by Clara Bonzi Teixeira
The Center for Child and Family Policy welcomed Duke alum Rebecca Feinglos on January 20, 2023 to discuss her diverse set of experiences working in state and local government. Feinglos was part of the Center’s Career Series, which seeks to help students explore the wide range of career opportunities in child and family policy.
Feinglos served as the chief policy and strategy advisor for the Division of Child Development and Early Education in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. While at NCDHHS, she advised the Secretary's Office on early childhood health, child welfare, and early learning; coordinated the statewide COVID-19 response for pre-K through grade 12 schools; and led the strategy team in North Carolina's Division of Child Development and Early Education to utilize $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds for early childhood.
Prior to joining NCDHHS, Feinglos was the early childhood policy associate for the Chicago Mayor’s Office. Rebecca started her professional career in service as a bilingual kindergarten teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, through Teach for America. She is a graduate of Duke University and earned her master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.
During her talk, Feinglos encouraged students to pursue opportunities in local and state government offices as she recounted the immediate impact she made during her time at the Chicago mayor’s office. As part of a two-person team overseeing the creation and implementation of the preschool system, Feinglos saw the wide-ranging influence of her work throughout the city. She said she entered the realm of city government by first working as an intern in the mayor’s office. She recommended interning at the local or state government level because students can directly engage with the communities they serve and make a “tremendous amount of immediate impact.”
Working on a local level also has its challenges, Feinglos reported. She found herself setting aside her own physical and mental health in order to be a “perfect” public servant. Feinglos sought to find fulfillment in her career, working nonstop to achieve the professional goals she had set for herself at a young age.
As a young professional, Feinglos’ strong sense of ambition and her passion for making an impact placed work as a top priority in her life, to the extent that she was blind to her own personal well-being and marital issues. It was only when her life came to a halt after her father’s death that Feinglos was able to take a step back from her career. By focusing on her grief and taking a break from her hectic, overwhelming work life, Feinglos found healing. She is now a grieving educator and advocate (www.grieveleave.com), and emphasizes carving out time for her own well-being throughout her workday.
In reflecting on her own career journey, Feinglos offered suggestions for students seeking to get involved in government. There are a number of internship and fellowship opportunities across different levels of government that students can use to get a foot in the door. Networking is also a powerful tool: Feinglos recommends maximizing face-to-face interactions, not shying away from cold emailing, and setting up a polished LinkedIn account. Local and state governments in particular have an intense “need for people with talent and eagerness to do the work,” which creates opportunities for graduates looking to make an impact in their careers.
Clara Bonzi Teixeira is a junior majoring in Public Policy (B.A.) with minors in Cultural Anthropology and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. She is planning on attending law school and has an interest in international development, with a focus on child and family wellbeing.