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Using Economics on Capitol Hill

A few years ago, Nicole Hager’s (BA ’15) future seemed to be headed to the music stage as a flute performance major attending a big state university. Fast forward to today, Hager is the deputy press secretary for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, juggling law school at George Washington University and a proud TU alumna. With her high heels echoing in the halls of Capitol hill, Hager is in the center of the political action, and her political science and especially her economics major is put to use daily.

Unsure about a smaller university, Hager decided to go ahead and check out the TU campus. “I auditioned for a music scholarship, and I fell in love with TU,” Hager said. “I decided that TU was a better fit for me.” Using college as a time to explore different philosophies, academic fields and new passions, Hager eventually replaced her flute with a well-used writing utensil. “I learned to think critically and analytically from my economics major,” she said. “Whether I am thinking about the politics of getting a bill passed or deciding the best policies, economics gave me the tools and forced me to think in ways I had not otherwise considered.”

Hager is part of a three-person press team, which for a committee as integral as finance leaves a lot to cover. The Senate Finance Committee has the largest influence in the Senate. “It has jurisdiction over the entire tax code, Medicare, Medicaid and oversees trade,” Hager explained. From media advisories to preparing for Senate hearings, Hager is on her toes ensuring the press has the information it needs.

While at TU, Hager was a reporter and editor for the student-run newspaper The Collegian. Even though she did not major in media studies, Hager was able to gain experience in writing and investigative work, which equipped her for an entry-level press job. “I already knew the basics about how to write in that style and how the press generally works, which was helpful for me,” she said.

Recently, the committee has been focused on passing a tax reform bill. “That is something that Chairman Orrin Hatch has been really committed to and working on for a long time,” Hager said. “It’s been exciting for us, and now, we are working on getting it across the finish line.”

Before jumping into politics, Hager spent several college summers in Washington, D.C. internships, which she recommends for TU students interested in working in the nation’s capital. Seeing the legislative process firsthand and learning to navigate D.C. set Hager up for success. There is a sizable TU alumni presence in the D.C. area, which is helpful for networking, but the real preparation begins in the classroom. “Don’t be afraid to take hard classes that you think are going to be really challenging because those are the classes that reward you the most.”

Hager is the quintessential product of an open and adventurous mindset. The first choice of study is often not the final degree. “You tell people that you go to TU, and that opens a lot of doors in terms of civic engagement,” she said. But, it is the student’s job to walk through the door.