A Compassionate Policy Advisor


The Human Element in Politics 

Madeline first came into contact with Bonner through the Policy Options Initiative through The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in 2011. She called Pat Donohue, a founding member of the Middlesex County College Bonner Program and a tireless worker who helped to build the Bonner Program at TCNJ. As Madeline explains, “He was a real force in the Bonner world.” His influence includes a hefty influence on Madeline, who first entered the “Bonner world” after an hour and a half cold-call phone interview with Pat Donohue ended in a position offer. Pat would go on to influence and mentor Madeline, deepening and developing her skills and passions. After completing a year of AmeriCorp service at TCNJ though the Bonner Program and AmeriCorp partnership, she fell in love with service work.

Do More than Network, Build Real Relationships

Madeline grew up in a house where she was always talking about big issues and the changing political landscape. In 2009 she formally began her career in politics as a Legislative Research Aide for the New Jersey State Legislature. Before her graduation from TCNJ she would also work for the Rush Holt congressional campaign. She then worked for TCNJ as a Policy and Public Relations Coordinator from 2011-2015. During this time she also earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. With the rest of her 2015 she worked as a Legislative Intern with the U.S. House of Representatives and then as a Senior Public Policy Advisor for Warwick Consulting Group. Then she landed a position as the Director in the Government Relations department at New Jersey Audubon, where she worked from late 2015 to early 2018. Steady work and rapid growth paid off. In January 2018 she began her current position working for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy as a Policy Advisor in her home state.

There are a lot of relationships required in the political world. It can be easy to get sucked into making as many shallow connections as possible in the hopes of quick career advancement. Madeline encourages readers to go, “beyond transactional relationships.” Authentic and caring relationships with people will ultimately end up being more advantageous anyway. A contact can help you out, but a friend can be an invaluable ally. If you really want to be “in the right room at the right time with the right people,” you should “do more than network.”

Bonner Values Connect Humanity to Policy

“It can be easy to get clinical in policy work. There’s a lot of hubris in politics. Bonner helped me to keep human impact in mind and remain focused on the real effect we have on people.” Victories are hard to come by in politics. If a policy looks good on paper, there is pressure to push it through and claim success. However, there is a direct effect on every American for each piece of legislation that is added or taken out of law. What wins appointments or elections is not always beneficial for society. It is important to keep in mind that a career in politics is fundamentally a service position. Madeline says Bonner service helped her to “make compassion a habit” that keeps her underlying beliefs present in her actions. This enables her to look beyond the political advantages of a situation and ask questions about the tangible outcomes, an essential trait in her current position.

Where do you go from a Dream Job?

Madeline loves her job and looks forward to work every day. She feels she is fairly paid and being developed and challenged constantly. Her work directly contributes to society and makes a difference to her community. All of her work advocating for herself has been resoundingly successful. Where can one go to find a dream job so early in one’s career? Madeline is only seven years out of college. So, right now Madeline does not have an answer, a problem she is thankful to have.

In the meantime, Madeline is enjoying a full-time (and more) job, volunteer positions on two separate boards, and the adventure of owning a home for the first time. She is also considering starting a family with her husband, and how that will interact with her career. As happy as she is, there is no permanent place for someone with as much drive as Madeline. The big issues she used to discuss around the dinner table in her childhood home have not gone away. Her focus on service has only grown stronger. Eventually she will find a way to make an even greater impact, but for now she is taking the time to build relationships and live intentionally.


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Written by Taylor Clarke, Bonner Leader Stetson University ‘19

Read her job profile here.

Click here for a downloadable version of this profile.