Elijah Owuor is a trained philosopher working in the material world of Washington, D.C. A budget analyst for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), he contributes to the federal budget process from formulation to execution.
“Each year, all federal government agencies submit a President’s budget request to Congress. As an analyst in the Office of Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs, I help develop information and provide analyses needed for the USDOT’s budget to be submitted.”
In this role, he also analyzes legislative proposals and implementation, and he works on several policy and public administration issues in transportation infrastructure funding.
Though his work is hands-on, there was a time when Owuor was more interested in the theoretical and abstract nature of knowledge, reality and existence. He studied philosophy at Georgia State with the intention of teaching the subject on the collegiate level.
“I was fascinated with the power of reason and critical thinking,” he says.
While in the program, Owuor wrote an undergraduate honors thesis about the philosophy of international law and basic human rights that helped him understand he wanted to apply his knowledge to more practical pursuits. His professor suggested he visit the Andrew Young School. He met that afternoon with Andrew Young School professor Greg Streib, then the chair of the Department of Public Management and Policy, and decided to apply for a Master of Public Administration degree.
Owuor completed his degree during the Great Recession and a job market that was so tight, it almost led him to pursue a doctorate. Streib encouraged him to apply for internships instead and, to his surprise, he was accepted as a paid intern with the USDOT. This experience confirmed his desire to work in public service. He accepted a job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Atlanta and worked almost three years before moving to D.C. to work for the USDOT. He joined USDOT in March 2013 as a financial analyst for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), then in September 2015 he moved to Office of the Secretary (OST) as a budget analyst, which is his current role.
“I had to apply to over 50 internships to get one, and then over 150 jobs to get one. A major part of success is applying ourselves,” he says.
Through his journey, Owuor remains the philosopher with a practical bent.
“Being in public service requires humility. Anyone who pays their taxes is my boss, and that is a humbling thought. This kind of opportunity does not come often, but when you have it, you must treat it with great care. Public service work provides the greatest opportunity to help millions of people through policymaking,” he says.
“When I got hired, my goal was to serve taxpayers and uphold the constitution. I will continue to do that to the best of my abilities for as long as I have the privilege to serve the public.”