Staying Grounded: Grad Pursues God’s Call in Washington, D.C.

In the midst of a polarized political landscape, Allison (Ryan) Beach ’12 draws on her faith and education as she addresses the concerns of rural Americans.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, content specialist

October 23, 2019 | 10:30 a.m.

Bethel graduate, Allison Ryan Beach

Allison (Ryan) Beach ’12 representing the United States at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture headquarters in Costa Rica.

Allison (Ryan) Beach ’12 has always had an interest in politics. She grew up in Iowa, where her parents own a small trucking company, and saw firsthand how “one-size-fits-all regulations” can affect small business owners and their families. She started asking questions like: “How are decisions about legislation made?” “Who’s making them?” and “On what information are the decisions based?” Her curiosity grew into a passion for advocacy, and her passion eventually carried her to Washington, D.C., where she uses her platform to bring constituent voices to the table.

Beach works as a senior policy advisor for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). She is involved in the negotiation process for international agricultural trade deals and advocates for the interests of American farmers. “One of my favorite things about my job is working with our like-minded counterparts to ensure we have a good, science-based decision-making process going forward in the trade deals we’re pursuing,” she says. “Our mission is to expand and open international markets for American agricultural commodities.”

While Beach grew up near farming communities, she admits that agriculture may not have been her first choice when she started her political career—but “over-planning” is a practice she tries to avoid. “I’ve never thought about exactly where I want to be in 10 years,” she says. “Instead, I’ve been trying to constantly put myself in a position where, if I feel like God’s leading me in a specific direction, I’m able to move.”

Beach thinks of biblical characters like Isaiah and Samuel and models her life after their willingness to be sent somewhere by God. This posture carried her to Bethel, where she studied political science and business. She planned to go to law school, but she was encouraged by a mentor to test the waters by entering the workforce first.

She landed a job at the Minnesota House of Representatives, and then in 2013 she moved to Washington, D.C.—first for a job in the U.S. Senate and then the U.S. House of Representatives. In the latter, much of the work she did was related to trade and agriculture, so when the opportunity with the USDA surfaced, it seemed like a natural move. “I’m in a spot where I can effect change and make sure that voices are being heard,” she says. “It’s a neat juncture to be in. I’m working in the federal government, but I’m also really working for the people I grew up with back in Iowa.”

Working in politics has provided Beach with opportunities to observe and participate in important moments. In July, she served as the head of delegation for the U.S. at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, an international organization that supports its member states in their efforts to achieve agricultural development and rural wellbeing. “That was an incredible experience, to be able to go and represent the U.S. on an international stage,” she says.

“I try to make sure everyone I’m working with knows that whether we agree or disagree, we’re on the same path moving forward. We need to ensure we’re looking at the bigger picture, not just the immediate goal or win.”

— Allison Beach
Beach says one of the more challenging things about her job is reaching consensus while politics in the U.S. are polarized. In times like this, she leans on the foundation she developed in her years at Bethel. “I learned from great professors, and it gave me an opportunity to engage with people with different viewpoints through open debate and discussion,” she says. “You can have respectful discussion about things you disagree on, but at the end of the day, you’re still colleagues and are working for the same goal.”

In addition to her preparation in the classroom, Beach says Bethel’s emphasis on faith growth is important for any career path. “Some of the basic tenets of my faith are being respectful, kind, and forgiving. I think those things are missing in many workplaces, and that’s something we can rise above because of our faith,” she says. “Obviously, I’m not perfect at it, but it certainly helps in the hustle and bustle of D.C. to be able to be grounded in something that’s bigger than what I do on a day-to-day basis.”

Reflecting on her career so far, Beach is grateful for all the opportunities she’s had to step out in faith. When she moved from Iowa to Bethel, she didn’t know anyone, and when she moved to D.C., it was the same. While she admits the road has been difficult at times, it ultimately led to where she is today. She isn’t certain what the future holds, but for now, she continues to serve, positioning herself to be open to opportunities God places in front of her.

Her advice to anyone aspiring to work in politics is to remember who you are and why you’re here. “From what I’ve seen, your ability to rise in this city is directly related to your ability to stay grounded in the reason you were called here, to stay humble, and be kind to everyone around you—including the interns! They may be your boss one day.”
Political science students at Bethel University

Study political science at Bethel.

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