Meet Penn Hill Group’s Summer interns, Julia Brickfield and Claire McCloud. Julia is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is pursuing a major in Political Science and an Economics minor. Claire is entering her senior year at Wellesley College with a double major in Sociology and Education Studies.

See our interviews with Julia and Claire below to learn about all that they bring to the Penn Hill Group team. Welcome aboard, Julia and Claire!

Why did you decide to spend a semester interning for a DC-based company? 

Julia Brickfield

Julia: I have always been interested in working in DC because of the important work that is accomplished by the government, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector to shape education policy, which is all centered here. In particular, I am interested in understanding how the policymaking process occurs and how different actors contribute to the final product of policies that affect students across the country. Additionally, as a Political Science major, I have spent a majority of my undergraduate education learning about the theoretical innerworkings of government, so I wanted to apply what I have learned to real world experience and skills.

Claire McCloud

Claire: As someone who is interested in education policy, I can’t think of anywhere better than DC to spend my summer. While working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have still had ample opportunities to take advantage of the network, experiences and political excitement that Washington offers. 

What do you hope to do or learn during this internship?

Julia: For the past three years I’ve done academic research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education focusing on equity issues in higher education and last summer I interned for a state-level education policymaking body. This summer, I wanted to understand how the private sector influences policymaking at the institutional, State, and Federal level, and I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than at Penn Hill Group. I hope to learn how policies are formulated and implemented, as well as how different actors are able to contribute to this process based on the needs of their constituents. I also hope to gain a better understanding of the education policy landscape in general. Most of my background is in higher education policy, so I hope to expand my knowledge of issues in K-12 education policy, as well as early childhood education and workforce development issues.

Claire: I applied to Penn Hill because I felt that it would allow me to leverage the experiences that I’ve had in ways that have been inaccessible to date. I have significant experience working in classrooms and witnessing the strengths and weaknesses of the American education system, and I have also spent a semester as an intern in Boston local government focusing on education equity and student advocacy work. However, I have yet to have the opportunity to put that classroom experience and legislative knowledge into significant practice in a policy role, which I am really looking forward to continuing to be part of through conversations with clients and projects with the Penn Hill team. Therefore, interning at Penn Hill Group has allowed me to explore and experience education policy in ways that are vastly different than those I am familiar with, and has helped me to better understand the consulting, communication, research, and analyses that go into public policy that is actually implemented in classrooms.

What interests you most about education?

Julia: I have seen firsthand the impact that education has had on my family members. I come from a mixed-educational background family, as my dad has completed a graduate degree while my mom went straight into the workforce after graduating from high school. I’ve seen the impact that having a college degree has on an individual’s job prospects, especially during this past year. I am also a firm believer that knowledge is power, meaning that educating our nation has the power to greatly shape individual life outcomes and opportunities, and that knowledge comes in many forms other than traditional education. This past year has demonstrated the role that our country’s education systems have on all aspects of someone’s life, from food security through school lunch programs to reliable housing to filling gaps in skills needs across sectors, and that there is an educational path for every person to achieve their goals.

Claire: Within education, I’m interested in learning more about how classrooms and institutions, especially those that are under-funded and under-resourced, are prepared and supported as they incorporate new policies into their structure and function. My background in education involves working with K-12 youth in various afterschool programs, and these experiences have really driven my passion for inclusive policy and holistic student support. I am motivated by the opportunity to work with clients and organizations creating policy that guarantees a positive and high-quality education for all students and provides spaces for them to grow collectively, but be supported, understood, and responded to individually.

What are some of your future goals?

Julia: In the future, I hope to continue working in education policy to advance programs and initiatives that improve access to higher education for all students, regardless of life circumstances. I also hope to expand the general understanding of postsecondary education by working on increasing access to certification programs at community colleges, which offer opportunities to access much needed jobs for those who do not want to pursue a four-year degree. I am also passionate about promoting skills education for people of all ages, including media literacy and computer skills for adult learners. In a non-professional capacity, I also hope to continue growing the collection of plants I started during the pandemic.

Claire: After college, I am planning to pursue a master’s degree in education policy and continue my youth-facing work and advocacy efforts for education equity. I hope to have a career in K-12 education policy in order to cultivate an education system that prioritizes every single student. The opportunity to spend a summer working on this very policy at Penn Hill has already been an extremely valuable learning experience, and I look forward to the many more opportunities to grow under Penn Hill’s leadership this summer.