Alumna Spotlight: Allie Morgan, MPA '14

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July 11, 2017

Allie Morgan, MPA '14, is currently the Legislative Director and Policy Analyst at the Colorado Health Institute, an independent nonpartisan organization working to advance the health of Coloradans. In this interview, Allie discusses her career and time at Fels. 

Please describe your organization and its mission:

The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) is an independent nonpartisan organization working to advance the health of Coloradans. CHI was created in 2002 by local foundation leaders in response to a need for objective, timely, and reputable health data and analysis. We provide information and presentations to state legislators and other policymakers from across the political spectrum, and we don’t lobby or take positions.

Please describe your position and the duties it entails:

I started at CHI in 2014 as a policy analyst and added the title of legislative director the following year. I provide briefings and information to state legislators and staff members, and I blog and write reports on health-related bills and debates at the state capitol. I also coordinate CHI’s annual policy conference, which draws 200+ attendees and informs people about the state’s most pressing health issues and the political realities that impact them. When I’m not tied up with legislative work, I research and manage projects on topics like insurance enrollment efforts and electronic health information exchange. I get to present frequently to professional and community groups, which is one of the most fun parts of my job.

How did you become interested in this work?

I fell into health policy by chance. I was in my final semester of the MPA program, preparing to move back home to Colorado after graduation, when I met my current boss at a Fels-hosted panel on the Affordable Care Act. In addition to having no prior health care experience, I had never worked in government and knew very little about state legislatures, so taking over the legislative portfolio involved a steep learning curve. I love the work because health and health care issues impact everyone, as do the many decisions made by our state and local representatives (even though they rarely receive enough attention).

How has Fels helped you in your career?

When I came to Fels, I had no idea what type of career I wanted to pursue. I just knew that I liked writing, research, being challenged, and doing something with a positive impact. The Fels MPA program gave me a broad set of skills – kind of like a toolbox – that applied to many different fields. It also gave me a lot of great contacts. After taking classes in everything from economics and public finance to politics and speechwriting, I had greater confidence in my qualifications and the types of work at which I excelled. When a job opportunity in a new field came along, I knew I could fill in what I lacked in subject-matter expertise.

What was your favorite Fels course and why?

It’s hard to choose. I really enjoyed Performance Management with Leigh Botwinik, who inspired my lasting interest in guiding performance improvement in the public sector. Also, I didn’t know it at the time, but Policy Development with Dr. Deirdre Martinez would have numerous connections to my post-Fels work. Experience researching legislation, evaluating political dynamics, and looking for real-life policy opportunities came in handy when I started my job at CHI.

What advice do you have for current Fels students? 

Enjoy the diversity of courses and experiences available to you. Venture outside the Penn bubble – Philly is a city that is vibrant, fun, and full of opportunities to get involved and learn in the community. And make time to get to know your classmates in and especially outside of class. My cohort was amazing, and it’s fun hearing what everyone is up to now.

For those specifically interested in policy, my advice is to think about how much you care about a) working directly with people and b) seeing immediate change or progress. It can sound bad to say you’re not drawn to direct service, but our cities, states, and countries need smart, dedicated people who are systems-level thinkers. They bridge the gap between pie-in-the-sky ideas and on-the-ground realities, and they still impact people’s lives but in a different (and sometimes delayed) way. It’s rewarding work.

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