Jenny Zhang ’15, State of New Jersey

Jenny-ZhangI was lucky enough to spend the two days of my Princeternship with Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff  ’85, the New Jersey State Treasurer. Before arriving at the NJ State House, I was not sure what to expect, as I have never had any experience with government work at the State level. From what I had been told I would be exposed to many aspects of State Government work, sitting in on various division meetings and budget preparation meetings in anticipation of the Governor’s Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2014.

On my first day I met the Treasurer’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer D’Autrechy, who showed me around the Office of the Treasurer and debriefed me before each of the meetings we would have.

Governor's podium

Governor’s podium with Treasurer

We launched straight into the Monthly Report Meeting with the division of Risk Management and Administration, one of the 11 divisions that fall under the Treasury department. The Treasurer started holding these monthly meetings with each of the divisions in order to ensure effective communication, and to make the Treasury reporting system more robust. In this meeting we discussed a plethora of issues ranging from the specifics of pension case studies to broader issues concerning state motor vehicle maintenance.

After lunch with the Treasurer, Jennifer and I went over the reports and figures for the ‘Fishbowl’ meeting with the department of Law and Public Safety that afternoon. Fishbowl meetings are meetings between a certain government department, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Treasury, to discuss proposals for the budget. There were about 20 people present in total. Each party was able to bring up their own proposed changes to the budget, and justify why they believed they would need more/fewer funds than the other party was proposing, in hope of reaching some agreement. This was followed by a similar Fishbowl with the Juvenile Justice Commission.

State Assembly room

State Assembly room

The second day involved Monthly Report Meetings with four other Treasury Divisions. I was lucky to be able to sit in on the meeting with the Office of Economic Review and Analysis, with the Chief Economist for the Treasury, and hear how New Jersey had been doing in terms of Economic Activity over the past year compared to neighboring states. This meeting was especially interesting for me, being a potential Economics major, as it showed how government revenue, and the state of the economy can be predicted using statistical modeling and analysis, and how vital this is for future decisions.

In our down time Jennifer went over with me the Key Performance Indicators within each department which would inform changes to next years budget. I found it really interesting and unexpected that all the budget decisions which seem like arbitrary numbers on paper, are actually backed by real, measurable achievements. For example, an increase in the number of lunches served in food programs for schoolchildren or decrease in average time it takes to respond to a consumer banking complaint would justify further spending in this area the next year.

Overall, it was such a comprehensive experience that allowed me to experience a lot in a short amount of time. The Princeternship allowed me to observe how different groups co-operate within a larger management structure, which is vital in any public or private establishment. Thanks so much to the Treasurer, Mr. Sidamon-Eristoff, for allowing me to sit in on all these confidential meetings, and for putting aside the time to impart valuable career advice, and knowledge of how to manage relationships effectively. Also thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to debrief me and lead me through all the meetings. It was definitely an experience that makes me want to further explore the economic side of government policy in my studies and career.