“When you’re in the Senate, you can feel the power. Everything is slow and deliberate and done withgreat intention. But the House is really scrappy and super fast-paced. It’s the voice of the people. It’s hard to pick between the two of them.”
While those words sound like they came from a seasoned politician, in fact they are born of the personal experience of John Jay alumna Katie Spoerer (B.A./M.A. ’12). Spoerer’s interest in politics surfaced early in her career, and through a series of internships including the Edward T. Rogowsky internship, she was hired to work in the office of New York’s junior U.S. Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, as a deputy scheduler, all before she had completed her degree.
“I would go to work all day, come home, and continue working on my thesis,” she said. “It was a lot of work but eventually I finished.”
At John Jay, Spoerer completed dual bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Criminal Justice, with an undergraduate minor in Political Science. She conducted an original study to understand how people perceived youth through the criminal system, with a focus on the moral panic theory. But during the day she worked closely with Gillibrand, helping to manage a bulging schedule of meetings and engagements.
Her next job on Capitol Hill brought Spoerer right back to her hometown of Cumberland, R.I., working for Representative David Cicilline, her local Congressman. “The House and Senate are so different, they’re literally worlds apart,” she said. In addition, she went on to note, the Senate at the time had a Democratic majority, while the House was led by Republicans. “It’s tough because being in the House minority, there’s very little you can do — it’s difficult to pass legislation,” she said. “So much of your focus is constituent casework. It was really fun working for my hometown member, because I saw what he was doing for my community where my family still lives.”
Most recently, Spoerer was working at the Department of Energy as Special Assistant in the Office of the Secretary. She was required to submit her resignation as a result of the recent presidential transition, but says that working at the DOE was nonetheless an excellent experience. “I was working at the highest level of an agency that had an enormous impact under Obama in everything from climate action to the Iran deal,” she said.
Two things that surprised her about transitioning from Capitol Hill to an executive agency was just how big the agency was, and how it functioned in a completely bipartisan way.
“One thing that’s overlooked is that there are so many career people who have been through numerous transitions,” she said. “There are people who’ve been working at the DOE for 40 years. They’ve seen transitions over and over again. They know how to function and maintain and continue projects, even with a new administration.”
Spoerer is optimistic about finding another position in government, and says her long term goal is to be a chief of staff, a position that she says requires someone who can see the bigger picture and understand how the wheels of politics turn together.
“Transferring to John Jay was one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Spoerer, who was honored in 2016 as a Distinguished Young Alumna. “It put me on the trajectory that I’m on now. I worked with people who were experts in their field, and I have some of the most amazing mentors and connections because of it.”