Shannon Bradford ‘15 serves as a Program Manager at the George W. Bush Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank in Dallas, Texas. In this capacity, Shannon manages the operations of the Institute’s portfolio of global leadership initiatives: WE Lead, which engages women leaders from the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan who are advancing economic opportunity in their countries, and Liberty and Leadership, a program that empowers democracy activists in Myanmar. This Fall, Shannon will matriculate as a Master of Public Policy student at the University of Chicago.
In 2018, Shannon ran for Justice of the Peace as the Democratic candidate in her Dallas County precinct. While she ultimately lost by less than one percent of the vote, the experience shaped her perspective of grassroots advocacy and the importance of bipartisanship. Shannon also has the privilege of serving her community via the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Moorland Family YMCA. Through the IRC, she mentored a Syrian refugee family in Arabic, supported the efforts of a citizenship test preparation class, and worked at a farmer’s market stall that sells produce grown by refugee farmers. She was also proud to participate in the Obama Foundation’s Community Leaders training in 2018.
Before graduating from Texas A&M with a B.A. in International Studies, Shannon was a summer intern at Amal Women’s Center, a Marrakech, Morocco-based social enterprise dedicated to high-demand workforce training of Moroccan women. She served in a communications role there, translating cooking classes from Arabic to English for visitors to the Center, working on the Center’s English social media platforms, and copyediting the Center’s website. Shannon credits this experience of studying abroad, a requirement of her International Studies degree, with inspiring her to pursue an international development policy position related to women’s rights and economic advancement upon graduating.
Becoming an Aggie in the first place was an easy decision for Shannon. After touring several college campuses across the country as a senior in high school, it was her visit to the Honors community at Texas A&M that ultimately convinced her Aggieland was her undergraduate home. As Shannon puts it, “The Honors program clearly afforded students many of the benefits of a small liberal arts school environment, such as its personalized approach to education and scholarly community, but with all of the added opportunities a large, public university can provide like robust course offerings and renowned research opportunities.”
As a University Honors student, Shannon benefited greatly from Honors-designated course sections, as the opportunity allowed her to build personal relationships with professors and dive deeper into the curriculum via additional analytical or hands-on projects the section was assigned. She also had the flexibility in her degree plan to take several STEM field courses to enrich her interdisciplinary social science degree. Shannon particularly enjoyed taking advanced Modern Standard Arabic, Middle East affairs, calculus, and major area courses, of which she was principally influenced by Dr. Ruth Larson’s class on Diversity in a Globalized World about the otherization of cultures and Dr. Vatche Tchakerian’s Geography of the Middle East on the complex histories and politics of the region through present day. This, in combination with her work as a Writing Tutor at the University Writing Center, fine-tuned her research and writing skills, which prepared her well for a position at a think tank.
Asked today what advice she would give Honors students interested in pursuing public policy following school, Shannon advised that students take advantage of as many class, visiting lecturer, student group, Honors event, and internship opportunities as possible to expose themselves to a wide variety of issues. She urged students to share their goals and interests with their professors and Honors peers, and ask for advice or potential research opportunities that would build their portfolio of experience. Also, students would do well to research organizations that are doing work in their fields of interest, analyzing their entry-level positions well-ahead of graduation to see what skill sets they can build in the meantime to make them competitive candidates in the future. And finally, Shannon counsels students to try new things and push out of their comfort zones—like studying abroad—because they might just discover their passion along the way!
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