“My ICPES internship at the White House in 1988 shaped my future career…much to the chagrin of my mother. She tells everyone, I never came home after that,” jokes Karen Czarnecki (ICPES 88) who has lived and worked in D.C. ever since.
For the past six years, she has worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, serving in three different positions. In her current position as acting assistant secretary for disability employment policy, Czarnecki provides national leadership by developing and influencing disability-related employment policies .
She also serves as the director of the Office of the 21st Century Workforce, overseeing the creation and implementation of major events that showcase important workforce initiatives of the secretary of labor. In addition, Czarnecki serves as the deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs, managing outreach efforts to state and local elected officials.
Czarnecki makes a special effort to stay involved with TFAS despite such a hectic work schedule. She is a member of the Alumni Council and has sponsored or recruited a student for the programs almost every year since 1989. She is also active on the Board of Visitors for ICPES and has taught a section of the public policy seminar for the past two summers.
“Prior to attending ICPES, I was not sure how I wanted to utilize my politics degree,” said Czarnecki. “My ICPES internship really shaped my future career.”
In fact, her career in public policy was first conceived during her internship that summer. As an ICPES student in 1988, Czarnecki had the unique experience of interning in the Reagan White House. It was there that she learned about what she calls a “Washington work ethic” that she carries with her still today. She cites her internship co-workers as people who shaped her opinions on how Washington is supposed to operate. At the end of her internship, she was offered and accepted a position as staff assistant.
Czarnecki says that her experience as a White House intern and staff assistant opened many doors for her. She later served as special assistant for domestic policy for Vice President Dan Quayle. For those two and a half years, she handled everything from writing trip briefings on various issues to attending inter-agency meetings on domestic issues.
Czarnecki maintains that her time at TFAS has helped her reach her current position at the U.S. Department of Labor.
“ICPES convinced me that a career in public policy and politics could be rewarding, challenging, demanding and interesting all at the same time,” she said. “The caliber and intellect of those who attend the programs is exceptional.”
Since her time at the White House, she has worked at think tanks – The Heritage Foundation for eight years and the American Legislative Exchange Council for two – where she handled executive branch liaison, state relations, lectures and seminars. She also worked with state legislators to pass model legislation.
Czarnecki holds both undergraduate and law degrees from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She resides in Arlington, Virginia. with her three daughters.