Caroline Swaller – National Partnership for Women & Families

Caroline Swaller, at the United State of Women Summit, 2016

Hi there! My name is Caroline Swaller. I am a dual Master’s of Public Policy/Master’s of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies candidate for graduation in May of 2017 (such a long title). I am currently the Social Chair of the MPPSA and most of my free time is devoted to Title IX and being a hardcore advocate for better sexual assault policies on college campuses.

I am currently interning at the National Partnership for Women & Families as the Workplace Policy and Research Intern (another long title) in Washington D.C.. Most of my summer activities have been devoted to researching and lobbying for paid leave at the federal level. There are multiple tactics at play to get Congressional sign on for paid leave and paid sick days. The National Partnership has helped to draft and is now lobbying for three bills: The Healthy Families Act, The Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMILY Act), and the Fair Scheduling Act. We also devote a significant portion of our research and time advocating for SAFE days so victim/survivors of domestic violence can take necessary time off work to attend to court hearings, mental health needs, and other necessary emotional support needs.

At the National Partnership we tackle these issues through a multifaceted approach involving research, advocacy/lobbying, and legal work. As a part of the research team I have spent my summer researching the Racial Wealth Gap and International Paid Leave policies among OECD countries similar to the United States in an effort to determine what needs to shift politically in the US and where does new research need to occur in order for the United States to finally approve paid leave.  I have lobbied on the Hill with our Government Affairs Manager and acted as a handler during the Workplace and Policy Research Conference academic meetings with Hill members. I’ve helped prep for and provided research and data for multiple congressional briefings and I’ve contributed to several fact sheets, literature reviews, and original research happening at the National Partnership.

So how did I get this awesome internship? A stroke of luck coupled with a solid resume. I had missed the original deadline for the National Partnership for Women & Families because I was being a disorganized graduate student. But lucky for me the National Partnership reached back to Tam Emerson to see if anyone was interested and thanks to the email introduction between our lovely Editor-in-Chief and blog founder Brie McLemore the stars aligned and this internship happened. Aside from that, I feel incredibly lucky to be working with the National Partnership as they have been a leader in advancing social justice for women since the 1960s. The National Partnership is the reason the Family and Medical Leave Act exists, and what makes me love them even more is that they admit letting it get passed unpaid was a mistake and now they work even harder to rectify it.

My time at Heller over the course of my first year taught me to read quickly and selectively and also gave me the necessary knowledge base to be able to succeed in my internship. Understanding the complex way bills are passed through Congress has directed my research eyes to know what it is important what should be put aside for another project. Furthermore, the collaborative work with my cohort has made me a better team player and more importantly a better listener, which when you’re an intern is probably the best skill to have.

Overall, the National Partnership for Women & Families has shown me what my ultimate career goal might be: Government Affairs Manager. I love the atmosphere of the Hill, but I love even more to be there with a purpose and a cause that promotes social justice. I’ve learned here that given the current makeup of Congress our job  will never be done so I’m pretty confident I’ll always have job security (unless Paul Ryan magically wakes up a feminist—doubtful I know). Moving forward at Heller my ability to focus in has increased so much over my time here. My first year I spent a lot of time getting lost in the weeds of policy and now I feel like I have a better grip on how this whole crazy federalism thing really works.

Interning with the National Partnership for Women & Families has been incredible beyond words and I really really really don’t’ want to leave, but I have two degrees to finish and one year to do it in. Here we go!

P.S. the picture is from the United State of Women Summit because I am the luckiest feminist in the whole wide world.

Caroline Swaller
MPP/MA Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Candidate ’17
Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Nicholas Croce – Government Accountability Office (GAO)


(Nicholas Croce, far right, 2nd year M.P.P student at Heller)

GAO — The Congressional Watchdog

 It’s 3 A.M. A Congressional staffer wakes up in a cold sweat. There’s a policy question swirling in their head, and they can’t shake it — “but what to do? Who to call?” Have no fear, Congress — The Watchdog is here!

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been around since the 1920’s, advising Congress on pressing matters facing the Nation. GAO is the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of the United States, and it performs policy analysis and program audits on federal agencies and issues like the federal debt, on behalf of Congress. Its organization is structured into twelve mission teams, including Financial Markets and Community Investment, Natural Resources and the Environment, and Homeland Security and Justice.

I’ve been working as a GAO Student Trainee for a few months and have been impressed by the organization’s high level of professionalism, and its commitment to non-partisanship and fact-based analysis, commitments built upon three core values: Accountability, Integrity, and Reliability. GAO’s workforce is spread out among 11 field offices and Washington, D.C.  My engagement team has been putting into action GAO’s core values through our work on Diversity in the Technology Sector. The engagement — part of the Education, Workforce, and Income Security (EWIS) mission team — is examining the levels of diversity in technology industries, and the federal role in promoting and ensuring such diversity.

All in all, it has been a great experience to learn a bit about how Congress monitors federal programs. As a citizen, it is reassuring to learn that such an agency exists. And, its results speak for themselves. GAO recommendations saved the Government over $74.7 billion in FY2015. The agency’s budget totaled $551 million — a return of $134 on every dollar allocated to GAO. In my opinion, that’s fiscal responsibility at its finest, and we as a nation should continue investing in impactful and measured policy analysis and audits.

Nicholas Croce
MPP Candidate ’17
Heller School for Social Policy and Management
Concentration: Poverty Alleviation

Now Introducing: Dispatches from the Field

Greetings from the Masters in Public Policy Student Association Heller Blog!

After a brief hiatus, we are back with a new segment entitled “Dispatches from the Field.” This summer, many of the Heller MPP students embarked on exciting internships in Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C. We worked for a variety of organizations addressing a multitude of issues, ranging from healthcare, to the gender wage gap, to mass incarceration. During this series, many of the Heller MPP students will discuss their internship projects, what they learned, and how their internships will shape their work at Heller and beyond. Stay tuned!

Brie McLemore, the MPPSA Publications Committee Chair


Alumni Spotlight: Pem Brown


Please introduce yourself (name, year, concentration, activities you participated in at Heller, what you are doing now):

Pem Brown, 2011, poverty alleviation (plus joint M.A. in women’s and gender studies). Now I work at M+R helping national non-profits run digital fundraising and advocacy programs.

What were you doing before you came to Heller?

I spent three years working at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, a reproductive rights non-profit in Boston, doing fundraising and communications. I also spent time volunteering for various progressive political campaigns around the state.

Why did you decide to come to Heller?

I was really drawn to the social justice orientation of the school and program, plus I was really excited for the joint women’s and gender studies degree.

What are some of the classes/activities that really enjoyed at Heller?

I took an amazing interdisciplinary course during my first year through the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies called Gender and Poverty in the United States. My final semester, I took a course called Legitimizing (In)equality: Attitudes, Beliefs, and Social Policy, which focused on how issues of poverty have been framed in political and media discourse in the United States. I also helped plan the annual DC spring break trips, which were a lot of fun.

Can you say a little about where you were and what you did for your summer internship?

I knew after Heller, I wanted to stay in Boston, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend my summer internship somewhere else working on national policy. I lived in DC and interned at the National Partnership for Women and Family. I got to focus on work/family policy, which was what I had been studying at Heller.

How do you use the skills you learned at Heller in your profession?

So much of what I do at M+R is to help boil down complicated political and policy issues to get people to take action, whether that be donating or contacting their elected officials. While writing for the digital space is quite different than the long research papers that are staples of most of Heller’s courses, the program’s emphasis on clear and concise writing continues to serve me well. Also, having an understanding of statistical significance is helpful for analyzing the email and web tests we run for our clients.

Student Spotlight: Allison Miller

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Please introduce yourself (name, year, concentration, activities or positions you might hold here at Heller):

My name is Allison Miller and I am a current first year MPP student at Heller. My concentration is in Women and Gender Studies and I am focusing on how gender affects immigration experiences in the US. As a WGS concentrator, I have joined the Gender Working Group and am grateful to help contribute to their awesome programs and activities.


What were you doing before you came to Heller?

Before coming to Heller I worked  in healthcare but was doing part-time work as an au pair recruiter for a friend of mine who runs an English academy and au pair program in Spain. Attempting to help set up educational programs for students but constantly running into the confines of legal migration laws regarding work founded my desire to better understand these U.S. policies. This, combined with the experiences I gained in previous volunteer work for my school’s Women’s Center, led me to create a focus on immigrant women within the US.


Why did you decide to come to Heller?

I was attracted to Heller specifically because the school’s focus on social justice and genuine desire to help spread social inclusion in our society. I could tell that the classes wouldn’t just be about learning policies and laws but would really teach me how to create policies that genuinely help people.


What are some of the classes/activities that you’ve really enjoyed here at Heller?

As a WGS concentrator, I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to take a class on law and social justice with Professor Anita Hill. By teaching us first-hand about the progression of women’s rights in our country, she challenged the way many of us address social policy. Her course stressed the importance of creating policies in our nation that promote social justice for all.


Student Spotlight: Adrienne Beck


Please introduce yourself (name, year, concentration, activities or positions you might hold here at Heller):
My name is Adrienne Beck. I am a second year MPP concentrating in Women and Gender Studies and I have been a part of the LGBTQIA+ and Gender Working Groups while at Heller.

What were you doing before you came to Heller?
After college I completed a term of service of ten months with AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). I was based in Denver, CO serving the southwest region of the United States. I served on a team that lived and worked together completing community service projects including mentoring kids at Boys and Girls Clubs and providing free tax preparation services. Since then I have worked in customer service and donor services, most recently with Heifer International, a non-profit organization geared towards ending poverty and hunger worldwide.

Why did you decide to come to Heller?
Coming from a direct service background, I love being able to work directly with individuals. However, through my experience I also learned how important the overall policies and systems in place is to the success of the work happening on the ground. The Heller School became the ideal place to combine my interest in policy and structural change to address social issues, especially those impacting the LGBTQIA+ community.

What are some of the classes/activities that you’ve really enjoyed here at Heller?
The two classes that I have enjoyed the most while at Heller have been the Law and Social Justice courses taught by Professor Hill. These courses challenged the way I think about and address social justice within public policy. Our class regularly had thought provoking and dynamic conversations that have defined my experience at Heller and how I plan on addressing social policy in the future.

If you have done a summer internship, can you say a little about where you were and what you did?
I spent my summer internship at Greater Boston PFLAG here in Waltham. PFLAG is a non-profit organization that works for the LGBTQIA+ community and their family and friends through support, advocacy and education. I led the Advocacy Intern team working in conjunction with the Freedom Massachusetts campaign to pass statewide legislation that would update the existing public accommodations law to provide protections for gender identity. I also collaborated with the Impact Team to make program recommendations to schools and organizations for best practices trainings and workshops to create and foster safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQIA+ individuals.

The Mommy Economy

The United States hasn’t broken down the gendered division of labor; we’ve globalized it and hidden it behind the micro mommy economy.

As women began to enter the traditional labor market throughout the latter part of the 20th century we saw a shift in the demographic makeup of typically male dominated fields like medicine and business. However the makeup of women in the market increased sexist social standards, and has only served to buttress gendered market ideologies, resulting in a conservative paradigm shift where a liberal one was needed. Instead of symbiotic movement of women into the workforce and men into the home, the household labor remained feminized and therefore undervalued. As women’s access to traditional labor fields has expanded, a demand for in home care workers has also increased.

Changing gender demographics in US labor markets commoditized motherhood according to western origin gendered division of labor standards disseminating a corrupt and unequal global care chain that allows for wealthy women and families in the United States to maintain their careers whilst simultaneously retaining their motherhood thereby robbing women from peripheral countries of their ability to nurture and love their own children.

The 1960s feminist advocacy for gender equity in the labor market created a paradoxical economic fissure: women were now “valued” but the work of women continued to be monetarily degraded. The continued absence of men in the home and flood of women out of it led to the unique double bind of the Second Shift. Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution explored the US labor phenomenon of women gaining access to public labor markets, while still being bound to drive the private labor market within the home. Hochschild describes at length the heteronormative societal structures controlling the US labor economy that led to women’s work vs. men’s careers.

However, since Second Shift’s publishing in 1989 what should have occurred was a general change in United States policies towards a recognition and value of motherhood resulting in better maternity and paternity leave programs creating a balanced system of value for both traditionally masculine and feminized labor traits. Instead what resulted are global care chains that have allowed for arguably a politically correct indentured servitude.

UC Davis Professor Rhacel Parrenas describes how this non sequitur ideological change in gender politics led to the creation of a global care chain. In her book, Servants of Globalization: Migration and Domestic Work she posits, “as demand for care [in the home] has increased, its supply has dwindled. The result is a care deficit, to which women from the Philippines have responded in force.”

Parrenas estimates that 2% of the global population illegally migrates with the intention to create a better life for themselves or their families, and that 34 to 54 percent of the Filipina population is partially sustained through remittances from migrant workers. Most Filipina women in the United States will work as nannies for wealthy families and send upwards of $40 a week home to their families, whom many of the immigrating women haven’t seen in over 10 years. The interviews and ethnographic research conducted by Parrenas graphically depicts the heaviness and burden of loving the child they are with while hoping that those charged back home with caring for their own families are doing the same.

The global care chain has created a privileging of who is allowed to be a mother to their children: white and wealthy families retain the privilege to physically love their children, to hug them. Families of migrant workers sacrifice physical caregiving for the hope of a food on the table back home. The US labor market’s denial of motherhood as a financially worthwhile endeavor for American women has forced US mother’s to conform to patriarchal standards of work while shirking the de-valued duties of motherhood onto a de-valued group of workers, migrant women.

The United States has along storied history of patriarchy and sexism that is so ingrained within the culture that it is an inescapable part of our narrative. But the globalization of the world’s economies has led to a commodification of motherhood that is horrifying and unjust. The right to mother should be a right. Not a privilege only afforded the American elite.

By: Caroline Swaller
M.P.P./M.A. in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies