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Rocky Mountain Credit Union

Meet the Academy: Brenna Isman

Brenna Isman, Director of Academy Studies

What is your role and primary responsibilities at the Academy?

As the Director of Academy Studies, I oversee the funded study engagements. These include congressionally directed assessments, projects initiated by federal, state, and local agencies as well as other initiatives with associations and nonprofit organizations. I work closely with Tony Spearman-Leach and Gillian Townsend in Business Development to develop scopes of work and proposals and to get projects under contract. Then I transition to offering support and guidance to the Study Teams, working to ensure they have the resources needed to provide meaningful results to the clients. I work closely with the teams to ensure that we integrate the experiences of other project work to produce the most effective and impactful final reports.

What do you like best about working at the Academy?

In my role, I get to work with just about everyone in the organization as well as the clients and congressional committees. I get to learn about all the agencies and organizations we are helping and expand my understanding of public administration every day. I work with an incredibly talented group of Funded Studies staff and learn from them as they explore the challenges and opportunities of our client agencies and organizations. I love to be able to apply a potential solution or framework to a study challenge, drawing on past experiences and previous studies.

Which of the 12 Grand Challenges in Public Administration resonates the most with you?

There are connections to make between the Grand Challenges and the funded study work and I think one of the most relevant examples is to Modernize and Reinvigorate Public Service. We have seen very real examples of opportunities to modernize public service – most notably, our United States Office of Personnel Management Independent Assessment and study with DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to address The Federal Government's Role in Building a Cybersecurity Workforce for the Future that both look at ways to reform civil service as well as to introduce more innovative mechanisms to hire and retain talent in the federal government. We have also been working to support federal and local government entities to strengthen their cultural competence and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility through our studies for the US Coast Guard Academy and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. These illustrate promising practices to respond to the Grand Challenge to Foster Social Equity and have created meaningful dialogues to bring the thought leadership of the Study Teams and Fellows together and work to effect change.

Why is public service important to you?

My father was a police officer and my mother was a teacher. I was raised with the assumption that the best way to attain a rewarding career was to serve the public in some capacity. I grew up thinking more about the impact that local government had, having worked for the town government and at the local police station. I viewed things through the lens of decision making at the local level. I then moved to Washington and began to better understand the role that the federal government plays. Through consulting and now at the Academy, I have found a rewarding career providing public administrators with tools to better meet mission goals and ultimately serve the American public to drive towards positive outcomes.

What is your favorite hobby or interest outside of the office?

I like to read (whether with the Academy book club or on my own) and I like to go to Orangetheory fitness classes because I am not disciplined enough on my own when I work out! I have two dogs that keep us busy now that both of our kids are in college. If we’re not going to their swim meets, we are usually hanging with the dogs and friends…at the beach whenever we can get there!

What is your favorite travel destination, either past or future?

In 2016, my family was able to take a trip to Sri Lanka with some friends. I had no idea that Sri Lanka had so much diversity in activities. We rode a tuk tuk through a tea plantation, visited a Buddhist temple, swam in the Laccadive Sea, and went white water rafting on the Kelani River. These were all things that I really hadn’t considered doing until the opportunity arose and we really enjoyed the experience so much. Unfortunately, the current economic and political uncertainty will prevent a return trip any time soon. More recently, my family and I were able to visit Spain this spring and I discovered a new favorite place in San Sebastian…it is prompting me to practice my Spanish in hopes that I can return at some point!

									 B Isman
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