Top of the Hill: SPA Grad Pursues Lobbying Dreams and Passions
Mere weeks after completing his master’s in Government, Ben Timmins, SPA/MA’09, was not only testing the skills and knowledge he took home from SPA, he was getting to work on issues he cared about.
As senior manager of legislative affairs for the boutique lobbying firm Allegiance Strategies LLC, Timmins hones skills in three strategic areas—political giving, message development, and direct lobbying. One of the firm’s major clients is focused on marriage equality for same-sex partners, a compelling opportunity for Timmins, who has “always been passionate about civil rights, particularly LGBT issues.”
Timmins wasn’t a born political junkie, though. He got hooked on watching the news with his dad in high school. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a turning point for Timmins, who majored in political science at York College of Pennsylvania. “I strongly opposed the war, but I knew I needed to learn more” to influence such policies, he explained.
SPA’s MA in political science was the next step. In the degree program Timmins understood the mechanics of the political machine and appreciated accessible professors, flexible class schedules, and a far-ranging curriculum.
SPA’s intensive institutes really set the school apart. “No other schools had anything like it,” he said Timmins, who completed both the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute (PAAI) and the Campaign Management Institute.
PAAI , a two-week boot camp for lobbyists-to-be, gave Timmins resources he uses everyday in his career. “It’s like learning how to fly as you take off in a plane,” he said. “You learn a lot in short time and really test your abilities. The time pressure, the expert speakers and the concrete resources you take away – those elements set the institute apart.”
At the end of the institute, students create a lobbying plan and present it to a panel of faculty acting as prospective clients. “It gives you a real-world feel for lobbying. You get to take home the finished project and show it to future employers, which is a huge benefit,” he said.
The flexible class schedule at SPA allowed Timmins to work full-time, gaining hands-on experience while earning his degree. Timmins served as a Higher Education Fellow for Women In Government, as well as a Healthcare Fellow for U.S. representative Bart Gordon (TN-D).
“Professor Thurber knew I wanted to get on the Hill and work in healthcare,” Timmins said. The director of SPA’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies put Timmins in contact with the office's legislative director.
“I got an interview and was hired shortly after.”
Timmins put his coursework into practice in Gordon’s office, producing briefing memos and talking points, creating support strategies on healthcare legislation and more.
While recognizing that policies can be slow to change, Timmins sees hope and excitement around the energy of grassroots political movements—from the winning Obama campaign to the mobilization against California’s Proposition 8 to the Tea Party movement.
“The idea of all of these citizens coming together to move a single goal through the political system—that’s the stuff that gets you excited.”