Noodle Expert Kathryn Hazelett discusses the adventurous people of Scotland and how she fell in love with tax law.
Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?
Teachers occupy a special place in my heart. My fourth grade teacher, my eighth grade history teacher, my first economics professor ... they all make me think of how a good teacher can foster a love of learning, a passion for a subject, and a never-waning interest in experiencing the world.
Today, clear communication requires a great grasp of languages, so I would ask JK Rowling to teach me children's fiction writing and I would ask Bill Gates who he would have teach him computer coding and have that person teach me a computer's language. Wouldn't that be a fabulous combination?
What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?
Most of us hear (at one time or another) that we "should do what makes us happy." It's an overused saying, I think, but it has such a resonance with me. I have always tried to choose a career or a hobby or a subject to study with an eye on whether I really liked it or found it to be engaging. Recognizing that happiness is ephemeral and often a state of mind that we choose, I am still glad that I worked toward degrees and career options that felt true to me and that created the best possible chance of making me happy.
Where would you send a student who hasn’t traveled before?
Travel can be a trip to the grocery store if you take a different route and keep your mind (and eyes and ears) open to new experiences, but to answer the question more directly, I say "Go to Scotland!" I was lucky to have spent my final year of law school studying at the University of Edinburgh; Scotland is a truly lovely country with an amazing heritage, an ability to surprise, and generous and kind-hearted people who will send you on wild adventures — but be sure that you know where you'll find yourself at the end of the day. And, if you have a political interest, the recent independence vote and the influence of the Scottish National Party on the latest election in the United Kingdom may also tickle your fancy.
When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?
I took a computer programming class my first year of college and was completely clueless. It was the very first time that I had found myself in a position where I didn't feel comfortable with the material. I tried tutors and extra study sessions and managed to get through the class, but the experience showed me that perhaps I should rethink being an engineer. I'm so glad that I did.
Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?
I absolutely love policy work. I headed to law school with an eye on public interest or non-profit work and then fell in love with tax law, which turned me into a tax policy person, which morphed into a dream job as a Governor's Policy Director. I can safely say that that wasn't where I thought that I would end up.
What's wonderful about working in a small state like Arkansas is that you can have an immediate (and lasting) impact on how the state runs, on how policies are created, and on how they can work better for the people they influence. To be listened to was gratifying and unexpected. Policy-making is a give and take and, while there are some great moments (an increase in funding for pre-K), there are also tough defeats (no paid maternity leave). What's true, regardless of the wins/losses, is that policy changes happen slowly and require dedication, persistence, and an flexibility with your expectations.