By Hensley Carrasco

Carolyn Bruckmann MPP/MBA 2025 spent the summer working as an Economic Development Strategic Policy Fellow in the Office of the Governor of Connecticut as part of the Dukakis Fellowship Program.

Students participating in the Michael S. Dukakis Governors’ Summer Fellows Program spend 10 weeks between their first and second years of graduate study serving in U.S. governors’ executive offices. Through this fully-funded, nonpartisan fellowship, students apply leadership and analytic skills to tackle critical state-level policy issues in health care, education, economic development, public safety, budgeting, and other areas. 

Learn more about Carolyn’s experience. 

Carolyn Bruckmann MPP/MBA 2025 standing in front of the State Capitol building in Hartford, Connecticut.

What projects did you work on while at the Office of the Governor? 

I spent the summer working on several workforce development projects. There are around 100,000 unfilled jobs in the state of Connecticut, so workforce development has been a huge priority for Governor Ned Lamont for the last several years.  

Primarily, I focused on a proposal for a skills accelerator program. This accelerator program would allow underemployed or unemployed 17-to-22-year olds the opportunity to earn a series of stackable certificates at Connecticut community colleges, giving them valuable credentials and opening doors to in-demand jobs. If implemented, this program would provide unparalleled support to students, including stipends to cover transportation and housing needs and one-on-one career counseling. 

I also worked with the Department of Administrative Services and Department of Labor to build an online portal that Connecticut residents can use to explore careers that might be relevant to their skillsets. I enjoyed the opportunity to be creative with the project, creating mockups and user flow diagrams for the design of the portal. 

Can you describe an average day in your role? 

I would usually spend my mornings working on projects, shadowing a meeting, or working on a research-related memo for my supervisor. My afternoons would typically be more meeting heavy. For example, I’d meet with the web designers for the workforce portal project, talk them through our ideas, and get feedback before we then start developing it.  

What did you find challenging about your position? 

I realized there was a fair amount of territorialism about certain projects, especially when one team had been working on a project for a significant period of time. At the end of the day, we’re all working toward the same goal, and I learned that it’s important to bring people together and remind them of that. 

I also came into the role with the hypothesis that government work is siloed and fragmented, and this internship confirmed that there’s some truth to that. With different departments and agencies all doing their own things, there’s a risk that you can duplicate efforts or fail to get feedback from relevant stakeholders. It has made me realize that an office like the Office of the Governor serves an important role in bridging different departments and agencies. 

Did anything surprise you? 

I was surprised to be faced with the unintended consequences of the workforce development projects we were working on. On one hand, we’re helping connect people to jobs and higher salaries, but on the other, we know there’s a benefits cliff. Is someone really better off if they are going to lose access to childcare because they have a higher paying job? This is something I’ve read about in case studies in class, but it became more tangible this summer. 
This experience reminded me about how interrelated all these issues are. I came into this role interested in workforce development issues, but this experience has reminded me of the importance of wraparound services to make sure people have access to things like housing and transportation, too.  

Why would you encourage someone to apply to the Dukakis Fellowship program? 

I would 100 percent recommend the program. It was a really, really impactful and interesting summer. Working in the Office of the Governor, I was able to interact with so many different departments and agencies, and that was my goal—to learn how that collaboration works. 

If you’re someone who’s interested in working in government, it’s such a helpful experience to get direct, day-in-the-life exposure to what that is like. And if you want to feel like you’re creating significant, meaningful change, state-level government work is for you. I felt like I was literally building the backbones of the workforce portal that people will be using. 

Carolyn Bruckmann smiling on a sunny day

“...if you want to feel like you’re creating significant, meaningful change, state-level government work is for you. I felt like I was literally building the backbones of the workforce portal that people will be using.”

Carolyn Bruckmann MPP/MBA 2025

What skills did you develop? 

I came to HKS with mostly a private sector background, having worked in management consulting and social enterprise, and this internship gave me an intensive education in public sector work. I better understand policy lingo, I’m able to put together a one-page policy memo much quicker, and I’m much sharper at structuring my thoughts.  

A lot of the job involved coordinating across teams that all have competing priorities. I’ve learned how difficult it can be to get people to prioritize the work that you’re doing but have been able to develop the soft skills needed to overcome these challenges.  

Did the internship shift your post-HKS plans? 

This internship confirmed for me that state-level government work is a sweet spot where you can affect large-scale change but be close enough to the work that you actually see it being implemented. I think with federal level, you’re too high up. With the city level, you might not have the resources to conduct large-scale change. 

Outside of the office, what did you enjoy most about the experience? 

Kayaking with the governor! I had other plans, but when this opportunity came up, I was like, “are you kidding? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” It was so memorable. 

What is your ‘why’? 

I want to help people live a happy, meaningful, fulfilling life. That’s a broad answer, but it allows me the flexibility to do many, many different things, including working in state government, where I can help provide access to basic needs—housing, transportation, meaningful employment. This internship has not changed my ‘why,’ but it has confirmed that this could be an interesting line of work for me in the future. 


Photos by Hensley Carrasco and provided by Carolyn Bruckmann.

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