• Courtney Berger Levinson
  • Courtney Berger Levinson
  • School of Arts and Sciences '11
  • Major(s): Political Science and History

Activities: Rutgers Women's Rugby, Eagleton Institute of Politics

What attracted you to Rutgers University and the Honors/Scholars Program?
When I began my college search, I thought that Rutgers was going to be my "safety school" - I was convinced that I wanted to leave New Jersey. However, as I visited more schools and started receiving offers of admission, it became really clear that Rutgers was by far the best choice for me. I wanted the experience of going to big events like football games, to take advantage of the opportunities that only an R1 can offer, and to avoid crippling student debt. The Honors Program helped make such an enormous institution seem much smaller and gave me additional support and structure, especially in my first year; I feel like the Honors Program gave many of the benefits of being at a smaller, liberal arts school. Being in the honors recitation sections for large classes like Nature of Politics made what could have been an overwhelmingly large class seem more intimate, and taking advantage of the honors seminars helped me realize early on how much I loved small, discussion-based classes and encouraged me to embrace upper-level classwork earlier in my academic career. By my senior year, I was well-prepared to write my honors thesis and ended up really enjoying the experience of completing my capstone.

Why did you choose your major and minor?
I have always been interested in politics and public policy - declaring my Political Science major was a no-brainer. I call my History major my accidental major - with so many of my "fun classes" being in the history department, I realized it would be really easy to complete a second major.

Tell us a little bit about what you're doing now. What was your first job after Rutgers? Where you do you live? What was your first job after Rutgers? Where you do you live?
After I graduated from Rutgers, I joined Teach For America. I taught middle school in Houston, TX for six years before earning my Master's degree at Harvard. Now, I live in Seattle, WA and work as a research scientist for the University of Washington in their Office of Educational Assessment. I miss New Jersey a lot, but I'm proud to be working at another prestigious public university.

What has been your greatest professional and/or personal accomplishment since you graduated from Rutgers?
My greatest personal accomplishment has been becoming a parent! My 15 month-old son is the happiest kid and has been a source of sunshine throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In my professional life, I am most proud of the work I've done to promote educational equity and to help support diversity, equity, and inclusion for both students and staff.

Was there a class and/or experience at Rutgers that led you to pursuing your current career?
My experience as an Eagleton Undergraduate Associate had an incredible impact on my professional trajectory. The summer before my senior year I had the opportunity to serve as the sole intern for the 2010 Higher Education Task Force, headed by (former) Governor Tom Kean. Working in the Statehouse was an incredible experience, and the policy research I performed led me to write my honors thesis on higher ed policy in New Jersey. This experience also connected me with my first professional mentor, Dr. Michael Klein, who continues to be a supportive figure to me (and is now a faculty member in Rutgers' Higher Education program!)

What three words describe your experience at Rutgers and the Honors/Scholars Program? 
Community. Challenging. Fulfilling.

How has your Rutgers and Honors education benefited you in your post-Rutgers life?
First and foremost, I credit the way that my SASHP and Eagleton experiences came together for inspiring me to choose my career path. I also think that learning to navigate a large institution like Rutgers helped prepare me for success as an adult in the "real world" -- the "RU screw" is certainly real, but it's just a name for the frustrating reality of being part of a large, bureaucratic system. I credit the Honors Program with helping me learn this especially since I had so much support in my freshman year. The advising I received was so much better than friends who weren't in the Honors Program, but it wasn't hand holding; I remember sitting with Dean Nazario and learning how to solve problems by talking through things with him rather than him just telling me what to do. Last, even though I'm on the opposite coast now, the relationships I built at Rutgers (and through the Honors Program specifically) have been invaluable to me; I cherish my memories of Brett Hall, and have loved catching up with classmates when we find ourselves in the same place or cross paths professionally.

What advice do you have for our current SAS Honors Program students?
Be open-minded! I came into my Rutgers/SASHP experience expecting to study political science and then pursue a career in law or politics. While my policy focus hasn't taken me too far from that path, the courses that stick out most in my memory are the "weird" or off-brand courses that I took outside of my major, just because they looked interesting (including multiple honors seminars!) I also would advise current students to embrace challenges. One of my biggest regrets is waiting until graduate school to take my first statistics class; I have always loved the social sciences and I think I would have had an even better undergraduate experience if I didn't shy away from quantitative research.

Are you a Rutgers Honors alum? Be featured in an upcoming Honors Alumni Spotlight by completing our online submission form.


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