The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Emily Hajjar

Headshot of SPP alumna Emily Hajjar
Deputy Chief of Staff and Research Director
Massachusetts Legislative Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities

UMass Amherst Degrees: Bachelor in Political Science, 2014; Master of Public Policy, 2015

What I do: My job is to make sure that all the bills that are assigned to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities have public hearings. I work with the Chairs of the Committee to determine what happens to each bill. I research bills and determine what redrafting needs to be done to make sure there are no negative consequences to the legislation. I also work on legislation that state Representative Kay Khan files that are related to children and families.

How I ended up working there: In graduate school I gravitated toward classes and projects that combined policy analysis with political strategy. I soon realized that the legislature was the perfect place for me. In 2016, with the help of a fellow UMass Amherst grad, I applied to a job with State Rep. Kay Khan, the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities, as her scheduler. Since then I have moved over to the Committee and have held three positions in her office.

The best part of my job: I get to learn new things every day and I feel like through my work I am making a positive impact on the Commonwealth.

A recent exciting work experience: I have been working on legislation that my boss has filed that would ban child marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Through that work I help coordinate a coalition of more than twenty organizations and individuals. We recently had a table for the Coalition to End Child Marriage at the Boston Women’s March! Everyone we spoke to was so supportive and we got so many people to pledge their support for the bill. What was even more special was that I brought my mom with me and I got to enjoy that experience with her and my boss, Rep. Khan. It was so moving for me to see these two women I admire so much together fighting for this really important issue.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: The School of Public Policy gave me the most amazing academic curriculum that exposed me to real practical experiences. Those experiences helped me understand how thoughtful policy analysis could significantly impact different populations of people and brought light to some of the implementation challenges that come along with bold changes to public policy.

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: Public policy is a fascinating curriculum that combines so many social sciences. You can better understand the full picture of large social issues with a public policy lens. If you want to be a changemaker and make your community a better place, then you should absolutely consider a degree in public policy.

Future plans: I am extremely happy in my new position as research director, but further down the line I may consider running for public office. I try to not set limitations on my goals and understand that I need to look at every opportunity that is presented to me. That is how I got to where I am now, and I wouldn’t do it any other way.