"Experience is key. You need to find things that interest you and then mold them into something you enjoy and want to do."
Kate Pond visited Illinois during her sophomore year of high school and fell in love with the campus. Though she began her coursework as a political science major, she soon found a love for urban planning.
"There were small class sizes and a very personal feel in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, so I felt like I really fit in," Kate says.
In 2013, Kate participated in Illinois in Washington, an academic internship program that offers university credit. Kate was later hired by Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos as her scheduler and executive assistant.
"It was almost surreal to go to the Capitol every day to work," Kate remarks.
In that position, Kate worked with logistics, using skills she honed at Illinois, both in and out of the classroom. And her urban planning background trained her to be attentive to the tiniest of details. Her major also taught her to work in groups effectively—an important skill at any level of politics.
Empowered by her Illinois education and training, Kate was confident working in an environment with major societal impact. "Washington, D.C., is where change happens," she notes. "It was awesome to know that we were in the position to change lives."
Today Kate works at Dochter & Alexander Retail Advisors, a retail brokerage firm in Washington, D.C.