Olivia Ahern ’16

Major: M.S. Oceanography

Hometown: Newport, R.I.

Olivia Ahern is working toward a career as a legislative aide, translating scientific research into policies to protect the oceans and environment. Her preparation couldn’t be better. She had already worked on five political campaigns before she earned her bachelor’s degree, and soon she’ll be adding a master’s degree from URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography to her resume.

Olivia first got involved in political campaigns when her mother worked for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, back when he was a candidate for Rhode Island attorney general and governor. She also had roles in the Obama/Biden presidential campaign in 2008, Whitehouse’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2012, and Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2013.

“Senator Whitehouse’s last campaign was a full-time job working seven days a week and up to 100 hours a week,” Olivia said. “I was in charge of his campaign schedule and his day-to-day activities, and I helped coordinate his campaign commercials, one of which involved over 100 volunteers at a community dinner in Bristol.”

At GSO, her research focuses on marine phytoplankton, which produces about 20 to 25 percent of the world’s oxygen, and how that production may change due to the warming planet. As she works toward graduation, she envisions herself working for a legislator in Washington or as a policy aide at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or other government agency. “My ultimate goal is to write legislation,” she said. “I want to translate hard science into effective, practical policy.”

Next:

Technology is your friend, especially when it comes to providing better government services. That’s the word from Thom Guertin, the state’s first Chief Digital Officer, a 45-year-old computer whiz who’s been heralding the benefits of technology for decades. His goal is to use technology to help us easily access government information and services. Put another way: He wants to make government more transparent, responsive, and efficient.