While writing policy briefs for his current employer, Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski, Shallum Atkinson, M.Ed. (AB ‘17) also spends time in the lecture halls of George Washington University’s law school. Shallum’s role as the Senior Policy Advisor in Congresswoman Budzinski’s office has provided him the opportunity to analyze current policy norms and curate solutions for some of the most challenging issues we hear about today.
Before working in his current role, Shallum began his D.C. career path during an internship as a UGA undergraduate with Congressman David Scott. “The experience developed my love for public service,” says Atkinson. While always knowing he wanted to attend graduate school and law school, after his experience with the Washington Semester Program, he saw how public service was unique and allowed him to be involved in what was happening in government. “I saw the opportunities and didn’t want to give those up.”
Originally from New York, Shallum moved to Georgia in middle school and attended UGA where he received a degree in political science. He was one of the first in his family to go away to college and was the first child to graduate from a 4-year university. During his time on campus, the one thing Shallum says that really connected him was his on-campus job. “My entire experience with UGA from the first semester until the day I left campus, I worked at Ramsey for the IM sports and rec department.” He said the experience allowed him the opportunity to connect with so many different people and interact in a way that was incredibly fun to be a part of. “I didn’t know how I was going to find my footing at such a large school. It was something that made UGA home for me right out the gate.”
He also felt a special connection to SPIA thanks to one of his favorite professors, Brittany Bramlett. “She was always phenomenal. She kept me grounded. More than just lecturing to us, she was always checking on me to make sure things were going good.” He loved going to her class to learn more about various policy topics and participate in discussions on philosophical questions related to the role of government. “She develops her students unbelievably well,” says Shallum, and they continue to keep in touch to this day with Professor Bramlett being a mentor and advisor throughout his career.
Returning to UGA as a SPIA Alumni board member, Shallum is looking forward to continuing his legacy of public service. “It’s a place where I can make the most impact,” he says and is looking forward to increasing funds for SPIA student activities and experiences. “I know what opportunities come with being a SPIA student, and it will be more personal when we can increase fund goals.” He speaks about the importance of having a broad understanding and perspective of who the board is serving. “One of my goals in everything- make sure the appropriate ideas and personalities are at the decision-making table.”
Some of his best advice for students, especially those debating whether they want to pursue an advanced degree, is to “take a gap year.” After graduating with his undergraduate degree, he worked before deciding to complete a master degree. Now, while working, he is back in law school again, because that aligns with his current career goals. He made both those decisions though after having spent time in the workforce gaining valuable experience. He explains that “going to work first helped me decide each time. Try out what you want to do. Try different things. Then decide if you want to go back.”