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Janelle Johnson: View from the Hill

Janelle JohnsonJanelle Johnson ’10 had no trouble adopting the Pioneer spirit. Soon after arriving at Transylvania she created her own international affairs major—before the university offered it as a standard academic program. Now she’s rubbing elbows with policy makers on Capitol Hill as the first Donald M. Payne Foreign Policy Fellow, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

“I’m learning how politics influence policy,” said Janelle, who earned a master’s degree in public policy with a focus in international security from the University of Chicago after graduating from Transylvania.

Janelle works for U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat who represents a Los Angeles district and serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees and is a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

Janelle is responsible for Bass’s foreign and veterans affairs, defense, and Homeland Security portfolios. She keeps up with legislation that comes to the floor in those areas and makes recommendations about which new bills to support.

“My office has been great in that they’ve given me sort of full legislative assistant responsibilities,” Janelle said.

Additionally, she conducts meetings with constituents, diplomats, and organizations, and she prepares material for foreign affairs hearings. Her fellowship also provides professional development through writing workshops, leadership seminars, and policy forums.

Janelle will split her 20-month legislative fellowship between congressional office duties and committee work in either the House or the Senate.

Eventually Janelle hopes to work at an executive agency or a think tank as a Middle East policy analyst. “The thought in D. C. is that once you work on the Hill, you can pretty much go anywhere because of the relationships you build,” she said. “But who knows, I might enjoy committee work and decide to stay on the Hill.”

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