Ed. Leadership student is perfect fit for Fla. Legislature as intern, now staffer

Michael Hudson-Vassell always liked puzzles. Last summer, the UF College of Education doctoral candidate was awarded the chance to work with the Florida Legislature to solve puzzles of public policy. Hudson-Vassell […]

Michael Hudson-Vassell always liked puzzles.

Mikes-1Last summer, the UF College of Education doctoral candidate was awarded the chance to work with the Florida Legislature to solve puzzles of public policy.

Hudson-Vassell was the only summer intern selected for the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, the evaluation arm of the Florida Legislature.

They apparently liked his work: He since has been hired as a legislative policy analyst in the office.

“Getting the position was a great feeling,” he said. “I knew the opportunity to get out into the real world and put into practice the things I learned in the classroom would be useful.”

Accepting a full-time job in Tallahassee has not hindered Hudson-Vassell’s doctorate process. The alumni fellow will earn his Ph.D. at UF in educational leadership, with a concentration in research and evaluation methodology, upon the completion of his dissertation.

Fortunately, he is not required to make the long trip to-and-from campus because he has completed all necessary coursework.

Hudson-Vassell said legislative interns gain experience working side by side with office staff members.

Throughout the summer, he performed document citing and analyzed educational programs and policies from all different angles, including legislative, procedural and financial.

Hudson-Vassell said he never realized the complexity behind the legislature system and the process of forming public policy.

“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes by folks who you never hear about, which makes it even more interesting that I’m one of those people,“ he said. Thanks to extensive statistical training at UF, he has no trouble understanding and speaking intelligently about statistical analysis.

“It’s a good feeling to know that essential parts of your job aren’t going over your head,” he said.

He attributes his success to his mentor, Linda Behar-Horenstein, a UF Distinguished Teaching Scholar, COE professor of educational administration and policy and an affiliate professor with the College of Dentistry.

“She’s been instrumental throughout this process, not only in helping me learn the research techniques but also in encouraging me to move forward,” he said.

In turn, he left a lasting impression on Behar-Horenstein as her research assistant. The two became close after collaborating on several projects and still work together, coordinating over the phone and computer.

“Michael is incredibly diligent, and you can count on him to handle detailed work well. Not only will he get it done, but he will get it done perfectly,” she said.

Hudson-Vassell received his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2009 and his masters in educational leadership in 2011, both from UF.

At age 27, he is unsure of exactly where his career will take him; however, he is interested in developing public, specifically educational, policy. He said his experience with the Florida Legislature is already helping him to fulfill that goal.

“Right now the job is the perfect fit,” he said. “I am hoping the research I do there will help our legislative system work as well it possibly can.”

   SOURCE: Michael Hudson-Vassell, Legislative Policy Analyst; mike1987@ufl.edu
   WRITER: Candice Wynter, communications intern, UF College of Education; cwynter@ufl.edu
   MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137