Valerie Kologrivov '19 (BA in ECON and GVPT)

Title: Legislative Aide

Employer: New Jersey Legislature

LinkedIn Profile

What do you enjoy the most about your position?

My favorite part about my current role is learning about the wide variety of policy issues that impact New Jerseyans. There are bills in the NJ Legislature on everything from reducing period poverty to supporting the proliferation of electric vehicles to ending dog fighting, and so much more. Having the freedom to work with the Assembly members to formulate bill ideas and make recommendations is also very cool. Though I had only just started at my current role when this process began, I really enjoyed working on the state budget and look forward to being more involved in that process next year.

What is a typical day like?

Usually, my day starts with reading up on New Jersey news, keeping an eye out for any significant events that the elected officials I work for, the Members, should be aware of. Throughout the day, I staff the Members at community events or zoom meetings with advocates or policy stakeholders. As the main legislative aide for the two assembly members I work for, when the NJ Assembly is in session my days are long: I monitor committees, make recommendations for votes, process co-sponsors requests, and ensure that the members have all the information needed to make educated votes. When the Assembly is not in session, a lot of my time is spent doing research on bill ideas and working with the state to draft those ideas.

How did you find this job?

My first job after college was working for Congressman Josh Gottheimer as a Community Outreach Liaison. After interning for Rep. Gottheimer both in DC on the Hill and in his New Jersey district office, several of the full-time staff members had grown to know and like me. They knew my dream job was to work full-time for Rep. Gottheimer, and when there was an opening in New Jersey, they recommended me for the job.

I worked in Rep. Gottheimer's District Office full-time, and eventually moved over to his campaign team for the 2020 election. After a few months off, I received a call from former co-workers that a New Jersey State Senate & Assembly office was looking for a legislative aide. I interviewed for the position, and landed my current role as a Legislative Aide for State Senator Lagana, Assemblywoman Swain, and Assemblyman Tully in their joint office.

Which undergraduate experiences (i.e. internships, on-campus leadership, living learning communities, faculty member, etc.) did you find most helpful in preparing you for your current position?

So many of my undergraduate experiences at Maryland lead me to where I am today -- whether I knew it at the time or not! As a CIVICUS Associate, I became very interested in civic engagement, democracy, and community service. I was also required to intern early as part of that program. While at Maryland, I interned at a small non-profit working on research related to Medicaid and Medicare, at a lobbying firm where my projects ranged from anti-trust court case reviews to maritime law, and finally on the Hill for Congressman Gottheimer.

All of my internships gave me both hard and soft skills that I use daily: email and communication etiquette, memo-writing, research experience, requesting and accepting constructive feedback, and networking to name a few.

How has your coursework helped you in your current position (i.e. quantitative skills, research techniques, communication skills)?

Frankly, most of my coursework doesn't play a direct role in my day-to-day. However, in my role as a legislative aide my background in economics certainly forms a lens through which I offer feedback and thoughts on bill ideas for our members. My coursework gave me the ability to think critically, see and understand multiple, conflicting viewpoints, and come to a logical conclusion based on reason rather than emotions.

Courses that required quantitative analysis paired with some sort of paper or written response, much like final projects in econometrics, prepared me for analyzing statistics and formulating a recommendation based on that information.

Any job or internship advice for students seeking a legislative position? 

Network, network, network! Get coffee with people who have jobs you eventually want, ask mentors what they did to get where they are, accept feedback and constructive criticism, and catch up with old co-workers or supervisors when you can. In politics, half of the battle of getting job is showing people you are able to communicate effectively. Networking is part of this.

Anything else you want to share with undergraduates?

Feel free to reach out! I'm always happy to chat with UMD students, and I'm sure there are many other alums who feel the same.