Political Science Alums Reflect On State Capitol Experiences

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For Jessica Golly ’04, Allison Kustic ’20, and Dylan Finley ’21, their path to rewarding work in California’s State Assembly began at Dominican University of California.

Dominican’s combination of academic rigor, hands-on mentoring, and out-of-class experiences such as internships, study abroad, and on-campus leadership positions led the three alumni to careers that place them at the political center of the world’s fifth largest economy.

Jessica, Allison, and Dylan reflect on the enduring value of their Dominican experience in the Political Science program.

Jessica Golly:
Legislative Director, California State Senate

Jessica’s career has been on a steady rise since she started working in the Assembly in 2007 as a scheduler.

Today, Jessica is the Legislative Director for a state senator from the Los Angeles area, managing the senator’s legislative package from policy proposal to final action by the Governor. She also supervises and mentors the legislative team, makes vote recommendations, and works to make sure policy priorities succeed.

“It’s this diverse work that makes my day-to-day experiences so interesting and exciting,” Jessica says. “I am constantly multitasking, analyzing, and summarizing policy, meeting with stakeholders and developing strategies to ensure successful policy outcomes.”

Dominican's program in the School of Liberal Arts and Education, Jessica says, prepared her to help at a local, regional, and national level by providing the tools and skills to write thoughtfully, argue passionately, and agree to disagree respectively, to fully understand different cultures, backgrounds, and opinions.

“I think one of the major benefits of a political science major is the understanding you gain on the role of government and policy in our daily lives—and consequently help to create positive change for families and communities.”

Over the years, Jessica has coordinated the management of more than  two dozen bills from idea to signing. Several of the policy initiatives – some of which include ensuring environmental justice in communities across California – took several years of hard work, analysis, negotiation, and policy development to ultimately earn the Governor’s signature.

“Dominican’s intellectual and educational rigor helped me to consider and explore potential career paths that have now culminated in my current work in Sacramento,” she says.

“Dominican's program stands out because the small class sizes allowed me and my classmates to truly engage and debate with our professors and with each other. Professors were able to really mentor and get to know each student and made the effort to bring in a wide variety of guest speakers.”

Advice for Students Interested in Careers in Government:

“Try internships or fellowships, talk to people who do the job you might want to do, be true to yourself and your values, ask questions, continue strengthening your writing and analytical skills, and get more involved in the political process.”

Favorite Dominican (and Marin) memories:

“So many. Hanging out with friends, hiking the fire trail and Mount Tam, trips into San Francisco, going to Giants games and sporting events across the Bay, days at Stinson Beach, cheering for our Dominican sports teams, the annual La Bamba trip to Tijuana with Father Bob, studying abroad for a semester in Italy, being an RA in the dorms.”

Allison Kustic:
Legislative Aide , California State Assembly

Determined and focused, Allison set her sights on a career in politics as far back as high school. Today, she is balancing a busy schedule working in the office of Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez while also working on her master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Sacramento.

Juggling school and work involves dedication – and long days. Allison wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Knowing the work I do every day makes the lives of Californians better is invigorating,” she says. “When I am straining to read yet another bill analysis at 3 a.m. or running for back-to-back meetings, knowing what I do is essential for lasting, positive change for our constituents makes it all worth it.”

Allison not only manages bills that the Assemblymember authors, but also analyzes and provides vote recommendations on the bills of other legislators. She researches policy, builds coalitions of support, shepherds bills through the committee process, negotiates amendments, and works with state agencies and the Governor’s office to get bills signed.

Allison also covers 14 issue areas, where, for each bill in that jurisdiction, she reads, analyzes, and recommends to the Assemblymember how to vote, based on his personal positions and the impact to the 53rd District. Some of the busiest issues are housing, transportation, natural resources, water, and energy.

Allison recalls a day in February, 2022 when she had just finished meeting with two stakeholders to negotiate a major compromise on a bill.

“I just thought ‘I’m doing it. I’m doing what I dreamed of doing.’ Policy work is my passion and I feel blessed to do it in the heart of California’s law making institution.”

Dominican’s political science program helped her pave the way to the State Capitol, both in terms of academic rigor and opportunities for extracurricular leadership.

“At Dominican, I honed my reading, writing, and research skills. That sounds simple, but they are skills crucial to my profession and I think they are things many people graduate without, and have to learn on the job,” Allison says. “I am faced with nearly 2,000 bills to read and prepare memos on each session and never once has that felt overwhelming.”

Allison’s Dominican experience includes interning in the Sacramento office of then U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, studying abroad in London, competing as part of the debate team, participating in an immersion trip to El Salvador, serving on the Siena Leadership Team and as president of the Dominican Political Science Association (DPSA), working as a Student Ambassador, and interning with both the County of Marin and the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.

“There were endless opportunities at Dominican to develop my academic and professional skills as well as explore personal interests and serve my community.”

Political science, Allison notes, is one of the most worthwhile degrees a person can earn.

“Part of what I love about my job is that it touches nearly every person and industry in California. A majority of the bills I read every day, in my humble little cubicle, become binding laws that impact businesses and livelihoods.”

“A degree in Political Science, or even just a few undergraduate courses, gives one a working knowledge of our system of government, how it came to be, and points of access for the public. Those access points are critical for influencing the very bills I read, before they become laws that are much harder to change.”

Advice for Students Interested in Careers in Government:

“Intern while in college! I had internships with then-Senator Kamala Harris, the Marin County Board of Supervisors, and the Panetta Institute for Public Policy that launched my career in the legislature after graduating. If I hadn’t invested in real-world working experiences, alongside my academic studies, it would have been much harder to prove my worth to employers.”

Favorite Dominican (and Marin) memories:

“Dominican feels like home, and every time I see an ad for the University on a light rail train in Sacramento, see Dylan at work, or fellow DU alumna Lorena Paredes at grad school, I am reminded of the warmth and fond memories of Dominican. My favorite memories of my time at Dominican are Sunday night masses, getting there early to sing and staying late with friends in the Siena Center; living in Edgehill Village with my best friends Sophomore year; and competing with the debate team.”

Dylan Finley: 
Legislative Aide, California State Assembly

“Every day when I look at the Capitol I am still in awe of this industry and what it means for the State,” says Dylan, who earlier this year started working in the office of Assemblymember Blanca Rubio.

“The buzz of the Capitol, lobbyists in the hallways watching votes live, and seeing members walking with staff discussing upcoming votes and legislation had me hooked and knowing I needed to work here.”

Dylan’s assists the Assemblymember -- who represents the 48th Assembly district and is chair of the New Democrats – in running her bill package for the current legislative session, meeting with interest groups on her behalf, and prepping her for any bills that she will be voting on for any specific day.

At Dominican, Dylan balanced playing NCAA Division II soccer while also taking advantage of working with on-campus organizations and off-campus internships. He served as a Student Ambassador for Admissions and as an intern for the Athletics Department. He also found time to launch his own newsletter, “The Informed Citizen,” which offered non-partisan political updates for younger voters.
 Dylan selected Dominican in order to combine athletics and academics.

“While I had other options to choose from, Dominican was close to home and had great graduation and job placement rates,” he recalls.
 “Now that I am graduated, it has been a blessing that I ended up at Dominican. The class size structure was perfect for me, and gave a very personal feel to each class. I have been a huge advocate for Dominican and the smaller universities ever since.”

Dylan majored in business administration in the Barowsky School of Business with a minor in political science. His business degree is an asset in the world of politics.

“My business finance degree has helped in my career, as I am comfortable looking at the State budget. Similarly, I am assigned to all the business-related issue areas for my office. With the small class size, and the many opportunities to be involved in DU organizations on campus, Dominican really helped with my networking, which is crucial for Sacramento.”

Dylan’s long-term goal is to focus on policy proposals as his career develops. Working in the Capitol will give him experience navigating the political process, a necessary skill to develop as he moves toward a career in which he can focus on policy work.

Dylan got his first taste of policy and government during an internship with a lobbying firm in Sacramento. He then went to work for Assemblymember Marc Levine and, immediately after graduation, for the Civil Justice Association of California. He was hired by Assemblymember Rubio’s office in fall 2022.

A career in the public sector was a goal he developed as an undergraduate at Dominican.

“I was raised in a fairly privileged upbringing, but recognized through my time at Dominican that some of my fellow peers were not as fortunate,” he recalls. “Through my internships and prior jobs I really came to understand that I can use my knowledge and experience to help those who have not had the same fortune as me.”

Advice for Students Seeking their First Job After College:

“I would say remain open to anything, and yes this means lower paying jobs. I knew that I wanted to be a lobbyist, and knew the route needed to get there. However I am impatient (and working on it), and tried to skip a step, which is working for the California Legislature. My decision has worked out, fortunately, as now I am in the Legislature and with one of the most powerful members in the Capitol, in my opinion. You are graduating from a great school and have the resources and support to be successful, even if you need to take the `long route.’ ” 

Favorite Dominican (and Marin) memories:

“The first thing that came to my mind is soccer. The bonds, trips, and lessons from that part of my life. After that I would say enjoying beautiful Marin County with friends. We used to hike "fire trail" a lot. Brendan Adame and I have a picture of us at the top of this tower that is located at the top of the trail.”

Photo above of (from left) Jessica Golly, Allison Kustic, and Dylan Finley in California State Capitol Rotunda.


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