Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable Fall 2021 alumni.
From a young age, Alyssa Foster closely followed current events and politics.
“When I was a little kid, I remember watching the news and caring about elections and things like that,” Foster said. “After a while I came to the conclusion that the only way to make a difference or make an impact is to do it yourself and get involved. I have seen so much wrong with the world and things to change.”
Now, the soon-to-be ASU graduate will begin her career in politics with the office of Governor Doug Ducey. Foster first became associated with the governor’s office through the School of Politics and Global Studies’ Arizona Legislative and Government Training ProgramIt is an undergraduate program that provides an opportunity for students to work full-time in a government agency for one semester.
In her internship with the Office of Councils and Committees which began in January 2021, she assisted with a number of projects including auditing and finding people to fill specific positions on state boards. Her internship was extended, and in May Foster was offered a full-time job as a Boards and Committees Office Project and Program Specialist for the Governor’s Office.
“I never really felt like a trainee,” she said. “I immediately felt like I was part of the team and the work I was doing was making a difference. The interns we take care of are so important to our office. I think when we hear the internships, we think, ‘Oh, these interns get coffee and run errands and answer phones and things.'” That’s not how that training is at all. You’re immediately a very important part of the team. You’re doing the work. I thought that was really cool.”
Although political science has always been a passion for her, the Arizona native said her career path hasn’t always been straightforward. After graduating from high school in 2007, she attended community college in Arizona and in Portland, Oregon. Then I found a successful career in the restaurant industry, but after 11 years I decided it was time for a change.
“I didn’t have much guidance. I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was doing really well and had no other reason to stop what I was doing or go back to school until I did. I moved to Portland, started taking classes and then finished college. Once that was done, I went straight back and found Arizona State University and decided that was the best way to finish.”
This fall, Foster will receive a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Arizona State University. Here, she shares more about her Sun Devil story.
Question: Why did you choose Arizona State University?
Answer: Arizona State University has the best program. Arizona has great schools, but ASU has an easy program to take community college classes and not just from Maricopa Community Colleges. I had taken classes at a community college in Portland, and these conveyed no problem.
Q: Did you encounter any obstacles on your way? If yes, how did you beat them?
a: I think the hardest thing was working full time while you were at ASU. I didn’t have the luxury of not working. I have bills to pay so I can’t just focus on school 100%. I had to balance a 40 hour work week while also taking a full schedule of classes. But I have a great support system including my longtime boyfriend. My family is kind of scattered all over the place, but I had that one person I could count on and trust to get my back through everything.
I think going back to school as an adult, rather than going to a four-year college after graduating from high school, I had a lot of anxiety in terms of being out of practice with the school. I was like, ‘I’m going to screw this up. I’m going to screw up, I’m not good at this.’ So I did the bare minimum, attended and followed instructions and asked questions. After a while I said, “Okay, well, I’m fine.”
Q: Were there any opportunities that positively impacted your experience at ASU?
a: Most important was the Arizona Legislative Training which I learned about at the last minute, I applied and trained in the governor’s office and ended up being employed full time. It’s great to get an internship anywhere, but the partnership that exists between the legislature, the governor’s office, and Arizona State University is truly incredible. The fact that I was able to participate and am still able to earn credits on top of that – it was a hit or miss for me. You have managed to earn 12 points. Training didn’t hold me back with graduation or anything that was huge.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while you were at ASU?
a: I had so many wonderful teachers. Tara Lennon, who facilitates the Arizona Legislative Interns and assists with the application and interview process, has been so great at guiding us through the process. I remember being intimidated by all of this, because you work at the Arizona Capitol and the governor is there. I asked her many questions like, “What am I wearing? My hair is white blond; do I need to tone it down?” I remember her just saying to me, “You have to be yourself. That’s what matters. Don’t try to be anyone you’re not. They are normal people also “. This tip serves me really well. I’m silly and goofy and have bleached blonde hair, but I adapt pretty quickly anyway.
Q: What is the best advice you would give to those still in school?
a: I think students and people in my age group, we’re obviously ambitious, but I think that could be wrong in some ways. You want to do the best, you want to make people proud. But you shouldn’t be afraid to put yourself first. …don’t be afraid to say no. You have to make yourself proud first before you make anyone else or go too far for anyone else.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
a: I’m achieving the goal I set when I started at Arizona State University. I feel like I’m really making a difference, and I love working out. I love people. It’s very funny to come from the private sector, you serve customers and shareholders and it’s all about stocks and money. But working for the state, your customers are your neighbors and there are no shareholders. It’s really about making your country and your community a better place. You work for real people and you make a real difference. I also can’t wait to push it forward when the next round of ASU interns come here. It would be great to get a full circle this way.