Washington Center

Where Are They Now? Stephen Putansu

Steven Putansu: Riverside '05 UCDC Summer '04

1. Tell us what you do:

I am a senior design methodologist at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), where I advise teams on research approaches to assess federal agencies. GAO follows the federal dollar wherever it goes, which has been an opportunity for me to work in a variety of policy areas. 

I also teach questionnaire design as an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University. 

2. What made you want to return to Washington after graduation?

After my internship at the Department of Education in 2004, I returned to California with a new zeal for education and policy. From UC Riverside, I started a community volunteer organization working with children in schools and set my sights on becoming an education policy expert. 

I returned to DC in 2005 to study politics and government, ultimately earning my PhD  in Public Administration from American University in 2012.  

3. What did you learn during your term in Washington that helped you in your career?

I learned an immense amount about the variety of factors that impact education outcomes. My views evolved from a simple view of teaching and learning to one that considered other environmental factors, including  the influence of parents, crime rates, hunger, community involvement, and choices that ultimately impact student experiences. This shift led me to choose a degree in public administration, rather than education, so that I could better understand the interplay among these policy areas. 

When I first returned to DC in 2005, I worked as a CA at UCDC for the first year, without which I don't know where I would have lived or how I would have even found a place in DC. Connections I made at the center also helped me find housing and work after the first year, which helped ease me into the life of graduate studies. 

4. What’s your favorite UCDC memory?

I actually have two. On my first day in Washington in June 2004.I set out to figure out how to get to the Department of Education by Metro. Of course, now that I have been in DC for almost 10 years, the Metro is second nature, but I remember stopping at every map to check that I was heading in the right direction, trying my best to figure out how to switch from the Red to the Green line at Gallery Place, and finally reaching L'Enfant Plaza and finding myself completely uncertain about which of the half a dozen exits was the correct one to use. Eventually, I figured it out, emerged back into the sweltering, humid street-level, and ambled down to the building. I was greeted by several big red school houses which had been built at the entrance as an homage to the "No Child Left Behind Act" and remember my wonder at the size of the building. 

The other memory that will stay with me was from a 'weekend trip' to New York with two roommates from UCSB, three students from UCSD, and one from UCLA. I remember chatting about our different classes, interests, and future plans. We all crammed into a teensy-tiny hotel room with only one twin bed, and we spent the weekend exploring the city. While it wasn't terribly academic or professional, it was what I see as the heart of the UCDC program - an opportunity for students from all the schools to get to know each other, to learn from each other, and to develop long-term friendships. While these travel companions are now on the West Coast, we are all in touch and it has been amazing to see them succeed in legal, media and government careers. UCDC students truly seem to find success in any field they choose.