora & Scarlet
Community activities: Democratic Farmer Labor Party & campaigns, union activities, church choir, arts volunteering
When and how did you choose your major?
My freshman advisor was Prof. Brooks, who said to find my passion and go from there. Turns out I wasn’t as passionate about neurology as I thought. No one was surprised that I turned the hours I spent learning about religions and my interest in politics into my majors.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
The Campus Times provided a counterpoint to academia; I learned to be concise. The Interfaith Round Table & the Newman Community showed me how religious belief played out in real life and offered me a sanctuary from the busyness of campus. The Music Interest Floor taught me some hard lessons about leadership, community and how to plan events.
What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?
The career center. I worked as a peer career advisor and had the pleasure of seeing how honestly interested everyone was in giving students the tools to succeed, and how those tools paid off.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I do policy analysis and program development for Minnesota’s child support program. I’ve been called to public service and right now, this is the current manifestation. Service to others has always been one of my deeply held values, and I believe that politics/government can be about serving the people.
What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?
The idea that everyone has a perspective and there is a reason for it, even if it isn’t clear and even if you disagree. That understanding has contributed to my success in organizing, politics and analysis more than any other knowledge, and it sets me apart from others.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
I balance long term: there have been intense times when I work 60 plus hours/week for months, but I also use my vacation time. I find little ways to find moments alone and moments to ritualize and refocus during the intense times. During the not-so-intense times, I read, write, knit, garden, explore, create and play. And most importantly, especially when in the midst of craziness, I try to treat myself gently.
How are you still connected with the University?
I attend and help plan local alumni events out here in Minnesota, perform alumni interviews with my husband, come back to campus when we visit my in-laws and I am an associate member of the George Eastman Circle. More important than all of those things, I stay connected with my friends and classmates.