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Isabel Soto '13, Director of Labor Market Policy with American Action Forum

Isabel Soto '13, Director of Labor Market Policy with American Action Forum

What was the path you took to get to where you are now?

I’ve always had an interest in government and politics and went on to college to major in political science with a focus in political theory. Immediately after graduating, I was able to do a summer fellowship with the Hertog Foundation, where I took courses on political philosophy and economics. I had the opportunity to intern for the American Action Forum(AAF) for a short while before going on to my first post-college full-time job with the Aspen Institute. There I helped start and work on a new program called Weave: The Social Fabric Project with New York Times columnist, David Brooks. In that role, I was able to travel to different parts of the country and identify and meet local community builders in an effort to understand how community is made and understand different contexts. After my time with Weave, I returned to the American Action Forum as an analyst where I am now Director of Labor Market Policy. 

In my Director role, I do my own independent research and analysis and have been cited or quoted in major media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNBC’s Squawk Box, and The Hill in addition to appearing on C-SPAN.

What made you choose to attend Stuart?

The small class sizes paired with academic rigor in a supportive environment were what led me to choose Stuart.

How did being at Stuart help prepare and guide you for the path you chose after graduating?

Stuart truly fostered my intellectual curiosity and allowed me to explore.

What advice might you give to current students?

Enjoy the time you have and stay in touch with your friends; they'll be your strongest support system and best all-around people you'll ever meet.

How has attending an all-girls school impacted your career, day-to-day life, and your current self?

I work in a policy area that has tended to be fairly male-dominated and sometimes find myself in rooms, at events, or on panels that are entirely or almost entirely male. Going to Stuart during high school was crucial in developing my voice and feeling supported and strengthened by other women. As a result, I continue seeking out and enjoying spaces and circles of support for women working in DC.

What was your favorite Stuart memory?

The entirety of my SHAEP trip to Lima, Peru. I was able to get to know some of my fellow classmates even better and I credit that trip with helping strengthen those friendships that have lasted to this day. It's far more challenging now, but Cara, Meg, Summer, and I still make time and book travel to see each other. Next up is probably a group trip to California to see Summer.

What were your favorite classes offered at Stuart?

Ethics with Mrs. Landis was rather formative for me and led me to take an interest in philosophy. In part, this class is why I ended up taking so many political thought and theory courses in college. Also Why Be Catholic with Sister Butler. Due to schedule conflicts, I ended up taking the class one one-on-one with her and it was fabulous.

If you participated in any extracurricular activities, what were they and how do you see them having played a role in your life after graduating?

I don't want to list them all because frankly there were too many. I remember being perpetually busy and enjoying it because I was able to fill my time pursuing so many different interests. Mock trial may have been what I dedicated the most time to. The days I had Mock trial I remember being at Stuart from 8 am to 8 pm and somehow not being totally exhausted by the end of it. I remember doing acting club, film society, the musical, peer leadership, Model UN... the list goes on and on. Being able to do so many things taught me that I don't need to necessarily pursue things for any other reason than just liking them and wanting to. I continue to keep myself busy now with a variety of different interests - book clubs, recreational kickball,  dance classes, coaching, etc.

How did Stuart shape you both individually and academically?

Stuart’s supported constant intellectual curiosity and questioning played a big role in developing Isabel as an individual as well as academically. 

If you were a Stuart athlete, what sport did you play? How did your time as an athlete influence your life and path later in life?

I played lacrosse all four years of high school with Coach Missy Bruvik for my first two years and Coach Caitlin Grant joined my last two years. Two different coaching styles and 4 different teams taught me how to adapt to changing group needs ( I believe I played every single position at some point or another - even goalie) and learn from two different coaches in addition to practicing my own leadership skills as captain. 

I ran Cross Country for two seasons and soccer for one. I also played volleyball at some point, but one of my favorite memories is senior year when I played a single season of field hockey because I had made a deal with my friend who was captain at the time that we would play on each other's teams - I'd play field hockey and she'd pay lacrosse. It was madness. I was mediocre at best and Coach Bruvik had to keep reminding me to not hold the field hockey stick up in the air like a lacrosse stick when I was running. 

I've continued to stay active. Stuart helped me make physical activity an important part of my life routine, so much so that I've been doing recreational sports in DC (I played club lacrosse and intramural volleyball all through college). Happy to say my DC kickball team won the championship last season and we have the glassware to prove it. 


Alumnae spotlight interviews by Leila Washington '24, Advancement Intern