A successful government affairs executive at Merck & Co., Marlene Sanders (link to bio) recently returned from three months in South Africa, where she participated in a Merck Fellowship for Global Health Partners program. An MTSU Political Science alumna, Marlene served as part of a team working with Project Hope - South Africa, helping health clinic staffs devise strategies for developing larger donor bases, always a challenge for Non-Governmental Organizations, and teaching them how to get information out to the public more effectively about available health care options and services.
Marlene gives much of the credit for the success she has enjoyed in her career to the internship she served, and the contacts she made during that internship, while working on her degree at MTSU. During the spring semester of her senior year she was able to serve as an intern in the Tennessee State Legislature. According to Marlene, “it was an invaluable experience,” and she credits that internship as leading directly to her first post-graduation job working as an executive assistant for Smith Johnson & Carr. While working in that first job she went back to school and completed a Master’s in Public Administration, which soon led to a position at Eli Lilly, where she worked getting information out to the public about diabetes care and other health issues.
Working as a lobbyist for Merck & Co. was not really on Marlene’s radar during her matriculation at MTSU. “When I was a student I was involved with Young Democrats and Student Council, and thinking I might even someday run for political office.” But once the Political Science degree was completed and she had a few years of contract lobbying under her belt, Marlene says she sort of hit her stride, “feeling very comfortable in that role.”
When asked how her Political Science degree helped prepare her for her current career, Marlene doesn’t hesitate to sing the praises of the Liberal Arts. “A Liberal Arts degree is designed to make you think, and to think critically, to ask questions and be curious about the world around you. Liberal Arts degrees develop people who keep digging for answers until they are satisfied they have a better solution to a given problem. In Liberal Arts disciplines, you are trained to keep looking for answers and discovering new possibilities. We still need people in the workforce who are trained to ask questions and to think critically, not just science questions, but about all manner of things. Public policy is my world now, and thinking critically and intelligently applies to questions of policy. And that includes budgetary policy, legislative policy, social policy, and just governmental policy in general. The world needs people who aren’t afraid to think outside of the box and search for new, more effective answers to the problems and challenges we face.” In the College of Liberal Arts, we couldn’t agree more.