Growing up in a family that fostered her desire to engage in community-based work, Gillian McBride came to the University of Wisconsin–Madison with a heart full of passion for public service.
Despite her passion, McBride felt disconnected from the campus community and almost left UW her freshman year. But after she accepted a job at the Morgridge Center for Public Service, McBride says she decided to give UW a second chance.
Now, she can’t imagine what her life would look like if she had chosen to leave.
“I really didn’t see myself staying at UW–Madison for all four years,” McBride says. “I was really unhappy, and then I accepted the job at the Morgridge Center, and I thought ‘okay, I’m going to give this another chance,’ and ultimately that was the best possible thing that could have happened for me.”
At 25 years old, McBride currently works as the chief of staff for Wisconsin State Assembly Representative Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg).
McBride graduated from UW in 2017 with a double major in political science and environmental studies. A native of Wauwatosa, McBride knew about the Morgridge Center coming into college since its founders — John and Tashia Morgridge — lived in Wauwatosa and graduated from the same high school as her.
McBride started working at the Morgridge Center in the fall of 2014 as an operations intern. Her junior year, former Morgridge Center Faculty Director Kathy Cramer invited her to be the undergraduate representative on the Campus Advisory Council. McBride became even more involved her senior year — stewarding a partnership between the Office of Sustainability and the Morgridge Center, taking on more communications work and serving on the Wisconsin Idea Council.
McBride also spent seven semesters and several summers volunteering with the Badger Volunteers program. Her diverse set of experiences at the Morgridge Center influenced her postgraduate journey, giving her the skills and tools to pursue public service work out of college.
“I was looking for a structured program to help me get involved and to better understand communities around Madison,” McBride says. “I loved everything that Morgridge Center was doing, and I tried to get my hands on as much as possible.”
McBride says the Morgridge Center continues to influence her work today for Rep. Anderson, as she carries her passion for higher education policy and her desire to engage in collaboration-based partnerships.
Moreover, McBride cherishes the feedback and confidence the Morgridge Center gave her. The self-knowledge she developed through working with the Morgridge Center’s professional staff showed her that she was capable of addressing system-level challenges in public service with an equity lens at the forefront.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of the feedback and mentorship I’ve received from Morgridge Center staff in making every sort of decision and meeting every sort of challenge that I’ve had since graduating,” McBride says.
For other interns and UW students looking to go into public service, McBride encourages students not to undersell themselves as changemakers and leaders. McBride says if students keep wondering why no one has done something yet to address an issue, that’s a sign they should take action and do it themselves.
As she learned at the Morgridge Center, McBride says everyone has more leadership capability than they give themselves credit for, and that everyone has something unique to contribute in solving systemic issues in our communities.
“I found my leadership and my voice through Badger Volunteers and as an intern who was able to take on greater independence and more challenging projects throughout my time at the Morgridge Center,” McBride says. “I truly couldn’t have imagined the kind of student and leader I would become when I first began at the Morgridge Center to when I ended.”