Jessica Johnson at
the Great Wall of China
The Earl Nightingale Scholarship
missouri state university
Assistant debate coach of msu Policy debate Team;
Why did you pursue a master’s degree in
public administration? I wasn’t ready to
leave MSU, and it was a great opportunity for me to use the credits I had
already acquired while continuing to
work as a graduate assistant. It also will
provide me with a broad knowledge
base and the skills I need to better serve
How did you get into debate? Was there
someone who influenced you? My high
school debate coach had a lot of influence on my decision, but I also had a
strong desire to improve my ability to
communicate and read people.
How long have you been debating?
About nine years. I started when I was a
freshman in high school.
What makes a great debater? Someone
who knows his or her audience and can
develop strategies to persuade and push
people to question their pre-conceived
notions. You don’t need a lot of experience to be good at debate. It’s like anything else—if you work hard, you will
Is there a specific topic you find challenging? It’s always more challenging to debate something I have a personal attachment to or an issue I have
a strong opinion on. For example, it
might be easier for me to debate a dry
topic, such as tax cuts, rather than a
topic like gender equality.
Tell me about your experience interning
for the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security. It was very interesting, and I
learned that there are myriad policies
behind things. A lot of people don’t
realize that the majority of the decisions
are passed down from people in higher
positions, so the DHS isn’t the sole
Is there something you wish you had
more time for? Leisure travel.
What do you see yourself doing in five
years? I would like to be in a management role at a government agency or a
How would you make a difference in the
public sector? I think the public sector is
too overwhelmed by rules. We still need
to follow rules, but it’s also important
to make sure that each interaction with
the public is a positive one.