"The variety of educational experiences, from economics and statistics to taking a people-focused approach to government interactions, is what made the MPA great training for such a varied career like consulting."
Erin Wurtemberger ’19 reflects on her MPA consultancy in Washington D.C. and how the experience has since helped her to lead a successful career in government consulting.
Hometown: Pittsfield, MA
Please describe your work and research as an MPA, and specifically with the Government Accountability Office.
One of the highlights of the MPA program was spending a couple of months doing my consultancy with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in D.C. While at the GAO I contributed to a report (GAO-20-26) that looked into VA disability compensation and whether the process for evaluating veteran disabilities should be updated by using available data on disability outcomes. I really valued gaining first-hand experience in reviewing government processes and helping come up with the initial recommendations. I’m also grateful for the experience of researching and writing GAO papers in light of my current career in government consulting because I’ve had a taste of the rigor that goes into GAO research and recommendations.
In 2019, you attended a congressional hearing about the treatment of asylum seekers at the southern border - can you elaborate more on this experience, and what you learned from it?
It’s been a couple years since I’ve attended the congressional hearing, but I would advise anyone that if they have the opportunity to attend a congressional hearing not to pass it up! From time to time the GAO directors play a role in questioning witnesses on topics that the GAO has investigated and they’ll invite GAO staff and interns to attend the hearings. I was fortunate to attend a hearing that involved questioning agency leaders on the policies and procedures in place that placed asylum-seeking children in cages at the southern border. I came away from the experience with a sense of how critical the work of the GAO is in uncovering government issues and holding agencies accountable for their management and policies. It was also just a unique experience to witness members of Congress in their line of questioning on this important topic.
How has your experience with the GAO - and with the MPA program in general - contributed to the work you have done after Brown, as well as your future goals?
My experience in the MPA program and at the GAO were great training for a career in government consulting. I’ve worked at both Deloitte and now Accenture in their public services practices and some of the most useful training turned out to be policy analysis and program evaluation skills. For example, my current project involves assessing and advising on proposals for government programs, and at times it feels like a policy school homework assignment (in the best way possible). I’m also thankful for the softer skills that Angela Blanchard taught in her Disaster, Displacement and Response class. She once gave a lesson on preserving human dignity during disaster relief, and gave the example of making sure that the donated clothes were nicely folded on tables instead of in heaps on the ground. It’s such a simple yet illustrative example that I’ve kept with me and have thought about while helping a client write interview questions for the SNAP program. The variety of educational experiences, from economics and statistics to taking a people-focused approach to government interactions, is what made the MPA great training for such a varied career like consulting.
By Aalia Jagwani ’24