Political Science Alumna Builds Trust through UCF Degree

Courtney Barnard, ’14, says her master’s degree in political science from UCF builds connections and trust in life after graduation. The alumna was actively involved at UCF and continues to make a positive impact in the Orlando community.


As Director of Government Affairs for the Florida Apartment Association, Barnard is the head policy advisor for state-level issues. She regularly advocates at the state and federal level through her lobbying efforts regarding multifamily industry issues.


A lot of her lobbying work has focused on affordable housing funding in the state of Florida. Barnard explained that affordable housing helps low and middle-income families, veterans, and the elderly. This year, her association was part of a coalition that helped secure over $175M for affordable housing funds.


“I am so inspired to be a small part of something that can have the potential to help thousands of people,” Barnard said.


Barnard looks back at her UCF experience with gratitude and pride. She explained she felt her professors were truly invested in her future and cared about her education.


She shared more on her time at UCF and life after graduation.


Why did you choose to attend UCF?

UCF appealed to me for a variety of reasons. UCF’s academic reputation is gaining speed rapidly, its size provides for a massive alumni network, and UCF was markedly different from my undergraduate experience at Scripps College in California. UCF provides the “Division I, big research university” feel without any of the drawbacks, such as feeling like a number instead of a student.


How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?

I worked fulltime as a student at UCF and actually found my first public policy job at Florida Realtors through a Political Science Department job listing email. I have since used my degree as a networking tool to connect with PAC donors and business partners in my current role as Director of Government Affairs with the Florida Apartment Association. When I tell people I have a master’s degree from UCF, they’re impressed. Donors know I am invested in my local community. It’s a way to build connections and trust.


Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?

I received a scholarship and participated in a ‘Partnering in Compliance’ workshop for international trade compliance at UCF in 2012. I also participated in Delta Epsilon Iota honor society, and Golden Key honors society. UCF has many amazing speakers visit campus. I was a regular at these events.


What is your best UCF memory?

In 2011 the UCF Global Perspectives office hosted New York Times writer Anthony Shadid. His commentary and insights about the war in Syria were spot on. His work shaped a lot of my research interests and I was very upset when he died shortly after speaking at UCF. UCF is able to invite some truly inspiring and impactful speakers and I have great memories of attending these events.


What is your most memorable experience on the job?

I spearheaded a PAC auction in 2014 that raised over $90,000 in one night. I worked for months gathering auction item donations, setting up an online bidding site, and photographing and cataloguing each item. It was all worth it when the night was finished and I raised more PAC funds at one event than we had ever done!


What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?

Life after graduation can be tough, don’t expect it to be easy. I worked three jobs at one time after I earned my undergraduate degree in 2008. I had a retail job, a catering job, and an unpaid internship. I was broke and had $60,000 in student loans. It took a few years of hard work, and getting my degree from UCF, before the pieces starting coming together. I know the pieces are coming together now.


Barnard answered some fun questions in our “get-to-know-you” portion of the spotlight.


Do you have any special/hidden talents?

I am fluent in Spanish and took 7 years of classes.


What do you do for fun?

I am very outdoorsy and I blog about my adventures in Orlando; my blog is called Chic Orlando. It shows off what I love, lots of kayaking, going out to eat, and lakeside reading photos.


If you could be any fictional character, who would you be (and why)?

Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series really appeals to me. She is a strong, intelligent woman with magical powers; I don’t think it’s a combination that can be beat.


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