Madsen graduated USD with a political science and international studies degree and experience that provided a direct track to her current role as a legislative research analyst. 

Coming from a family of South Dakota State University Jackrabbits, Madsen decided to take the road less traveled and become a Coyote. She knew that she wanted to get involved in government and political science and said that USD “had a really good program, and a reasonable cost for higher education." The decision to chart a new path and attend the state’s flagship university was not a difficult one. 

Early in her undergraduate career, Madsen took advantage of the opportunities available to her in the Department of Political Science.

“The department was incredibly accessible to underclassmen,” Madsen said, which encouraged her to get involved in organizations like Political Science League and Student Government Association. She seized additional opportunities at USD by participating in Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning (AWOL) and, with the help and guidance of her advisors, was also successful in receiving nationally competitive scholarships and study abroad exchanges, including a Fulbright Summer Institute and Taiwan-United States Ambassador Summer Scholarship.

"Anna was relentless in pursuing academic and professional skill-building opportunities while in our department," said Eric Jepsen, Ph.D., professor of political science. "Anna's tenacity for seeking out high-impact experiences in South Dakota and overseas continues to be a prime example I bring up to our current students to inspire them to 'Think of the possibilities!' in the words of Doc Farber."

After her sophomore year, Madsen began to think more seriously about the work she wanted to do after graduation. With the help of the faculty in the political science department, she began to explore internship opportunities that would help her get her foot in the door. Even though she was only in her second year at the university, she had already fostered strong relationships within the department, which made finding an internship much easier.

“The department is so close knit, and they knew me well enough personally to make recommendations on internships that they thought would be a good fit for me,” said Madsen. “That’s a really special piece of the department – that the faculty truly get to know their students on a personal level, so they’re able to give you suggestions that align with your personality and your long-term career goals.” 

Before graduating, the political science department worked with Madsen to land two internship experiences. She earned a research internship with South Dakota senator, Mike Rounds, in the summer of 2016. “When I completed my first internship, it was great exposure to the professional world in general because that was my first step in it," Madsen said. “The connections I built and experiences I had helped funnel me into where I am today.”  The following spring, she held a legislative internship during the South Dakota legislative session.

As a student in the Department of Political Science, Madsen had access to the Farber Funds, which provide more than $170,000 each year to political science, criminal justice and international studies majors to pursue internships, study abroad, attend conferences and conduct research. "The Farber Funds were instrumental in making my internships and other experiences financially attainable," said Madsen.

"Having the freedom and flexibility to choose opportunities without worrying about the financial impact was an aspect of the department that I certainly took for granted, but which I now appreciate tremendously," Madsen continued. "Given that Doc Farber created the Legislative Research Council (LRC), the Farber Funds really came full circle for me in demonstrating how the generosity of others can impact your career trajectory."

While interning with the legislature, Madsen learned that she loved the state legislative process; she also discovered that she loved South Dakota. 

“Because South Dakota is such a small state, it's easy to form relationships with people from across all industries” said Madsen,  who was raised on a farm near the rural community of Ruthton, Minnesota. “And because of our legislative process, you can really have exposure to decision-makers and see the up-close action and impact of legislation unlike anywhere else in the country."

It was her experience during the legislative session that propelled her into the work she does today. Madsen now works as a senior legislative research analyst for the South Dakota LRC, the staffing agency for the South Dakota Legislature.

Madsen and her team do the majority of bill drafting for the legislature. Her multifaceted role also consists of answering research and legal questions for legislators and staffing legislative committees.

“Because the LRC is one of the smallest, if not the smallest, legislative staff agencies in the country, our team plays a vital role in the behind-the-scenes work of the legislature. When a legislator approaches us with a problem they are hearing about in their district, we work to help find a legislative solution to it,” said Madsen. “Sometimes that process requires lots of creativity, but it’s pretty fulfilling to have the opportunity to help all legislators find solutions for the districts they’re representing and to help the people of South Dakota.”

During the 2023 legislative session, Madsen had a full circle moment when she coordinated internships for the LRC. 

"That was really fun, because I was able to be on the other side of the table” said Madsen. It was great to meet students from USD, connect with them, and help move them forward in their own internship journeys. It's important to me to try to give back to the internship program and to the political science department because it was instrumental in getting me to where I am today.”

At the heart of the internship program's success is an engaged community of alumni who are eager to support current students through mentorship, internship opportunities and more, as they recognize the pivotal role of the political science department and early internship opportunities in their professional pursuits.

"So many alumni have gone on to do important and impactful work," said Madsen. "Many of my coworkers are USD alums, so it's special to be part of the strong network of the department. The faculty go out of their way to connect students to alumni, who are really helpful in either finding a position or internship for those students or just giving them advice."

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