The political adviser: An academic at a crossroads

The political adviser: An academic at a crossroads

Aisha Woodward



Policy analyst for Angus King campaign

Aisha Woodward has a breadth of experience rare for a 26-year-old: two one-year stints working at Harvard, a year teaching English in Turkey; a year of a Yale Ph.D. program in Italian literature; even a summer mowing lawns. And, now, she holds a paid policy analyst position with Angus King’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Woodward, a 2008 Bowdoin graduate from Sedgwick, near Deer Isle, admits she is nearing a “turning point.” And although she doesn’t know exactly where she’ll be a few months from now, she knows what she wants.

“There are some question marks around the specifics,” she said. “But I have many fewer questions about how I want to be operating in the world, what kind of skills I want to be using and what causes I want to be advancing.”

Woodward says her work experiences, plus her Bowdoin education, have nurtured a sense of responsibility to the world. Phrases like “social justice,” “disseminating knowledge,” and “educating the public” are scattered throughout her conversation.

Woodward began laying the groundwork for her range of impressive efforts at Bowdoin, an education that included a semester of study at the University of Ghana.

“I wanted a different experience” from the more typical study abroad program, she said. As a result, she chose West Africa, where, along with studying, she began volunteering for the now-dissolved Maine-Ghana Youth Network in the community of Kissemeh. Her work in Ghana continued after graduation, when she returned for three weeks with two fellow Bowdoin friends to film a documentary entitled “Under the Mango Tree.” The project was funded by a Davis Peace Project grant.

Woodward’s work at Bowdoin also included extensive Italian study with Associate Professor Arielle Saiber, including a focus on Dante. So, after sandwiching a year teaching English in Turkey with two years of student program work at Harvard, Woodward landed at Yale.

Now, a master’s degree later, she is re-evaluating whether to continue toward career in academia.

The doctoral program was a “trial effort,” she said. “I owed it myself” to give the program a try.

With the November election looming, Woodward is poised to make some big choices.

Serving as a policy analyst in the King campaign “taps into my skill set,” she said. “Reading, writing, critical thinking and being engaged on a day-to-day basis requires a flexibility of skills and mindset that I didn’t use in grad school,” she said.

“I never saw myself working in politics,” she said. But an independent candidate “has no real binder of positions to take. There’s the flexibility to carve out nuanced, thoughtful positions.”

So while King charges forward in Senate race, Woodward ponders how she can combine the skills she used at Yale with those so essential to helping King make a successful run.

“I’d like to strike a balance between both,” she said.

26SedgwickPolicy analyst for Angus King

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