Alumni Spotlight: November 2019 – Dr. Ranya Ahmed

Senior Researcher at Legal Services Corporation (LSC)

Alumna of the Department of Political Science

What is your area of study?

I earned my doctorate in Political Science, and I specialized in policy, international relations, and research methods. Previous to my doctoral work, I earned a Master’s degree in International Studies, and a Master of Public Administration (MPA).

What is your current career or position title?

I work at Legal Services Corporation in Washington, DC. LSC is funded by Congress, and in turn, LSC funds 132 legal aid offices across the country. There is at least one LSC grantee in every state and US territory. The legal aid offices serve low-income people facing civil legal issues like foreclosures or domestic violence. I work in the Office of Data Governance and Analysis as a senior researcher, where I conduct research on civil legal issues like eviction or expungement. Project management and data analysis are a big component of my work.

What is your favorite aspect of your current career?

That’s a tough one! There are a few things I really appreciate. First, I work with a team – and I absolutely love the accountability and the feedback loops. There is always someone to bounce ideas off of, and there is always someone to catch a mistake – for every “creator” on our team, there is an “editor”. I can honestly say I love my job – and that is in large part to the team dynamic.

Second, my job has given me some wonderful opportunities. There are incredible panels, conferences, and task forces to take part in. This year at the annual “LSC Day”, there were a series of panels on domestic violence and housing issues, followed by a reception at The Supreme Court of the United States where Justice Kagan was the keynote speaker. I got to meet her – she’s actually really funny!! That day, I met LSC funded lawyers doing phenomenal work across the country. Sounds cheesy, but they inspire me on a daily basis. When I’m bogged down, I think of them, and dust myself off – they are doing the truly incredible and demanding work. I see it as my duty to support them.

Finally, I love the flexibility and work-life balance my job provides. Due to the competition in D.C., to attract candidates many employers have excellent telecommute allowances and LSC is no exception. I personally work from home every Monday, so no Monday dread for me! I wake up, and work from my couch and get to spend the day with my dog at my side (which both of us enjoy)! I also work a compressed work schedule, so I get every other Friday off! Most importantly, I leave work at work – and get to do what I love outside of the office with my time, whether that’s throwing some weights around at my CrossFit gym, or traveling every chance I get.

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

Learn as many programs as you can – you can get a job just using those, if nothing else. If you’re a pro at statistical software programs like R, Stata, or Python, or visualization software like Tableau or ArcGIS, or survey programs like Qualtrics, you’re in excellent shape. These skills are HIGHLY valued, and I would encourage everyone to learn and teach these programs. This applies to undergraduate students too. I would also say, work on being the best writer you can be. Writing may appear to be a basic skill, but in the workplace one well-crafted email could win you a grant, or earn the respect of a colleague.