Embroiled in the Budget Battles

Teri Gullo '79Although Teri Gullo ’79 grew up in Southern California and earned her degree in American studies from Scripps, her sights were set on Washington, D.C. She spent half of her junior year in the nation’s capital, interning at a nonprofit advocating for various juvenile justice issues. After graduating in 1979, she made a deal with a Scripps classmate that they would move to D.C. as soon as each had saved $3,000. It took them about three months to save the money, and in October of that year they drove from California to D.C.

Gullo eventually landed a position with the Wilderness Society, where she worked for two years before returning to her home state to earn a master’s degree from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, one of the first public policy schools in the country. She decided to get the degree on the recommendation of her Scripps mentor, American studies professor Dan Horowitz. After getting her degree in the mid-1980s, she took an internship with the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), mainly, she says, because it was one of the few D.C. internships that paid a salary. She quickly became fascinated by the mechanics of government budgeting.

“I took the internship not really knowing anything about the CBO or the budget process,” Gullo says. “And it was a revelation to learn how important it was to understand the budgetary effects of legislation.”

Gullo’s internship turned into a job, and today, almost 30 years later, she is the CBO’s deputy director of budget analysis, which puts her squarely in the middle of current political squabbles over the recession, the deficit, and federal spending. The CBO analyzes the budgetary impact of every piece of legislation, making it the de facto referee on Capital Hill. Like a referee, the CBO is neutral, but still gets blamed if one side or the other doesn’t like its call. Although Gullo is now a veteran of such fights, she started out knowing little about budgetary matters.

“There really is no other way to learn the federal budget except by getting thrown in,” she says.

Fortunately, her Scripps education prepared her to rise to the challenge. Gullo credits the Core humanities program for “providing the foundation of not just the kind of work I wanted to do, but the kind of person I wanted to become — somebody who understands historical trends and who understands the connections between history and art and politics.”

History, art, and politics — not subjects studied by the typical investment banker or budget analyst. But, according to so many Scripps alumnae thriving in the world of finance, it was their grounding in the humanities that made all their subsequent accomplishments possible.

“The biggest thing Scripps taught me was how to think and how to write,” Gullo says. “How to think critically, how to ask questions, how to be curious about things. As a budget analyst, you have to be able to take a difficult question and tease it apart. And I think the liberal arts education I got was the best foundation for that kind of work.”

 

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