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Kalina “Lina” Francis, C’13

Communications Director, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C.

Communications Major

Ever since my high school internship with then Senator Barack Obama in 2005, politics and civic engagement has been my passion. The disconnect between marginalized communities and the American government not only lies in discriminatory policies and systemic injustices, but it also lies in a lack of information sharing. That’s why I’ve centered my life’s work around political communications, not only to continue to be an active participant in our democracy, but to make sure that my people—people who are all too often left out and left behind of critical policy conversations—are getting the information they need to make sure their governments are working on their behalf.

I came to Penn with the intention of majoring in PPE, but after taking a communications course at Annenberg, I realized that communication is the foundation of everything, and a loss in communication is the cause of nearly all conflict.

I came to Penn with the intention of majoring in PPE, but after taking a communications course at Annenberg, I realized that communication is the foundation of everything, and a loss in communication is the cause of nearly all conflict. After that class, I almost immediately declared a communications major, and decided to write a thesis on presidential speeches, coding conservative vocabulary and liberal vocabulary to demonstrate the deliberate (and consistent) wording used to allude to certain political ideologies.

After college, I knew DC is where I needed to be. What I quickly learned when I got here is that it is nearly impossible to get involved in federal politics without internship experience, and since my internship with Senator Obama was many many years ago, I took up a paid internship press internship with the Committee on Education in the Workforce as a 24-year-old mid-level professional. During my time with the Committee, I worked really hard and networked as much as I could, and eventually, I was appointed to the Office of Public Affairs at the Treasury Department under the Obama Administration. As someone whose political career began with Obama as a Senator and reached its peak with Obama as President, this was a particularly special moment in my career.

There is definitely not one recipe to succeeding in a communications career as there are plenty of opportunities to build subject matter expertise, depending on what your interests are.  There is also not only one path of activism. In my current role, I have to be fluent in everything from climate change, to gun reform, to reproductive justice, but finance will always be my specialty. Devoting my life to communicating a complicated topic like finance in a complicated system like government allows me to pursue activism everyday, making sure that those most disenfranchised feel empowered and excited to participate  in systems that weren’t built for their benefit. — March 2, 2019 • Photo by Brooke Sietinsons

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