Jonathan_Peterson

Jonathan Peterson '09 

Major: Public Policy Analysis (PPA) and Politics
Profession: Consultant with the California State Senate Governance and Finance Committee
Hometown: Kelseyville, California

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am a consultant with the California State Senate's Governance and Finance Committee. In this capacity, any bill dealing with local government finance comes to me to analyze, suggest amendments and advise the chair of our committee on the merits of the policy. I enjoy having a front row seat to the legislative process and getting to play my part in shaping bills that will directly impact California. Some of the bills I work on are housing related, while others focus on the environment. The breadth of issues is perfect for someone with the liberal arts mindset Pomona fosters. I wrote my Pomona senior thesis on Proposition 13 and California state finance, and here I am — 10 years later — working on many of the same issues. 

How did you get there?

After graduation, I lived in Maracaibo, Venezuela for a year where I taught English through the Fulbright program. Once my fellowship was complete, I moved back to Claremont to work in the Pomona College Office. I enjoyed my Pomona [experience] so much that I spent three more years on campus as a staff member. I decided I wanted to focus more on the public sector and went to the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. After earning my master of public policy, I moved to Sacramento to work for the California Legislative Analyst's Office, which provides nonpartisan fiscal and policy advice to the State Legislature. I worked on a variety of criminal justice and health issues during my three years there before jumping over to the Senate.

How did Pomona prepare you?

Pomona prepared me in so many different ways. Most importantly, the camaraderie between faculty, students and staff helped equip me with the tools to feel comfortable stepping into any conversation, whether that be with a constituent seeking assistance or a state senator writing a bill. One of my most memorable classes was Policy Implementation and Evaluation. In this course, we had to do a policy analysis of an issue off of Pomona's campus. I researched state intervention of underperforming schools, which took me to Pomona Unified School District. The public policy analysis major does a great job of getting students to experience what they are learning on and off Pomona's campus. I also interned with a board member at Los Angeles Unified School District during my senior year. In addition, I worked with the Admissions Office throughout my time at Pomona. Whether guiding tours or interviewing prospective students, my work in the Admissions Office helped improve my communication skills and prepared me for life after Pomona. Finally, volunteering in Peru and studying abroad in Chile were also great opportunities for me to step out of my comfort zone.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to continue shaping public policy in California. My current position affords me the opportunity to do the legal, policy and economic analysis that I find intellectually fulfilling. Plus, the dynamic political environment in Sacramento never gets boring. As long as I continue to find opportunities through the Legislature to make California a better place for everyone to live, I hope to keep doing what I am doing. Not everyone gets to work at a state park every day and I am very appreciative of all the opportunities Pomona provided to help get me here and the alumni I continue to work with here in Sacramento.

Any advice for prospective or current students?

Take some risks in the classes you take. I received some advice from my academic adviser to choose classes based on the professors and learning experiences, not just the content. You can specialize in specific subject matter down the road. I ended up taking as many Spanish literature courses as I could fit into my schedule, something I would never have expected when I started at Pomona. Now that it has been over 10 years since I graduated, the time I spent building relationships with professors, students and staff were as important as any class I took. Make sure you allow yourself some time to build relationships that could last a lifetime.