We the Partnership

Engineering a global impact: Annica Wayman’s story of public service

By Madeleine McCullough, Alex Hakes
November 23, 2021

To solve our nation’s biggest challenges both today and in the future, our government needs to recruit and retain vital young talent. Our new blog series, “Academic Profiles in Public Service,” will reinforce these efforts by featuring professionals working in academia who previously served in the federal government. These profiles aim to inspire students and recent graduates to consider a career in public service and highlight the positive impact federal employees can make on our country.

Annica Wayman, former division chief at the U.S. Agency for International Development and current associate dean in the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, spoke with us about her time working in public service and the benefits a career in government can offer recent graduates.

What made you interested in a public service career?

Wayman: When I was pursuing my Ph.D., I was worried whether academia was the right path for me. I knew that I received a load of technical skills throughout my education and I thought that they could be used in a different capacity than teaching and research. Once I graduated, I decided to choose the industry route instead of academia [and] received a position at Becton Dickinson developing anesthesia-related products. After a few years, I knew I needed to take my interests into public service.

What did you accomplish as a public servant that you could not have accomplished working in the private sector?

Wayman: During my American Association for the Advancement of Science fellowship and job immediately following at the U.S. Agency for International Development, one of my projects involved starting a program called Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement and Research, or PEER. This program enabled developing country scientists to partner with scientists that are supported by federal agencies. To date, PEER has been fortunate enough to fund almost 400 researchers in over 50 countries. If it weren’t for my work as a public servant, through USAID and PEER, I wouldn’t have been able to help build a program that benefits multiple countries around the world and creates lasting impact for new research.

What advice would you offer young professionals pursuing a career in public service?

Wayman: Throughout my time working for the federal government, I grew to appreciate the broad array of research that’s being done and the impact it has on our country. If you have a research background and want to continue that in the federal government, you can collaborate with many different agencies. Once I was in the federal government, it was interesting to see how PEER research connected with other federal partners to make an impact on the recipients of our work.

What is one word you would use to describe public service?

Wayman: It’s hard to think of a single word to describe public service because it was my dream job, but I would say “impactful.” While working for USAID, I was able to combine my love for research, collaboration and development to solve problems that enhanced society. Working in the federal government allows you to have the opportunity to help people. You get a true public service feel and it makes you want your work to be as impactful as possible. This type of altruistic impact not only benefits you, but the country as well.

Read more public service profiles and posts in our “Academic Profiles in Public Service” series here. To learn more about pursuing a career in the federal government, visit gogovernment.org. Contact us at [email protected] if you or someone you know would like to be profiled in the future.    

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Alex Hakes is an intern on the Partnership’s Federal Workforce team.


Madeleine McCullough

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