April 26, 2022

Helping Change the Future of Colorado’s Healthcare: A Q&A with Hannah Sieben (MPA ’21)

After finishing her MPA in 2021, Hannah Sieben returned to her home state of Colorado, where she is using her experience and the skills she gained at the Evans School for the public good. In her current work as a Policy Analyst with Connect for Health Colorado, Hannah is working to create greater public health care access for all Coloradans.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

The week that I graduated from Evans, I moved back to Colorado, adopted a puppy (Fig! 7 lbs of chihuahua/terrier perfection!), and started a new job. I love being in Colorado; my whole family is here, the mountains and sunshine are a great combo, and there is so much to see and do. In my free time, I’ve been participating in a Master Composter program (to teach Denverites how to start their own compost pile), reading for fun, and scouring Facebook Marketplace for my next DIY project.

What contributed to your decision to pursue an MPA degree? Was there a defining moment in particular?

After returning from Peace Corps service in Namibia, I worked as a civic engagement program manager at a nonprofit. I helped more than 5,000 high school students register to vote during this time, but I knew that I needed to learn so much more if I wanted to contribute to the vision and direction of an organization instead of just the day-to-day responsibilities if I wanted to have the career I was interested in. Pursuing an MPA seemed like the ideal way to gain experience and practice to complement my policy and legislative interests.

Looking back on your Evans School experience, what stands out as being particularly impactful while you were a student?

I was part of the Covid Cohort, MPA Class of 2021, so more than a year and a half of my time at the Evans School was virtual. While that alone was impactful, it also provided me the opportunity to collaborate with my peers in different ways. I learned so much about working as a team with people you may have never gotten to meet in person before, which has been an asset in my current position. I also served as the Vice President of External Affairs for the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and managed to rope in so many of my Evans peers to help us with our legislative priorities. Together, we passed important legislation to get graduate student representation on the Washington Student Achievement Council. All that to say, I was surrounded by incredibly smart and encouraging people at the Evans School, which gives me a lot of confidence about the future of public policy.

Can you share about where you work and your current role?

I’m currently working at Connect for Health Colorado, the official Marketplace for health insurance in Colorado, as a policy analyst. We are technically a non-profit but are really a quasi-governmental organization that implements the Affordable Care Act. I provide a wide range of research and support on policy and legislative issues, including advocacy, education, research, and analysis to help Coloradans get access to more affordable health care.

Can you tell us about some of the work/projects/initiatives you are working on or excited about?

Colorado is truly a leader in the health insurance marketplace space, and it’s been inspiring to be a part of the policy and implementation team at Connect for Health Colorado. One of the most impactful projects I am working on is around providing low-income undocumented Coloradans with state-subsidized health insurance. We are the first state to implement this type of program and much of my research has been around the health needs, barriers to health care access, and the eligibility requirements of our undocumented communities. In 2023, more than 9,000 undocumented people will have affordable, quality health coverage for the first time! It’s amazing to lay the groundwork for other states to implement similar programs and really put our money where our mouth is when talking about equity and inclusion.

Are there any specific skills/tools/learnings from your time at Evans that have been crucial to the work you are doing today?

One of the best things that I was able to practice at Evans was taking complex pieces of information and distilling them into something that non-policy people can understand. I have coworkers who specialize in communications and product development without a public health or policy background, so I use this skill all the time. I am also a confident public speaker, something that I practiced all throughout my time at Evans.

What are 1 or 2 resources (books, articles, podcasts, websites, TEDtalks, etc.) that inspire you personally or professionally?

I recently read Dear America, Notes from an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas. He later joined my colleagues and me to discuss his book and his organization, “Define American”, and to explain how he thought we could do our work in a better, more inclusive way. Both his book and organization really highlight the diversity and uniqueness of undocumented narratives.