Elle Hamm is a first-year graduate student in the International Science and Technology Policy program at the Elliott School of International Affairs. As an Acquisitions Analyst in the private sector, Elle analyzes purchases made by the federal government to support the COVID-19 response. She has provided research analyses to the United Nations and the NIH, and she is currently researching how states can utilize innovation policy to stimulate economic growth. Prior to enrolling at Elliott, Elle graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Public Policy. This year, she is starting a scholarship for girls in STEM. Elle has a forthcoming publication on the effect of start-ups on economic growth in the Middle East.
When did you realize you wanted an international career?
Honestly, it started in middle school. I wanted to learn from people who had different experiences and backgrounds than myself. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to study at the Global Studies and World Languages Academy for high school and traveled to Denmark and Northern Ireland. That definitely got the ball rolling! However, the real confirmation came during my undergraduate studies; I would apply a domestic policy issue and to an international affairs context. There was one assignment where we had to study trash collection (which is municipal in scope), and I found myself asking, “how does trash collection happen abroad in areas with politically autonomous and semi-autonomous populations? How are their needs being met— are they being met at all? If not, who has the authority to help?” That was a strong indication that an international career was for me.
Where do you currently work, intern or volunteer, and how does it fit in with your career goals?
I’m an Acquisitions Analyst in the private sector, and I analyze purchases made by the federal government to support the COVID-19 response. I’m able to see firsthand how federal spending on science and technology reflects key national interests and priorities. My current work is developing the research acumen that I’ll need for my PhD. Work is definitely providing the conceptual context for my future policy-related questions.
What tools/strategies have proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?
I love Mendeley (an online reference manager). Whenever a question or idea pops into my head and I don’t have a lot of time to look into it, I jot it down in Mendeley. It’s also helpful for organizing citations for school papers.
In terms of strategy, something that keeps me from feeling overwhelmed is utilizing “gap moments” — those are the moments during the day when you aren’t intently doing something (e.g., when you’re waiting because you arrived a few minutes early to an appointment, or when you’re sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office). These can be really useful times to get small tasks done! That’s time that could be spent responding to an email or scheduling an appointment. That way, I don’t feel overwhelmed with tasks at the end of the day.
What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?
A couple of years ago, someone told me that a project would be “too hard” for me to take on, but you know what? I did it. If there’s an opportunity that feels a little out of reach, this is a reminder that you can do hard things, too.
Also, when you come across something interesting during lecture or in a meeting or notice that a specific topic interests you, write it down. After a while, you may begin to see patterns that could point to a new area of interest in your work or studies. You never know— An idea could lead to a publication or, at the very least, a personal project.
What has been the best investment you’ve made since quarantine?
Aside from quality time with friends and family, I’ve been trying to set aside some time for creative activities when I can. I recently attended an Edvard Munch exhibit at a local art museum — it was really nice to get out some. Although Munch takes a negative view of modernity that I somewhat disagree with, I really admire the way he was able to take everything that he was feeling and the multitude of his life experiences and express it all on a blank canvas. His work really pulls you in, and he almost challenges you to process everything going on in the world right now. It’s not for everyone. For me, it provided an opportunity to reflect, which I appreciate.
I’ve also been reading a lot of Kafka lately! I just finished up The Castle, and I’m currently reading Amerika.
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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at email@example.com.
The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.