May 23, 2018

Three Batten Graduates Secure Staff Positions with North Carolina General Assembly

Madison Lahey, Grant Schwab, and Mary Greeson

Can driving a bus prepare you to work with a team to drive public policy?

Mary Greeson is about to find out in her new position serving the North Carolina General Assembly.

Greeson and two of her fellow Batten Master of Public Policy (MPP) program graduates—Madison Lahey and Grant Schwab—are joining the Tarheel state’s Fiscal Research Division as fiscal analysts. They secured their jobs in a highly competitive process.

“It will be a great place to learn, and to get a holistic picture of the inner workings of the North Carolina state government,” Greeson said. “I do look forward to making an impact in the policymaking process.”

Greeson, Lahey, and Schwab bring plenty of practical experience to their new positions.

Greeson, from Fredericksburg, Va. served as an undergraduate student bus driver for three and one-half years, eventually leading more than 120 drivers in daily transit operations. She worked at different times as a supervisor, dispatcher, trainer, public relations committee member, and safety committee member. She later managed bus transportation for events and UVA athletic teams as charter services coordinator before entering graduate school.

Her experience in grappling with transportation matters means that Greeson is speaking somewhat literally when she talks about future work with fellow staff members in North Carolina “in a front-row seat, with hands-on experience, in making those tough advisory calls.” She will serve on the Transportation team of the Fiscal Research Division.

For Lahey, her background includes providing advice to the incoming administration of current Virginia governor Ralph Northam on the ongoing opioid crisis. She and Greeson participated in a fall semester course where students wrote policy briefs on critical issues facing the commonwealth.

The course, “Applied Policy Clinics: Virginia Transition Team Clinic,” was led by Batten’s Andy Pennock, Assistant Professor of Public Policy.

The Virginia Transition Team Clinic included Mary Greeson, front left, and Madison Lahey, second row, second from right

“It was a great experience,” Lahey said. She appreciated Greeson’s leadership and help as “one of the three team leaders who wrote their own issue briefs and who supported us in writing our briefs.”

Lahey studied “the long-term impacts of the opioid epidemic—not so much the immediate response to drug overdoses, but focused on the long-term threat to children and families.”

The crisis is putting a “strain on our hospital system, social services, the education system—because there are all of these kids who are living in homes where opioids are really a prevalent part of their lives.”

Lahey’s research and writing work benefitted from meeting with Batten’s Christopher Ruhm, Professor of Public Policy and Economics and a noted expert on the magnitude of the national opioid crisis. She has also served as a Governor’s Fellow in the Office of Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Like Schwab, Lahey has been a graduate teaching assistant at Batten; both 2018 graduates of Batten’s accelerated MPP program.

For Schwab, his grassroots public policy experience came, literally, from the roots of local food activism: directing Greens to Grounds, a student-run nonprofit organization promoting local food and food education at UVA. He also received a Parents Fund Internship Grant to work with the Local Food Hub. 

“I got so much out of my various roles at Greens to Grounds that will be valuable, and has already been valuable, in everything else I’ve done in my life, quite frankly, personally and professionally,” Schwab said.

“That experience was a lot of learning how to work with teams and how to communicate with people—learning how to manage people, and learning how to exist within and how to help cultivate organizational culture—and meeting deadlines, and interacting with people outside of the university in a formal or business context.”

Schwab and his fellow graduates are well aware that they will be stepping into work that is already being done well by more experienced professionals. And they’re looking forward to that.

“I’m 22 years old; I don’t have a singular focus for my career,” said Schwab, who is from Bergen County, N.J. “I’ve spent a lot of time doing food work, but I call myself a policy generalist. I want to learn a lot more; I want to learn more my whole life.

“I’m excited to join the General Government team” of the Fiscal Research Division. “I think General Government will allow me to cover a broad range of topics and issue areas, which is exactly the sort of the experience I’d hope for in my first foray into the policy work outside Batten.”

Lahey, of Jacksonville, Fla., says she looks forward to applying skills learned at Batten to focus on critical questions: “What looks like good analysis? What looks like strong policy decision-making? What are the concerns that policy makers grapple with in general?”

In North Carolina, as in all states, those concerns are extensive, ranging from pigs and poultry to tourism and transportation.

Greeson’s background in transportation showed her the importance of having clear-cut policies grounded in facts. At Batten, she furthered her analytical skills and learned much more about the policy-making process.

For her research and writing on the Northam transition project, she focused on Northern Virginia’s Washington Metro issues, including transportation finance, and also fiscal distress among various localities.

As a skilled professional with a still-active commercial driver’s license, she is well aware that local policy needs to address “basic things that are absolutely necessary in life, including filling the potholes, that maybe aren’t that glamorous.”

Having worked in several jobs already, including a four-month position with New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Greeson is “looking forward to gaining new experience, and learning from my co-workers and supervisors.

“I find working in a team-oriented environment to be very helpful. I think having a variety of perspectives really enhances the quality of work.”

In This Article

Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Phone Number
Twitter Username
Office Location/Room Number
Garrett L004A