When Shane Simenstad ’17, political science, enrolled at UW–Madison, he thought he would study to become a doctor like his father. But after his first year, he realized he lacked passion for the profession.
Still, he found his own way to follow in his father’s footsteps.
His father told him the important thing is that his work should make people’s lives better. And that is exactly what Shane is doing.
As a public policy associate for Safe Kids Worldwide, Shane works to build capacity for 417 coalitions across 50 states to advocate for child safety. Shane also works with federal agencies with the grassroots organization, which has more than 30 international partners. In short, his work is impacting children across the nation and world, allowing them to live safer, better lives.
“The best thing about working in public policy is that you get to have an impact on so many people’s lives in a positive way,” Simenstad said.
Shane initially connected to Safe Kids Worldwide through the Wisconsin in Washington D.C. Internship Program. After interning for the nonprofit through the program, Shane was hired on for contract work, then full-time as a public policy assistant, before being promoted to his current position.
“The Wisconsin in Washington Program was a great way to get experience while still in a college setting,” Shane said. “D.C. is really reputed for the intensity of its career orientation. I had visited D.C. before and loved the city. And as a politically passionate person, D.C. is a natural fit.”
Shane noted that the program provided knowledge and expertise in several ways that positioned him to succeed. Engaging a cohort of students from a variety of majors, such as economics, international studies, and journalism, allowed him to approach coursework and issues he encountered during his internship from new perspectives.
Courses such as public policy, international public policy, and international professional development allowed Shane to interact with faculty and staff knowledgeable about living and working in a high-energy, professional environment. He also got to interact with experienced professionals such as Ambassador Don Planty, who regularly teaches courses in the program.
“International public policy with Don Planty was one of the best course I’ve ever taken,” Shane said. “He brought in so many amazing guest lecturers, who brought decades of high-level experience. It is something you can’t get that anywhere else. I can’t speak highly enough about Don Planty’s class.”
While Shane does not handle global work on a daily basis in his role at Safe Kids, he continues to find the international dimension useful in shaping his thinking on various issues. The additional context has also made him more comfortable during meetings with colleagues at federal agencies.
Though Shane admits the D.C. environment can be challenging at times, but he still enjoys the atmosphere and his commitment to make people’s lives better has only grown greater, as he draws from the passion and energy from others around him.
“Everyone has a different vision about what helping people looks like and how to make the world a better place,” Shane said. “Those visions compete with each other and might not be the same as one another. But the passion is still here amongst everyone trying to make positive change, the vision is just different as to how.”