COLA Connections Newsletter: Fall 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Christine Longo-- Economics background an asset for DHS Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Name/Current Occupation:
My name is Christine Longo and I’m Special Assistant to the Deputy Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security.

What are your chief responsibilities as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Director?
It’s kind of one of those jobs where you have multiple hats and not sure which one I’m going to wear each day. We’re a small office that supports the director of the agency, so there’s just five of us. It’s a really tightly run operation.

My job is to make sure everyone has whatever they need for their days to run smoothly. There’s not a “typical day” except that it’s never going to be like the day before, which I like.

How did your studies at RIT help prepare you for your current job?
I think economics trains you to think a different way than other majors do. You perceive things differently and you start to look at things by their utility and their cost-benefit. You view things through the risk factors involved, and there’s so much of that across the federal government.

Every day we ask ourselves, “Ok, what are our priorities, how much of a risk is it, how much money are we spending,” etc. Having a background in economics makes me think slightly differently than someone with a straight policy background, or a background that isn’t based in cost-benefit or math, which is huge in the government.

It’s a useful degree to have in the long-term that builds good career skills.

What are some of your favorite things about your job?
I learn something new just about every single day. I’m in a fast-paced office that challenges me and lets be sit in on every meeting for which I have clearence. I think the political side of things is very interesting as well. I’m in law school right now too, so I feel like that’s preparing me for my post-grad work in a lot of different ways.

What are your plans after law school?
We have hundreds of attorneys out in the field and my hope is to get attorney experience, get some trial experience for a few years in immigration court, and then coming back to headquarters to work on the more macro-management aspect of things. I’m most interested in the human-rights law section, which oversees all cases involving human smuggling, human trafficking and war criminals.

Do you have any advice for RIT students looking to get into your field?
I would highly recommend completing multiple co-ops or internships if you have time to do it. Roll up your sleeves and do your own research on where you want to co-op and internship while you’re at school. Every internship I had helped shape my career path. If you want to go into the public sector, look into every single agency because they all post their internships differently. It’s going to take a lot of up-front work.

Also, plan for unpaid internships. If you want to go into the public sector, there are very few internships that are paid, especially your first one. Just know that it’s an investment. I don’t regret any of them at all and they helped to get me where I am today.