newsId: 9754C71B-06C7-AABA-ED479E63EFB15324
Title: Cigar Diplomacy
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: Professor William LeoGrande discusses his new book on hidden U.S.-Cuba negotiations.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 09/29/2014
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The acrimonious relationship between the United States and Cuba has a strange undercurrent. Amidst legendary tales of assassination plots and paramilitary operations, it turns out that the two enemy nations never really stopped talking to each other. The negotiations were mostly secret—until now. American University School of Public Affairs Professor William LeoGrande and National Security Archive Senior Analyst Peter Kornbluh reveal the extensive diplomacy in their new book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. LeoGrande is a former SPA dean and an expert on U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America. In an edited interview, he spoke about Cuba, Cold War politics, and cigar diplomacy.

GS: Why did you want to write a book about U.S.-Cuba relations?

LeoGrande: "Cuba and the United States have been in confrontation with one another for more than 50 years. And that's a fairly well-known story, from the Bay of Pigs to the Missile Crisis and other events. What's not well-known is that Cuba and the United States have been talking to one another and engaging diplomatically throughout that entire period. It's a part of the story that gets ignored because the hostility has been so visceral and so public, whereas the diplomatic dimension has been much more behind the scenes and secret. Particularly on the U.S. side, talking to Cuba has always been a political hot potato. Presidents have wanted to do it very quietly, very discreetly. But there's a long record of it. From President Dwight Eisenhower to the present, every president has found some reason to negotiate with Cuba. We felt like this was a story that needed to be told."

GS: How did the negotiations remain secret? Even close followers of U.S. foreign policy don't necessarily know this story.

LeoGrande: "In most cases, knowledge of these negotiations was restricted to literally four or five people. So, for example, when Richard Goodwin, John F. Kennedy's special assistant, was talking to Che Guevara at the Alliance for Progress founding conference in Uruguay, the only people who knew about it were Goodwin and Kennedy. Years later, Henry Kissinger held things very close. Only his deputy, Lawrence Eagleburger, and one or two other people knew the details. Kissinger didn't even fully brief the president, because he wanted to keep it secret until he could see whether it would pay off."

GS: What was the U.S. trying to accomplish with these secret negotiations? During the Cold War years, were U.S. officials actively trying to move Cuba into the noncommunist camp?

LeoGrande: "It varies from administration to administration. During the Cold War, there were a number of occasions when the United States was really hoping to normalize relations. They tried to create a greater degree of Cuban independence from the Soviet Union. U.S. officials talked about turning Cuba into a Yugoslavia, making Fidel Castro the Western Hemisphere's Josip Tito."

GS: What surprised you while researching this book?

LeoGrande: "The most surprising thing was the extent to which the negotiators developed a real human affection for one another over time. This could be very important at critical moments in avoiding confrontations, because they could literally pick up a telephone and talk to one another."

GS: Can you describe your interview with Castro?

LeoGrande: "We had a brief interview. Well, there's no such thing as a brief interview with Fidel Castro."

GS: He does have a reputation for being loquacious.

LeoGrande: "He is indeed. We had a lunch, which turned into an informal interview. And we just began to chat with him about the history of relations with the United States, and that went on for about three hours. He's a narrator. You'll ask him a question, and he'll begin to answer, and the narration will take off in a particular direction. And something he says will remind him of something else, and he'll go off in that direction. And after a long, circuitous narrative, he'll come back and finally answer the question that you were originally asking."

GS: In the U.S., Castro was initially viewed as a nonthreatening figure, correct?

LeoGrande: "Interestingly, at first, he was quite popular in the United States. He was on The Ed Sullivan Show. When he came to the U.S. in April 1959 on sort of a goodwill tour, he was met by about 1500 people when he flew into Washington, D.C. He was on Meet the Press, and he met Richard Nixon on Capitol Hill. Of course, he was young, charismatic."

GS: What was the closest the U.S. ever came to normalizing relations with Cuba?

LeoGrande: "It was with the Carter administration, I think. President Carter decided at the very beginning of the administration that he would normalize relations, and he set a process in motion to do it. And it got derailed, principally, because of Cuba's involvement in Africa."

GS: Did you examine some of the cultural ties between the two countries? Now we have an interest in Cuban baseball players. And Cuban cigars have attained an almost mythic status.

LeoGrande: "There's a whole leitmotif that runs through the book about cigars and cigar diplomacy. Right from the Kennedy administration to at least the Clinton administration, the Cubans have always used cigars as a kind of diplomatic icebreaker."

GS: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, there's a record of U.S.-Soviet communication, but you don't hear much about a U.S.-Cuba back channel. Did that exist?

LeoGrande: "It did. The United States, late in the crisis, opened a back channel through Brazil. Officials sent a message to Castro, basically saying, 'Look, the Soviets have put you in this terrible position where you're going to be blown to smithereens. And the United States could live with you if you would kick the Soviets out, but time is really running out.' Now what was interesting was the Brazilians were not allowed to tell the Cubans that this was a message from the United States. They were only allowed to mention this as sort of their friendly suggestion. So that was one problem with it: The United States wasn't committing itself to anything. The other problem was it came at the very end of the crisis, and by the time the message got to Castro, [Soviet leader] Khrushchev had already announced that he was pulling the missiles out."

GS: Were there negotiations during the 2000 Elián González controversy?

LeoGrande: "Oh, daily. We actually have a long account of the negotiations. It was an unusual situation because the two governments were, more or less, on the same page. Both governments felt like the father was a good parent, and therefore had the right to retain custody of the child. And it was just a matter of working through the legal process to achieve that."

GS: For more than five decades, virtually everything was discussed in secret. Are aspects of this relationship just baffling to you?

LeoGrande: "The thing that's baffling is why we've never been able to get over the hump. There are all these efforts to try to move the relationship forward, and a lot of successes on small issues like migration and counter-narcotics cooperation. But on the basic conflict between Cuba and the United States, we've come close, but we've never normalized relations. That's surprising and baffling given the fact that the main reasons for the conflict between the two countries have all really receded. And there's no sensible reason for the conflict to still be there."

GS: Are there some colorful anecdotes that you can recall from the book?

LeoGrande: "One negotiation lasted four or five hours, and they finally reached agreement on a migration treaty. The hotel room they were negotiating in was full of stale cigar smoke, old cigarette and cigar butts, and carry-out food containers. And two women in the delegations—the legal adviser on the Cuban side and the translator on the U.S. side—couldn't stand the idea that they were going to sign this important document amidst the filth. And so they took it upon themselves to clean up the room, so that the document could be signed with a greater measure of dignity. There are just a lot of really good stories like that about the basic humanity of the people on both sides."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Professor Tricia Bacon
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Abstract: Tricia Bacon bring 11 years of counterterrorism experience at the State Department and her award-winning research to AU's classrooms.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 09/26/2014
Content:

Experts like Tricia Bacon provide SPA students with real-world experience in tackling one of the world's most complicated issues. Currently a professorial lecturer in the Department of Justice, Law and Criminology, Bacon brings 11 years of counterterrorism experience at the State Department and her award-winning research to AU's classrooms.

At the State Department, Bacon worked in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Bureau of Counterterrorism, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Her work has received numerous accolades, and she conducted research and analysis on counterterrorism in South Asia, North Africa, East Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

Bacon's research contradicts commonly held assumptions that terrorist organizations easily form alliances out of ideological solidarity or common enemies. Bacon has argued that alliances are rare, with only a tiny number of attacks carried out jointly by multiple organizations, due to the difficulty forging trust between groups.

She completed her dissertation, entitled Strange Bedfellows or Brothers-in-Arms: Why Terrorist Groups Ally, at Georgetown University. It recently earned the Best Thesis Award from the Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI), a project of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies.

Bacon's analysis comes from a broad range of primary sources, including from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. "The jury was impressed by Dr. Bacon's command of the materials studied, the elegant style in which the thesis was written and the convincingly argued chief finding that contradicts conventional wisdom," TRI wrote.

An article based on parts of her dissertation has been included in the most recent issue of Perspectives on Terrorism. In 2015, the University of Pennsylvania Press will publish a book-length volume based on her nearly 800-page text.

#MySPAHistory

"I am thrilled to be part of the dynamic and growing Terrorism and Homeland Security program at SPA. It offers the perfect place to both do scholarly research with policy relevance and teach tomorrow's leaders in this important field."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Jennifer Lawless, Director, Women & Politics Institute
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Abstract: Jennifer Lawless has a fundamental question that drives her research at SPA: Why are there so few women in positions of political power?
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 09/24/2014
Content:

As director of the Women & Politics Institute at the School of Public Affairs, Jennifer Lawless has a burning question that drives her research: Why are there so few women in positions of political power?

Despite a number of success stories and high profile female political leaders, the U.S. ranks 100th worldwide in the percentage of women serving in the national legislature. And the gap extends from Capitol Hill to City Hall. Only one quarter of statewide elected officials and state legislators are women. Only five out of 50 states have female governors. And only 13 out of the largest 100 cities in the U.S. have a female mayor. 

Lawless' research, which has been supported by the National Science Foundation, suggests that one of the reasons for women's under-representation is a gender gap in political ambition –a gap that is already well in place by the time women and men begin their professional careers.

Her most recent article, published in the American Political Science Review, finds that young women are less likely than young men to express interest in running for office, to receive the suggestion to run for office, or to think they will be qualified to run for office, even after they are established in their careers. Based on a survey of more than 4,000 high school and college students, Lawless' results paint a bleak picture for prospects of gender parity in the future. But they provide direction, too. More exposure to politics and increased encouragement to run for office would go a long way in closing the gender gap in political ambition.

Lawless, who is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, is a nationally recognized speaker on women and electoral politics, and her scholarly analysis and political commentary have been quoted in numerous newspapers, magazines, television news programs, and radio shows. In 2006, she ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in Rhode Island's second congressional district.

#MySPAHistory

"I came to Washington to help close the gender gap in political leadership. And we do just that. We conduct research to enhance our understanding of women's experiences in the political arena. We offer the academic and leadership training young women need to succeed in politics. And we call attention to gender dynamics in the political process on a daily basis. My work at the School of Public Affairs has allowed me to focus on my passion, and every day, I'm grateful for that opportunity."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Yuval Levin, SPA/BA ’99
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Abstract: Yuval Levin is an accomplished political thinker and prolific writer who found his niche in Washington, DC during his undergrad studies at American University’s School of Public Affairs.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 09/23/2014
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Yuval Levin is an accomplished political thinker and prolific writer who found his niche in Washington, DC during his undergrad studies at American University's School of Public Affairs.

After graduating summa cum laude in 1999, he served as a congressional staffer, working for Congressmen Bob Franks and Newt Gingrich. Levin later excelled in his graduate work at the University of Chicago, where he received his PhD.

During and after his graduate studies, Levin maintained his connections to DC, serving as a member of the White House domestic policy staff (under President George W. Bush) and as executive director of the President's Council on Bioethics. Levin left the White House in 2006 to become the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a DC-based think tank.

In fall 2009, Levin founded National Affairs, a quarterly journal of essays about domestic policy, political economy, society, culture, and political thought. He currently serves as editor of National Affairs, senior editor of the New Atlantis, and a contributing editor to National Review and the Weekly Standard. His essays and articles have also appeared in New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He is the author of three books, including The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left (2013), which explores our long-standing political divide through the contrasting philosophies of two late-18th century political theorists. This fall, Politico ranked Levin at number 15 on its list of the 50 "thinkers, doers and dreamers who really matter in this age of gridlock and dysfunction."

#MySPAHistory

"SPA did an extraordinary job of making use of Washington for the benefit of its students: letting us hear from people in power, letting us get to know (as professors and mentors) individuals with a wealth of practical experience, and letting us actually work and intern in politics, government, and the endless array of organizations in the city. The city is a second classroom for SPA students, and it's integrated seamlessly with the first."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Marguerite Jimenez, SPA/PhD ’13
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Abstract: Marguerite Jimenez, recently named one of 15 White House Fellows for 2014-2015, says she chose SPA "because of the school's historic commitment to public scholarship."
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 09/22/2014
Content:

Marguerite Jimenez came to American University in 2005, and has since taught public policy, worked with undergraduate students in the global health program, and was a faculty adviser for the graduate student research journal. Her research has focused on international health cooperation and expanding access to public health innovations such as vaccines in lower and middle-income countries. She studied vocal performance at the Berklee College of Music before finding a passion for public policy and earning her MA in International Service and PhD in Political Science at American University.

The President's Commission on White House Fellowships recently appointed Jimenez, who has also a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Public Affairs last year, to the 2014-2015 Class of White House Fellows. Jimenez was one of 15 Fellows to be awarded the prestigious position out of a field of more than 2,000 applicants.

President Lyndon B. Johnson started the White House Fellows program in 1964 in order to provide dedicated public servants the opportunity to experience Federal government operations firsthand. As future leaders of the nation, President Johnson envisioned that Fellows could use their experiences in the program to "increase their sense of participation in national affairs."

#MySPAHistory

"I came to SPA because of the school's historic commitment to public scholarship. I stayed at SPA because of the ongoing faculty commitment to doing outstanding scholarly research that was also relevant beyond the classroom or the walls of the academy. These were among the best decisions I've ever made."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Vicky Wilkins, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
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Abstract: When it comes to academic work, Vicky Wilkins covers all the bases.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 09/19/2014
Content:

When it comes to academic work, Vicky Wilkins covers all the bases. When she joined SPA in July, SPA Dean Barbara Romzek noted Wilkins as "an experienced administrator, accomplished teacher and nationally recognized scholar."

After earning her PhD in political science at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she spent 11 years at the University of Georgia, four of them as director of graduate studies, and earned Professor of the Year there in 2012.

Wilkins' research in the field of minorities, women, and policy outcomes has made a substantial impact in the field of public administration. Her work is a frequent resource for policy makers interested in the area. An article she co-authored with University of Texas scholar Young-joo Lee ranks as one of the most influential articles in the history of the prestigious Public Administration Review. She is also an editorial board member of three leading journals in public administration.

In her short history with SPA – 80 days, to be exact – Wilkins has assumed multiple roles. She is the new associate dean for academic affairs and professor of public administration and policy. One of her recent studies was just featured in the London School of Economics USA Blog. This summer she covered one more base, joining the AU community for AU Night at Nats Park. No word yet on whether Washington, DC has converted her into a Nationals fan.

#MySPAHistory:

"When people ask my why I came to AU's School of Public Affairs, the answer is easy. Of course, I was thrilled to be joining a top-ranked school with world-renowned faculty. But even more important – I wanted to be part of a team that is likeminded in its ambitions. Now that I'm at AU, I wake up every day and ask, 'How can we make SPA even better?'  

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Title: #SPA80for80: Matthew Waskiewicz, SPA/BA, CAS/BS ’16
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Abstract: A double-major between SPA and CAS, Waskiewicz hopes to translate his studies into policy change in his home state of Massachusetts.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 09/18/2014
Content:

Matthew Waskiewicz is on a mission to influence policy in his home state of Massachusetts. After his acceptance to American University in 2012, Waskiewicz met Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), SPA/BA ’81/MA ’84, at an event and introduced himself as a fellow SPA student. Their relationship grew, and in the fall of 2013, Waskiewicz interned in McGovern’s office. He did a lot of hands-on policy work, including editing outgoing letters and drafting constituent correspondence for the congressman.

This past summer, Waskiewicz was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study governance and politics in Wales for six weeks. While there, he studied a series of Welsh policies that he hopes to bring back to Massachusetts one day, such as a tax on plastic bags. As Waskiewicz wrote in his blog “Finding Wales,” the knowledge he gained there has been “woven…into the fabric of my being, quickly becoming part of the larger mosaic that stitches my worlds into one.”

Now back on campus for the fall semester, Waskiewicz serves as the president of AU’s Student Honors Board, is a resident assistant (RA), and is a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary. He is also in the jazz band and works with SPA’s undergraduate research journal, Clocks and Clouds. In addition to his internship with McGovern, Waskiewicz has also interned with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

#MySPAHistory

“SPA Professors Kimberly Cowell-Meyers and Bill Davies worked closely with me while I was applying for the Fulbright Wales Summer Institute. Their support was representative of all SPA faculty – they are so involved with the students, it really shows. My Fulbright experience would not have been possible without their help.”

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Title: Building the Knowledge Network
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: Meet American University’s 23 new tenured and tenure track faculty members.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 09/17/2014
Content:

American University has amassed a talented crop of 23 new tenured and tenure track professors for the upcoming year. As part of the AU 2030 project, the university has invested significant resources in key subject areas that cut across departments. The new faculty will help foster an environment of academic excellence.

College of Arts and Sciences

Though the substance of his work delves into indecision, Mark Laubach has a clear idea about the research that animates him. "I like trying to figure out decision-making. How does the brain resolve a decision?" Laubach poses. "And how do you learn from one occasion to the next to do something better next time?"

Laubach is a new associate professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Along with other professors, Laubach hopes to collaborate with Terry Davidson, director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience.

Laubach has been working with a National Science Foundation grant to understand brain circuits for executive control. Through Klarman Family Foundation support, he's been conducting research to comprehend neuronal circuits that control food-seeking behavior.

Originally from Bergen County, New Jersey, Laubach did his undergraduate work at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. He was initially inclined towards marine biology, and one summer in Oregon he did a research project on crabs and their claws. He refocused his attention to neuroscience and neurobiology, eventually earning his Ph.D. from Wake Forest University.

American Univeristy associate professor of biology Mark Laubach.

Most recently, Laubach was an associate professor of neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine. He's made the move to Washington with his wife, Bernadette—a chemist and a preschool teacher—and their daughter and son. True to his North Jersey roots, Laubach is still loyal to the New York Mets and the New York Giants. But he's open to some of the local teams, and he's already started going to games with his sports-fanatic son.

Given his academic field, does he think about the neurons in his brain while he's fulfilling routine chores? "No, when I do my own decision-making, I do not think about my brain's role in it. But when I drive my car home, I end up having my best work-related ideas."

Other new CAS faculty:

Nicole Angotti is a new assistant professor in the Sociology Department. She's also a faculty affiliate at AU's Center on Health, Risk, and Society.

Michael Baron, who previously taught at the University of Texas at Dallas, is now a professor in the Mathematics and Statistics Department. Also teaching math and stats is assistant professor Kristina Crona.

John Bracht is now an assistant professor in the Biology Department. His research interests include genomics and cell biology.

Catherine Anne Claus is a new assistant professor in the Anthropology Department. Her teaching interests have included ocean studies and political ecology.

Joshua McCoy is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department. He's focused on new video game experiences through game technology, design, social science, and artificial intelligence.

Ying-Chen Peng is a new assistant professor in the Art Department. She's researched late imperial and modern Chinese art history, globalization in art, and Asian material culture.

Jennifer Steele is an associate professor in the School of Education, Teaching, and Health (SETH). She's an urban education policy researcher and she formerly worked at the RAND Corporation. Also joining SETH is assistant professor and nutritional neuroscientist Kathleen Holton.

Kogod School of Business

Andrew Schnackenberg, a new assistant professor of management at the Kogod School of Business, is not one to accept received wisdom. He's explored areas of the informal economy, discovering that industry consensus sometimes obscures a much more complicated reality.

He observed a dramatic shift in the discourse surrounding medical marijuana, and a certain amount of industry myth making. "[The industry has] repositioned the product as being less a threat to public well-being and more of a benefit to public health," Schnackenberg says. "There's evidence that marijuana is good for your health, but there's also a lot of evidence that it's not so good for your health."

He's also studied payday lending, an industry that he says is increasingly stigmatized. Much of his earlier research was on corporate transparency.

Schnackenberg was born and raised in Japan. He was heavily influenced by the experience, and it's even reflected in his research choices. "I've been interested in this idea of transparency because in Japan things were very nontransparent," he says. "With these controversial issues I've studied, there's a tremendous amount of symbolism and myth making that goes on. And this is something that I think happens all the time in Japan."

He did his undergraduate studies at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and started working at a private equity firm. He then went back overseas to complete his MBA in Australia. Upon returning to the U.S., he says he wasn't "satisfied with the answers to the compelling questions that business professionals have around these kinds of issues." He subsequently entered academia and earned his Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University this year.

Other new Kogod faculty:

Shuai Ma is a new assistant professor in the Accounting Department. He's delved into issues such as tax reporting and corporate governance.

School of Communication

Benjamin Stokes is an incoming professor at AU's School of Communication. Stokes is currently doing his postdoctoral work at University of California, Berkeley, and he'll start at AU as a full-time faculty member in the fall of 2015. He's listed as a civic media research fellow at AU's Center for Media & Social Impact, and he'll be part of the AU Game Lab with SOC professor Lindsay Grace and others. His research and teaching revolve around civic learning and technology.

Incoming American University School of Communication Benjamin Stokes.

Stokes was born in Montana, but grew up in Ashland, Oregon. Even in high school, he was building online virtual field trips for kids. He got his bachelor's degree in physics from Haverford College. While living abroad, he studied West African drumming in Senegal.

Before launching a full-time academic career, Stokes worked in the nonprofit world. This included online education work on global poverty. "Increasingly, I got pulled into games," he says. While dealing with global interdependence and global citizenship, the biggest challenge was getting people engaged. "We discovered that games were a powerful way to build some of that cause and effect learning." He later joined with colleagues in launching a nonprofit, Games for Change, which facilitates gaming for social impact.

In designing games—particularly for mobile devices—he emphasizes the human component and game interactivity with everyday life. It's not just about advanced technology and coding, he says.

"The intersection around media that is partly online and partly face-to-face is really exciting. And it's a really good time for this right now. The technology makes it possible with phones. We're bringing the Internet back into the physical world."

School of International Service


Miles Kahler has been teaching on the West Coast since 1986. So moving across the country to take a new job at AU's School of International Service is certainly a big life change. Yet Kahler is no stranger to the area: He grew up near Baltimore, Maryland, and he spent time in Washington in the 1980s. In 2012-2013, he was on sabbatical and serving as a fellow at the D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Among other activities, he attended conferences at AU and met with SIS Dean James Goldgeier. "I was just very impressed with the trajectory of the institution," Kahler says.

Kahler will serve as a distinguished professor at SIS as well as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He's an expert on international politics and international political economy, with a focus on global governance and international monetary cooperation. He previously taught at University of California, San Diego.

During the Vietnam War era, Kahler became curious about international conflict. "It did get me interested in the question of imperialism, and why great powers or superpowers get involved in wars with much weaker powers," he recalls. When he eventually prepared his doctoral dissertation at Harvard, he focused on decolonization in Great Britain and France.

Kahler maintains many other intellectual passions, and he has an enduring connection to China. He was part of an early academic delegation there in 1979, around the time the U.S. formally recognized the rising nation. In 1980, he undertook his first teaching stint in Shanghai. "China was just opening again to the international economy and to the world," he says. "And meeting the students—who in many ways had their entire lives set back by the Cultural Revolution—was really quite an important experience for me." Kahler would return to Shanghai to teach in 2009.

In conjunction with his latest research, Kahler will teach an undergraduate senior seminar this spring on emerging economies, including Brazil, China, and India, and global governance. SIS has developed impressive faculty expertise to address issues related to governance at all levels, Kahler adds.

"'What is the most efficient, just means of governing an interconnected world?' is one of the critical questions that we face in the coming decade," he says.

Other new SIS faculty:

Adam Auerbach, a new assistant professor, recently received the 2014 Best Dissertation Award from the urban politics section of the American Political Science Association.

Austin Hart is now an assistant professor. He specializes in political campaigns and public opinion, with a focus on Latin America.

Sarah Snyder, also an assistant professor, is a historian of the Cold War and U.S. human rights policy.

School of Public Affairs

Derek Hyra is an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and he will serve as the director of SPA's new Metropolitan Policy Center. "One of the missions of the center is to do interdisciplinary, collaborative research, but also to show and highlight AU's engagement in Washington, D.C.," says Hyra.

Hyra was first drawn to urban studies not in the classroom, but on the basketball court. Hyra grew up in Somers, N.Y., which he describes as a mostly white, middle-to-upper income suburb. Yet he played competitive basketball through an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team based out of West Harlem. "I saw Harlem in the late 80s and early 90s, when it was still coming off the crack epidemic. And there were a lot of abandoned buildings and vacant lots," he recalls. "A lot of what I learned through developing relationships with my teammates, who were mostly African-American kids from Harlem and the Bronx, really taught me about race in America." Hyra notes the overall value of this experience. "I didn't know it at the time, but it had a very dramatic impact on what I eventually did as a career."

Hyra ended up going to Colgate University, where he played Patriot League basketball for four years. He also discovered the writings of sociologist William Julius Wilson and learned about the historic conditions creating urban blight.

He's had a rich and varied career since that time, working at both the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Treasury Department. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Earlier this year, he ran in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat in the Northern Virginia-based 8th District. Though he lost, Hyra feels like he elevated the discussion on affordable housing.

"I try to look at how you can bring redevelopment to a low-income area, but do it in a way that's equitable," Hyra says of his research. He's examined gentrification and economic transformation in Harlem in New York and Bronzeville on Chicago's South Side.

For a forthcoming book, he completed a five-year ethnographic study of the redevelopment of the Shaw-U Street neighborhood in D.C. Outside of work, Hyra is a fan of jazz—one of the great cultural traditions of this Shaw-U Street area.

Other new SPA faculty:

Ryan Moore is a new assistant professor and his research interests include the politics of health, pensions, and welfare.

Elizabeth Suhay is an assistant professor of government. Her specialties have included political psychology and public understanding of science.

Erdal Tekin, a new professor, is an expert on health economics and policy. He comes over from Georgia State University.

Vicky Wilkins is a professor in the Department of Public Administration & Policy and an associate dean for academic affairs.

Thomas Zeitzoff is a new assistant professor. He's conducted research on political violence and political psychology.

American University Washington College of Law

AUWCL has several new faculty leadership appointments. Lia Epperson, an expert on constitutional law and civil rights, is now associate dean for faculty and academic affairs. Jenny M. Roberts has been appointed associate dean for scholarship. A former public defender and law clerk, she's done research on issues of right to counsel and indigent defense. Amanda Frost is the new director of the Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D.) Program. Frost has published widely and has been a frequent contributor to SCOTUSblog.

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Title: #SPA80for80: Sarah McBride, SPA/BA '13
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Abstract: Former student government president Sarah McBride is committed to working toward equality for all.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 09/16/2014
Content:

Sarah McBride is a remarkable example of what SPA's young alumni can achieve. From being the first openly transgender woman to work for the White House, to being instrumental in the passage of Delaware's Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act, Sarah is committed to working toward equality for all.

Sarah has loved politics since she was a teenager, and she became actively involved in campaigns in her home state of Delaware in 2006. Coming to AU was the right choice for her politically-minded career, she says, because her time at AU "made my love of politics less about 'politics' and more about what politics can do."

As president of AU's Student Government for the 2011-12 academic year, Sarah championed student interests, including gender neutral housing and encouraging changes in AU's insurance coverage for transgender students.

Sarah credits fellow AU students and alumni for instilling in her "a deep passion for social justice." Since graduating, Sarah has continued to work with the university in promoting equality among students. Along with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah helped champion a new sexuality and queer studies minor at AU, which debuted in fall 2013.

She says that she feels a "deep responsibility" to give back to the school that has given her so much.

#MySPAHistory

"I wouldn't be the person I am today without the School of Public Affairs and without my experience there. My time at AU, the relationships I developed, and the lessons I learned allowed me to live authentically," Sarah said. "If America was a little more like American, things would be a lot better for people who are currently struggling."

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newsId: 59B8EF2F-B853-1614-56EDD5EC7E3B0429
Title: An Indelible Mark
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: SPA Dean Barbara Romzek accepts the prestigious John Gaus Award.
Topic: Government & Politics
Publication Date: 09/04/2014
Content:

School of Public Affairs Dean Barbara Romzek has had a distinguished career in academia. As a thinker, scholar, administrator, and dean, Romzek has made an indelible mark on public affairs in higher education. For her lifetime achievement in public administration and political science, she just accepted the 2014 John Gaus Award from the American Political Science Association (APSA). At the APSA annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on Friday, August 29, Romzek gave the 29th John Gaus Distinguished Lecture.

Accountability

During her speech, Romzek focused on accountability in public affairs, a vital issue that pervades almost every facet of our public discourse, and the topic to which she has devoted much of her academic research. The typical scandal—such as the recent VA imbroglio—inevitably results in accusatory finger pointing. But after outraged members of Congress hold hearings and op-ed writers offer scathing rebukes, reforms often don't end up fixing the problem—because the issues are so complex.

"Accountability isn't a puzzle to be solved," Romzek says in an interview. "But it can be managed better. And we, as academics, can help improve that management by applying our knowledge in ways that contribute to a healthier political system."

"We as scholars are very good at doing the research, but we now need to take our knowledge and contribute to public engagement and civic discourse in a manner that helps improve the world we live in," Romzek said in her speech. "Extending our expertise into the realm of practice is a responsibility we should embrace. That is, after all, the distinctive marker of public administration as a field."

Breakthrough Research

Growing up in Michigan, Romzek was a curious child who always had a book in her hand. She later earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Texas at Austin. She took her first job out of graduate school at the University of Kansas, where she remained for more than three decades. One experience in the early 1980s had a profound impact on Romzek's academic career. A city manager received an award from the regional chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. That same day, he was fired.

Romzek viewed the incident as a useful puzzle in understanding accountability and governance. "How can someone so quickly fall from grace? He's getting an award from his professional colleagues saying, 'Great Job!' And at the same time, the elected officials who employ him said, 'You're outta here!'" Romzek and colleague Melvin Dubnick researched this phenomenon and concluded it was a matter of different performance expectations and multiple layers of accountability. Professional co-workers wanted best practices, while elected officials facing the voters were concerned about political responsiveness.

Later research resulted in a seminal paper with Dubnick, "Accountability in the Public Sector: Lessons from the Challenger Tragedy," which was cited as one of the 75 most influential articles in the entire history of the journal Public Administration Review. Romzek's research has explored the challenges of both formal and informal accountability in a variety of venues, including congressional staff, the U.S. Air Force, government contractors, and networks of service providers.

Vision for the Future

Romzek joined SPA as dean in 2012. She is excited about the quality of research and teaching in the school. "We have a really strong faculty. We attract extraordinarily talented, ambitious, hard-working students. This combination is the foundation of our exceptional school," she says.

The Journal of Public Affairs Education recently ranked SPA 5th in the world and 1st in the Washington D.C. area for institutional impact on research in the field of public administration.

Romzek is the third SPA scholar to win the prestigious Gaus award, as Robert Durant (2013) and David Rosenbloom (2001) were also honored.

Romzek plans to build on SPA's record of success. The school has three departments: Government; Justice, Law & Criminology; and Public Administration & Policy. "We're looking at concentrating across departments to create clusters of expertise," she says. There are at least three policy areas—national security, health care, and metropolitan/urban affairs—that are ripe for collaboration, she adds. In national security, SPA offers a new master's degree in terrorism and homeland security policy. A new SPA associate professor, Derek Hyra, will help launch SPA's Metropolitan Policy Center.

Like the call to action in her speech, Romzek envisions faculty members translating their exceptional research scholarship into language that policymakers and the general public can easily understand. "The faculty does a fabulous job, and the rankings show that we publish in the best journals," she says. "I envision us being more engaged in policy circles. So the goal is really to extend our outreach beyond academics."

Explaining the Mission

Despite passionate criticism of government, Romzek remains a believer in government and public service. The energy and enthusiasm of AU's politically-minded students reminds her that the future role of government is in the hands of its engaged citizens. "Working at a School of Public Affairs in the nation's capital, communicating the merits of government is one of our paramount tasks. Even with all of the government reforms and contracting out, what I tell students is that the purposes of government are still being served. It's just now we've got the private sector doing this work. So we contract with the private sector to provide security services, or social services," she says.

Romzek encourages students to explore jobs not just in the executive and legislative branches, but also with contractors and nongovernmental organizations. It's a broader conception of public service, drawn from her lifelong commitment to research and education.

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newsId: 409288E8-EDD6-2C5D-ABF5AF8E5E7E340C
Title: The Next Generation of Leaders: Sarah McBride’s Pride for AU
Author: Megan Patterson, SIS/BA ’11
Subtitle:
Abstract: Sarah McBride, SPA/BA ’13, says that her time at AU allowed her to live authentically.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 06/10/2014
Content:

Alumna Sarah McBride, SPA/BA '13, is proud that American University is preparing the next generation of leaders. At 23 years old, the former Student Government president is a remarkable example of what AU's young alumni can achieve. From being the first openly transgender woman to work for the White House, to being instrumental in the passage of Delaware's Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act, Sarah is committed to working toward equality for all. 

Sarah has loved politics since she was a teenager, and she became actively involved in campaigns in her home state of Delaware in 2006. Coming to AU was the right choice for her politically-minded career, she says, because her time at AU "made my love of politics less about 'politics' and more about what politics can do." 

As president of AU's Student Government for the 2011-12 academic year, Sarah championed student interests, including gender neutral housing and encouraging changes in AU's insurance coverage for transgender students. After completing her term as president, Sarah wrote a Facebook note, later edited into an op-ed in The Eagle, titled "The Real Me," in which she came out as being a transgender woman. 

After publishing her story, Sarah received a tremendous amount of support from the AU community. "Only at AU would I have had an experience where every single response to my coming out was positive," she says. "I wouldn't be the person I am today without AU and without my experience there. My time at AU, the relationships I developed, and the lessons I learned allowed me to live authentically." 

Sarah says she felt overwhelmed, but also inspired by the reactions she received by the AU community. "It shows us where our school can be, where our community can be, where our country can be, and that we have the capacity to get there." 

Sarah credits fellow AU students and alumni for instilling in her "a deep passion for social justice." Now an alumna, Sarah has continued to work with the university in promoting equality among students. Along with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah helped champion a new sexuality and queer studies minor at AU, which debuted in fall 2013. 

She says that she feels a "deep responsibility" to give back to the school that has given her so much. "I want to make sure that the students who go to American for generations to come have as positive an experience as I had. I and my fellow alumni have a responsibility to do that." 

Sarah knows that the university has well prepared the next generation of leaders, saying, "If America was a little more like American, things would be a lot better for people who are currently struggling."

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Title: Business & Public Affairs: A Perfect Marriage
Author: Phil Recchio
Subtitle:
Abstract: Ben, Kogod/MBA ’11, and Christina Macfarland, SPA/MPA ’11, entrepreneurially apply their skills in South Florida, while giving back to AU.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 05/15/2014
Content:

Ben, Kogod/MBA ’11, and Christina Macfarland, SPA/MPA ’11, came to AU together, shortly after getting married in their native state of Florida, to pursue their individual academic and professional interests. Christina’s passion for nonprofit work and supporting her community led her to pursue a Master of Public Administration and,a graduate certificate in nonprofit management, whereas Ben built off his undergrad business degree by focusing his MBA studies on real estate and finance. Since graduation, they have returned to their home state to not only put their degrees to work, but also spread word of AU’s excellence while galvanizing the Florida alumni community. 

This past February, Christina and Ben hosted more than 60 AU alumni, parents, and friends in their Palm Beach home, and had the chance to catch up with their old neighbor, Vice President of Alumni Relations and Development, Dr. Thomas J. Minar. Before Dr. Minar delivered updates regarding campus plans and alumni initiatives within the South Florida community, Christina reminisced about her time working in the AU development department for corporate and foundation giving, and Ben remembered hunkering down in their condo during the infamous Snow-maggedon storm of 2010. 

These types of close relationships serve as a beautiful model for how the Office of Alumni Relations and Development seeks to engage AU alumni, and Christina and Ben are no strangers to the world of philanthropy and volunteering. Christina is a board member for the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, where fellow master’s alumna Jillian Vukusich, CAS/MA ’04, serves as vice president for community investment.  

Christina continues her educational pursuits, and is a recent graduate of "Leadership Palm Beach County," which kept her up to date on the latest trends in philanthropic and non profit leadership. This is especially important for those as involved in their communities as she is. She volunteers and has served on numerous committees for The Flagler Museum, March of Dimes, Historical Society of Palm Beach County, the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Presently, Christina performs research and writing for Women Corporate Directors, the only global membership organization of women corporate directors which serves as a catalyst for thought leadership and networking.

In addition to serving on his high school’s alumni board and helping to recruit great students to AU, Ben founded a local publication, Palm Beach Philanthropy, to showcase and educate the public to the diverse causes being supported right in their backyard. While philanthropy has always been a passion and a practice for the Macfarlands, Ben also puts his MBA to work running a boutique asset management firm that focuses on investing family office and institutional capital into self storage, student housing, and other special situations in real estate. The firm, where Ben serves as a partner and chief investment officer, has successfully acquired over two million square feet of real estate in the last two years.

The Macfarlands' collective energy and productivity is even more impressive in light of the fact they’ve accomplished so much all while raising their blossoming family. While their two young girls are a handful at home, Ben and Christina have a long standing history of supporting each other through thick and thin. While on campus, they could be seen attending a kick-off event to help rally support for Christina’s successful run for Editor-in-Chief of the SPA journal The Public Purpose, and nowadays they work to balance their busy schedules of business and board meetings with family meals and outings. 

Thankfully, the Macfarlands have continued their tradition of support as alumni by hosting the recent event for the South Florida AU Eagle community. As for the beautiful marriage of Ben’s business degree and Christina’s nonprofit policy focus, its power can be encapsulated by an Arthur Fried quote: “Private philanthropy is the last frontier of unconstrained freedom for private action in the public good.” AU is lucky to count this entrepreneurial and philanthropically minded young couple among its alumni family.

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Title: Board Member Amy Jones Realized Her Dream of Working on the Hill
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: After getting two AU degrees, Amy has her dream job overseeing the House’s education policies.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 05/15/2014
Content:

“I am slightly unusual among many of my friends in that I am doing exactly what I’ve wanted to do since sixth grade,” says Alumni Board member Amy Jones, SPA/BA ’99, WCL/JD ’03. Her sixth grade social studies teacher and a family trip to Washington, D.C. convinced a young Amy that she wanted to work on Capitol Hill one day. “I came to AU for college and law school because I felt it was the best place to study that would expose me to politics and Capitol Hill,” she says.

After earning both her bachelor’s and law degrees from AU, Amy’s dreams came true, and she landed a job on the Hill. She now serves as director for education and human services policy for the majority staff on the Committee on Education and the Workforce in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this role, she oversees the House’s education policies.

Amy says the most rewarding part of her job is knowing that “the policies we are pursuing will help others, particularly the underserved, be able to access and achieve their postsecondary [education] goals,” adding, “I love the energy and the quick pace on Capitol Hill. There is always something interesting happening.”

A visit to campus on Accepted Students Day convinced Amy that AU was the right choice for her. “AU was close enough to the city that I knew there would be a lot of different things to do and see, but it also had the benefit of having a more enclosed campus, which I really liked,” she says. “And I liked my undergraduate experience so much, that I went to WCL for law school.”

As an AU student, Amy was involved in numerous activities. “I participated in the Freshmen Service Experience, played lacrosse during my freshman and sophomore years, worked at the front desk of McDowell Hall, studied abroad in London for one semester, interned on Capitol Hill, and worked at a few different law firms because I was trying to decide if I wanted to go to law school,” Amy recalls.

Of her time on the American University Alumni Board, Amy says, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my service on the AU Alumni Board and becoming a more engaged alumna over the past several years. I am continually amazed by the students attending AU now and love being able to serve as a mentor or resource to them.”

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Title: Alumni Board Member Joe Vidulich is Always an Eagle
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Few alumni embody the phrase “Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle” as well as Joe Vidulich, SPA/BA ’08.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/07/2014
Content:

Few alumni embody the phrase "Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle" as well as Joe Vidulich, SPA/BA '08. A member of the American University Alumni Board and men's basketball season ticket holder, Joe continues to support AU as enthusiastically as when he was a student.

"I joined the alumni board because I want to make sure the AU alumni experience is just as good as – if not better than – the student experience, and show alumni that their time at AU doesn't end after four years," Joe says, and it's true: his Eagle pride is inescapable and infectious.

An AU men's basketball jersey bearing the signatures of the 2008 team (the first in AU history to qualify for the NCAA tournament) hangs on the wall of his home, and he is frequently at basketball games and alumni events. Joe even traveled to Boston and Milwaukee this year to watch the men's basketball team win the Patriot League Championship and play in the NCAA tournament, respectively.

"During the Patriot League Championship game, [Boston University's Agganis Arena] arena became Bender Arena North," Joe recalls. "You could hear the cheers of the AU students and alumni throughout the building and on television. It just shows that AU alumni are everywhere, and AU pride far exceeds the boundaries of Washington, D.C. … The fact that this small team of stellar student-athletes achieved an objective no one thought they could speaks to the caliber of the team, Coach Mike Brennan, and Athletics Director Billy Walker. I'm so proud of them, and I look forward to next season."

As a high school student in Long Island, Joe knew he wanted to study politics and policy. He looked at a number of D.C. schools, but decided to apply early decision to AU because, he says, "I fell in love with the campus and the spirit of the community. I saw that AU really believed that given the tools and the knowledge, you can change the world."

As soon as he arrived on campus, Joe began to change the world – or at least AU. As a freshman, he ran for student government and later became student body president. He also joined College Republicans, the Residence Hall Association, ATV, was a resident assistant, and even participated in a production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Joe also interned for Congressman Peter King (R-NY) and the McCain presidential campaign. "I wanted the whole AU experience," Joe says, "And I definitely achieved that."

Perhaps Joe's most lasting legacy to date is as a founder of Blue Crew, the student cheering section at athletics events. After noticing lackluster attendance at AU games, Joe wanted to bolster student support for AU athletes. "It touched me that these young men and women were out there – on a court or turf or field – every day with an AU emblem on their chests that represented me and everything that I stood for. … We [as AU students] might have disagreements on policy or philosophy, but there shouldn't be a disagreement about cheering on fellow students as they represent your university in competition," he says.

Joe regularly interacts with AU President Neil Kerwin, SPA/BA '71, in his duties as an alumni board member, and he recalls Dr. Kerwin's inauguration fondly. As student body president, he participated in the inauguration ceremony, presenting Dr. Kerwin with an AU jersey on behalf of the student body. "It was a really special time. His presidency brought about a rebirth in the AU alumni community, since he is the first AU president who is also an alumnus and he has implemented a strategic plan that incorporates alumni."

When he isn't cheering for the Eagles or networking with fellow alumni, Joe represents the interests of over 650 businesses and half a million employees as vice president of government relations for the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, one of largest chambers in Virginia.

"One of the passions I got out of AU is that a strong economy is central to a strong region. … Every day, I use the skills taught to me by some of the best professors and experts in their fields to advocate and shape policy to make a better Virginia for my companies and the people who work for those companies," Joe says.

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Title: John Tranfaglia, SPA/BA ’13, Providing Solutions to Preserve the Maine Lobster Industry
Author: Pat Rabb
Subtitle:
Abstract: As part of AU’s Roosevelt Institute, Tranfaglia began proposing ideas to strengthen the industry.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 01/07/2014
Content:

"I think the biggest mistake that the lobster industry has made is not being proactive towards marketing the product out of state."

So says alumnus John Tranfaglia, SPA/BA ’13, about his efforts to promote initiatives to save Maine’s most identifiable industry - lobsters. Without changes, many believe that the business of catching lobsters in the state of Maine will die.

John first became involved in the lobster issue as a member of the Roosevelt Institute at American University. As a member of this organization, he was challenged to look at public policy problems and highlight possible solutions that might alleviate them. "I had read in the newspaper a few times about some of the troubles that the lobster industry was having with marketing the product and thought it would be interesting to look into the issue further," says John.

The Roosevelt Institute is the first student-run policy organization or "think tank" in the United States. Its mission is to empower students to create and advocate their ideas for change. Including the AU chapter, there are 8,500 active members and over 80 established chapters in the U.S. and abroad.

John describes how, until recently, there were very few processing plants in Maine to break down and freeze the product so that items such as lobster meat or tails could be sold.  Much of the lobster caught off the coast of Maine is sent to Canada to be processed. Once it crosses the border, it is marketed as Canadian lobster. This leads to price markups that increase dealers’ profits while shrinking the profits of the lobstermen.

Once caught, a lobster can change hands five or six times before reaching the consumer’s plate. However, lobstermen are getting paid as little as $2 a pound for their catch – while the price can escalate to $18 a pound by the time it reaches a restaurant menu. 

John believes that the best way to raise profits for the Maine lobstermen would be to increase processing capabilities in Maine. "Last year, over 133 million pounds of lobster was caught off the Maine coast but much of that was sent to Canada for processing," he adds. John thinks that if either the processing costs could be reduced or if lobstermen could co-op with processors, then their wages would increase considerably.

When reflecting on his passion for the Maine lobster industry, John admits that he actually was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. However, his family moved to Cape Elizabeth, Maine, when he was two years old. "I have lived there ever since and it is what I have come to know as home," he says.

In describing why he chose to attend AU, John states that he wanted to go to a school in the city, he wanted to be able to study and work in politics, and he wanted the opportunity to study abroad. "Going to AU allowed me to achieve all three of these," he remarks.

Now that John has graduated from AU with a major in political science and a minor in public administration and policy, he plans to leave Maine and move overseas. "In March, I will be moving to Seoul, South Korea, to teach English for a year," he says.

While in Korea, John will be planning his next step. He has an interest in health policy and has deferred his admission to the University of Melbourne for a master’s degree in public health. "Studying abroad was something that has definitely impacted me throughout my time at AU. I loved Perth and plan on going back to Australia for graduate studies," says John.

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Title: Cameron McCosh, SPA/BA ’07, SPA/MPP ’08, is a Washington Power Broker
Author: Dash Radosti
Subtitle:
Abstract: McCosh recently was named to list of 25 Most Influential Washington Women Under 35.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 11/12/2013
Content:

Cameron McCosh, SPA/BA ’07, SPA/MPP ’08, was recently named to the National Journal’s list of 25 Most Influential Washington Women under 35.

Although only 28, Cameron is chief operating officer of American Action Forum, a conservative think-tank focused on domestic and economic policy.

After finishing her studies at American University with both an undergraduate degree in justice and a master’s in public policy, Cameron interned with Lehman Brothers, working in government relations. Afterwards, John McCain's Chief Economic Policy Adviser approached Cameron about starting a new type of conservative think-tank that would be more reactive to the 24-hour news cycle. The rest, as they say, is history.

In a few short years, Cameron helped grow the organization from a fledgling startup to one of Washington’s most influential center-right policy institutes. As COO, she is involved in nearly all aspects of the organization--from formulating policy to meeting decision makers on the Hill and advancing the forum’s message. Cameron credits her time at AU as being instrumental to her development.

“When I came to AU, I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I loved to learn. Then I took a class from Dr. Jeffery Schaler that really questioned what I believed in, changed my outlook and sparked my interest in public policy,” says Cameron. Later, as a graduate student, another professor, Dr. Sonja Walti, really showed her how public policy influences lives all around us. “Her class really opened my eyes,” Cameron recalls.

While she is unsure about the future (she jokes that she barely has tomorrow planned), Cameron is confident that she’ll be able to seize whatever opportunity presents itself—another skill she credits from her time at AU. Until then, she is working in an area about which she is passionate, including domestic and economic policy, and enjoying life as a newlywed, having just gotten married last summer.

Cameron continues to take advantage of AU’s community. She gleefully boasts about her love of hiring AU students for internships. She also attends an occasional alumni happy hour and sometimes indulges in nostalgic jogs to her alma mater from her house in Logan Circle. Above all, she is impressed by how much the university has grown in the last few years.

“When I was at AU, which wasn’t too long ago, they didn’t even have the [new] SIS building, but more than that, the school’s reputation has grown so much in the last few years. I love the WONK campaign. I think its so fitting.” says Cameron.

Above all, Cameron advises current students to take advantage of their professors and to say yes to every opportunity that presents itself. “I took the opportunity to go back for my master’s in public policy, and I can’t stress how amazing that experience was,” she remarks.

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Title: Stephanie Tinsley Regagnon’s Path to and from Washington included AU
Author: Phil Recchio
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alumna uses conversations to forge new partnerships.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 11/08/2013
Content:

Growing up in Kirksville, Mo., Stephanie Tinsley Regagnon, SPA/MA ’02, was never a stranger to the wide open farmlands of America’s agricultural landscape. After exploring academic options in law, she found her niche in politics and completed her undergraduate work at the University of Missouri. During a visit to D.C., she heard an AU radio advertisement during a cab ride and the following evening attended an open house for the School of Public Affairs. This spurred her matriculation to AU, and despite her family’s desire to keep her close to home, Stephanie traded her car in Missouri for a D.C. Metro card.

Working full-time while she got her master’s degree, Stephanie embodied the AU archetype of putting academic theory into practice. “Once I got to AU, I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do. School didn’t even feel like school; at that point it’s not about college, it’s about the rest of your life,” Regagnon remembers. In the evenings, she learned about advanced political theory and how it has played out in Washington, and the next morning she applied the teaching directly in her work for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

One of Stephanie’s influential professors was Pat Griffin, whose experience as legislative affairs assistant to President Clinton shown through in the classroom. Griffin’s down-to-earth style and gregarious demeanor drove home the fact that Stephanie, a Beltway outsider, could do this work too. Griffin’s successes in bridging gaps between public and private partnerships paved the way for Stephanie to assert her skills in connecting people, ideas, and policies from seemingly disparate communities. 

In her current role as director of sustainable agriculture portfolio strategy at Monsanto, she continues to bridge gaps between local farmers, global tech innovations, and an inquisitive public. Balancing all of the needs and futures of these differing communities is no small feat, and Stephanie continues to rely on one of Pat Griffin’s teachings; “Be up front, be honest and be yourself.”

Having frank and informed conversations regarding controversial topics is part of Stephanie’s critical skillset. Years of having tough conversations around protecting agricultural resources around the globe has prepared her for promoting innovative and collaborative partnerships necessary to moving our collective environmental footprint forward.

Stephanie proudly states the critical role her AU education has played in her successes. Her dedication to education is evident and it continues to be her passion. After a personal family experience with the justice system, Stephanie founded Ava’s Grace Scholarship Foundation. Ava’s Grace has a mission of providing scholarships for higher education to children with incarcerated parents in the state of Missouri. The foundation currently funds two new students per year, giving $5,000 each of their four years in college or university. “In higher education there are scholarships for twins, diabetics and everything in between. There were no scholarships for children with incarcerated parents. As an at-risk population this was a need that wasn’t being addressed. At Ava’s Grace we are seeking to change that one child at a time in Missouri.” 

Academically, professionally and philanthropically, Stephanie is embodying AU’s pragmatic ethos by collaboratively engaging new connections and partnerships, while not shying away from tough conversations.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,School of Public Affairs
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newsId: B1028450-AF2B-8780-B99CDAB60BBA93EE
Title: Turning Leadership and Mentorship Into Success
Author: Alexis Pazmiño, SPA/BA ’11
Subtitle:
Abstract: Marc Bender, SPA/BA ’97, is the chief investment officer at Cantor Fitzgerald Asset Management.  During his time at American University, he was not only a student athlete but also a member of the SPA Leadership Program.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 08/12/2013
Content:

Marc Bender, SPA/BA ’97, attributes his success to his experiences as a student athlete and the SPA Leadership program. He is currently the Chief Investment Officer at Cantor Fitzgerald Asset Management, a global financial services firm in New York City.

Looking back at his tenure at AU, Bender considers himself fortunate to have participated in the SPA Leadership Program. “Richard Levick was our director and taught us a great deal about a wide range of areas, including everything from how to speak and articulate yourself in public to how to act around political dignitaries,” Bender says.

Recently, Bender met Margaret Marr, the current SPA leadership director, when he spoke to a group of current students and recent alumni. Bender regards Marr as a terrific leader who provides invaluable opportunities to her students. The SPA Leadership Program allows students to learn real-life leadership skills to pave the way for future success. “The wide reach of skills and walks of life touched by this program in a practical way is second to none in the life lessons you can learn at a young age,” Bender says proudly.

Bender was also a noted student athlete for all four years of his time at AU. During his time on the golf team, he competed against some of today’s best PGA Tour players, including John Rollins. Wade Heinzelman, Bender’s coach, proved inspirational to the young player. Bender recalls, “[Heinzelman] taught us a ton about everything from golf course management to custom golf equipment to having the right disposition on the course and how to focus on specific targets (both on and off the golf course).”

Bender balanced his responsibilities as a student-athlete while enjoying the classroom environment and social aspects of AU. He interned at the Public Defender’s Office where he had an eye-opening experience as he visited clients in all areas of D.C., including local jails.

Bender earned his J.D. from New York Law School immediately after earning his B.A. in Law and Society from AU. From there, he partnered with Donald Erenberg and Michael Friedman at First New York Securities, undertaking a management role in a prospering company.

Currently, Marc Bender is chief investment officer at Cantor Fitzgerald Asset Management. A large part of his role at Cantor Fitzgerald is finding undiscovered investment talent. He says of his work, “I get to constantly learn and enjoy the challenge of not looking at opportunities through rose colored glasses but actually understanding the risk/reward profile of each opportunity.” The position allows him to define truly valuable people and investments that are not only competent but also differentiated. Enjoying his challenging position, Bender notes that “[w]ithstanding the test of time requires hitting singles and doubles, with an occasional triple or home run - but the manager seeking grand slams often suffers big losses or goes out of business.”

Continuing with the sports metaphors (ever the AU athlete), Marc Bender has hit a home run as a leader in his own right.

A native of Great Neck, New York, Bender lives with his wife Rachel and their children in the New York metro area.

 

 

Tags: Alumni Update,School of Public Affairs
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newsId: CFA9ABD4-9154-99B2-281079F6D44E07C1
Title: Alumna and Trustee Margery Kraus honored by Association of Former Members of Congress
Author: Traci Crockett
Subtitle:
Abstract: Kraus, founder and CEO of APCO Worldwide, received the FMC's “Corporate Statesmanship Award.”
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 05/06/2013
Content:

Alumna and trustee, Margery Kraus, SPA/BA ’67, SPA/MA ’71, was recently honored with the “Corporate Statesmanship Award” from the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC) in recognition of her leadership in the philanthropic community. Kraus, founder and CEO of APCO Worldwide, was recognized at FMC’s 16th Annual Statesmanship Award Dinner.

Kraus says that fellow AU alumna and former Congresswoman Connie Morella, CAS/MA ’67, gave her the news that she would receive the award, “and that was as exciting to me as getting the award.” She says the event was a great reunion for her with many members of Congress whom she had known since they were freshmen on the Hill. “This was especially meaningful because it wasn’t just a group giving me an award. These were people I knew,” she says. “Having people rooting for you and on your side is a very special feeling.”

APCO Worldwide is an independent, global communication, stakeholder engagement, and business strategy firm with more than 600 experts in 30 offices around the globe. Calling her one of AU’s most successful alumni, Distinguished Professor Jim Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, says, “She is a wonderful example to all of our students, but especially women.” 

Kraus, who is keenly focused on empowering young women as she runs one of the largest independently-owned communication consultancies, says that her family is her support system. As a wife, mother, and grandmother, she says that her personal brand of work-life balance would not work for everyone. “I try to be there for the most important things and make up for with experience what I lack in time,” she says. To that end, she has built a family tradition of taking each grandchild on an international trip with her when they turn 10 years old. 

Not surprisingly, Kraus says no day is ever the same for her. “I am up at 5:30. I check everything at home,” she says. “Since we’re a global company, I spend the morning catching up on what’s happening in Asia and Europe, then have meetings all day, and usually attend evening receptions.”  

Despite her intensely busy schedule, which sometimes includes weeks on end away from home, Kraus finds time to give back to AU. “Margery Kraus has been a strong and long-term supporter of American University, the School of Public Affairs, and especially the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies through her generous contribution to our benefactor’s awards, her guidance, and by sharing her wisdom and knowledge with our students and faculty,” says Professor Thurber. He adds that she speaks to students, opens her offices to them as interns and employees, and “has changed the lives of many students in countless ways.”

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Update,Board of Trustees,Capitol Hill,Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies,International Business,Political Science,School of Public Affairs,Washington DC,Washington Semester,Congress
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newsId: A17AE3E1-D537-755A-273FEF374DEFC843
Title: Legally Blind MPA Student Supports Disabled Workers
Author: April Thompson
Subtitle:
Abstract: Duilio Correa, SPA/MPA '13, credits his AU education with helping him become an analyst at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Topic: Student
Publication Date: 02/11/2013
Content:

Duilio Correa, SPA/MPA '13, came to American University by chance, but stayed by design – for two degrees and counting.

The Peruvian-born student first came to AU in 2005 for a certificate in Spanish translation, but his advisor, the late Jack Child, encouraged him to stay on and pursue a master's degree in Spanish and Latin American studies.

“At first I was doubtful. I was already working as an information specialist for a government clearinghouse, and legally blind from birth – I didn't really know if I could pull it off,” said Correa.

After finishing his MA in 2008, Correa landed a job developing Spanish-language materials at the National Institutes of Health. Yet, he felt he needed a better foundation in management, and found himself again perusing AU's course offerings. SPA’s MPA program seemed like a good fit, but Correa had to think twice about saddling himself with a full load of night classes given his demanding job.

He took the bet, and it's paid off. Graduation is in sight, and Correa has landed a plum position as a management and program analyst at Health and Human Services, a job he says he wouldn't have gotten without his AU education. In his new position, Correa will be working with the human resources team at HHS to recruit people with disabilities and develop programs catering to disabled employees.

“Struggle is necessary for success,” says Correa, who came to the U.S. as a teen with his mother – his driving force and inspiration. “If the opportunity you're looking for doesn't arise, sometimes you have to create it.”

While Correa doesn't feel his disability – a congenital eye condition that limits his central vision – has impeded him personally or professionally, it has required him to be resourceful. The student relies on dictation programs to type documents, an iPad to zoom in on text and software to read passages aloud to him.

The classroom has been fertile ground to learn and grow, according to Correa. “The AU community is very supportive. Professors encourage independent thought, and give you a lot of room to explore academically and express yourself freely.” He feels more poised in the workplace and better equipped to handle difficult situations as a result of his coursework in management.

Ever ambitious, Correa is already thinking about returning for his PhD someday, and eventually becoming a professional coach for disabled individuals. It's hard to imagine a better career for someone so passionate about helping others thrive in the face of adversity.

“You can't focus on your physical challenges or concentrate on your flaws; you have to look at what you do well and how you can improve,” says Correa. “If you fail, there is always another day. The key is never to give up.”

Tags: Public Administration,Public Administration & Policy,School of Public Affairs,Alumni
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