Alumni Spotlight: Malik Washington

February 2, 2024

PLS has thousands of alumni, working across Michigan, the US, and the world, in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to promote change. We will highlight the contributions of some of these PLS Spartan alumni, in our spring newsletter and on our website.

Malik Washington currently serves as City Council Liaison for the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office. Prior to his current role, he worked for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to support a variety of tasks related to statewide transit policy, travel trend analysis, and project development.

Malik WashingtonMalik earned a Master of Public Policy degree from MSU in 2020. He also has a bachelor’s degree in public policy at MSU.

“Malik approaches public policy from a true commitment to service. He has a gift for listening and being able to synthesize input and evidence from a wide range of sources into a plan or policy that reflects community and stakeholder needs. He connects people to government and government to people, which is a critical piece of policymaking that’s often overlooked,” said MPP Program Director Erika Rosebrook.

What aspects of your Political Science and MPP education prepared you best for your work in the mayor's office?

MW: "The Political Science and MPP program placed a strong emphasis on critical thinking, networking, and effective communication. The required internships, capstone projects, and networking opportunities deepened my political understanding and honed my communication and relationship-building skills, crucial for my role in the mayor's office."

What motivated you for a career in public service?

MW: "Coming from a family of educators and ministers, the values of empowering and uplifting others were instilled in me early on. My first exposure to public service was through volunteering with my family's church, which opened my eyes to the needs of my community and sparked my interest in finding solutions. Growing up in Detroit, I've seen the city make significant progress, yet I realize there's still much to be accomplished. For me, it's important to give back to the city that raised me and to be a voice in the room, especially now, as Detroit continues to evolve and develop."

What are your fondest memories of your time as an MSU political science student?

MW:  "My fondest memories stem from my time in InnovateGov. InnovateGov is an internship program organized by the Political Science department that places students in various Detroit-based organizations to gain public service experience. Through the program, we were able to engage with local leaders and executives, take part in community service initiatives, and work on some of Detroit's most pressing issues. I gained lifelong friendships and relationships through InnovateGov and will forever be grateful for my experience in the program."

What experiences would you say are important for current students to take advantage of if they want a job in government?

MW: "I would encourage students to take their internships and networking seriously. It’s not who you know, but who knows you that matters. Networking and internships aren’t just about building your resume and making contacts; it's about building relationships that can provide guidance and open doors throughout your career."

What is something that you know now that you wish you knew back in your MSU days?

MW: "Reflecting back, it's not so much about what I wish I knew, but more about what I wish I had embraced – the grace to grow. Many of us are very passionate and ambitious, and that can sometimes result in us being our own harshest critic. I want students to know that it's perfectly normal not to have your entire career path figured out before graduation. Life is a journey of continuous discovery, and it's completely fine to adjust your path as you gather new insights and experiences. Every effort you put in contributes to your growth. Hard work will always yield a return."

What do you think are the biggest challenges today for someone who wants to work in your field? And what are the biggest benefits?

MW: "The ever-changing political and social landscape requires a high level of adaptability and open-mindedness. People’s needs constantly change,  which can make the work very challenging. Yet, being able to make a meaningful impact that can last for generations makes the challenges that come with it truly worthwhile."