newsId: 6E7F8488-5056-AF26-BE223F544E775F7B
Title: Leadership Students Bring Talents to the White House
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Abstract: Since 2011, ten Leadership Program students have brought their talents to internships in the White House.
Topic: In the Community
Publication Date: 05/20/2015
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Eesha Bhave remembers seeing the White House for the first tie during her 8th grade class trip to Washington, D.C. Six short years later, Bhave spends forty hours per week interning with the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

Bhave is joined by senior Lori Interlicchio, who currently interns in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Together Bhave and Interlicchio join a growing legion of Leadership students to intern for White House.

Since 2011, ten Leadership students have brought their talents to the White House Visitors Office, Office of Legislative Affairs, Council of Economic Advisors, Domestic Policy Council, Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Administration, Office of Public Engagement and Office of the Vice President.

In her internship, Bhave is afforded the opportunity to have an impact on policies affecting Asian American and Pacific Islanders, “I am working on issues such as civil rights, language access, and youth engagement.”

The sophomore year of the Leadership program allowed Bhave and Interlicchio to be competitive applicants for this semester’s White House internship. Bhave explained, “The work I completed in the sophomore class for leadership opened my eyes to this particular office and the work that it does, and gave me the confidence and experience to apply.”

Senior Cj Murphy returned to classes this fall after taking a semester off to intern in the president’s humble abode. Spending a semester in the Office of Management and Administration deepened Murphy’s understanding of being committed to one’s work: “Each person there, from the cleaning staff to the Chief of Staff, is so passionate about what they do and inspired me to work hard and take pride in everything I did there, no matter how big or small.”

In addition to interning in the White House, Leadership students frequent the White House for the debut of initiatives, legislative signings, and even to introduce the President himself. Sophomore Wes Young’s involvement with sexual assault prevention on college campuses led to an invitation to discuss the “It’s On Us” campaign with other student leaders in the West Wing.

Alumnus Deon Jones (’14) joined President Obama and General Colin Powell for the signing of the Declaration to Fulfill America’s Promise in the Oval Office. Alumnus Andy MacCracken (’12) was recognized for leading the college affordability charge in the nation’s capital with an invitation to introduce President Obama before delivering remarks on student loan debt.

Leadership students are afforded the unique opportunity to use their “strengths and skills to help in the administration’s efforts to serve the country,” Murphy observed.

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Title: Leadership Students Tackle Over 30 Social Issues
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Abstract: This year, first-years are addressing issues including adult illiteracy in D.C., excess waste on AU’s campus from disposable cups, and inadequate resources for homeless veterans.
Topic: In the Community
Publication Date: 05/20/2015
Content:

“What is a social issue of concern to you?” Leadership students are asked this question from Program Director Margaret Marr at the beginning of both their first and second years in the program. This question marks the beginning of a thirty-week journey to identify a social issue of concern to the student, research the issue, design a project to address the issue and then execute the project.

American University’s School of Public Affairs is home to some of the most politically active and passionate students in the country. The SPA Leadership Program provides students with a network of resources and support to translate this passion into social action. “A desire to address social justice issues is the common thread that runs through all Leadership students,” explains Nick Hunt (‘17).

During their first year in the program, students work alongside six of their classmates in an “issue group” to identify a social issue of concern to the group. This year, first-years are addressing issues including adult illiteracy in D.C., the school-to-prison pipeline, excess waste on AU’s campus from disposable cups, rape culture on college campuses and inadequate resources for homeless veterans.

Throughout the year, students hone their research and writing skills to craft compelling policy memos, project proposals and grant applications. Students develop their relationship-building and public speaking capabilities through elevator speeches, informational interviews, project presentations and meetings with scholars, practitioners and constituents. Equipped with this knowledge, students work with community members to design and implement a project that meets the community’s needs and works to achieve social justice.

In a mere thirty weeks, first-year students in the Education and Activism issue group were able to impact adult literacy rates in Washington D.C. by producing and screening a documentary, “Without A Word,” at downtown D.C.’s restaurant and bookstore Busboys and Poets. Their documentary explores the lives of adults overcoming illiteracy through the help of a local non-profit organization, the Washington Literacy Center (WLC).

All of the proceeds gathered from their documentary screening were donated to the WLC. Another first-year issue group, Environmental Health and Sustainability, started the AU “One Less Cup Campaign.” Their campaign aims to reduce the amount of waste generated on campus through disposable cups by promoting the use of reusable cups.

During the sophomore year, students are challenged to carry out this process individually. This gives them a unique opportunity to explore and address the social issues they care about with the support and resources of the SPA Leadership community.

Individual sophomores in the program have executed their own social action projects in a variety of ways. Molly Morabito (‘17) designed a series of workshops that taught college students about effective environmental lobbying and featured several policy experts as guest speakers. Participants learned specific lobbying strategies for today’s political climate, different types of environmental legislation and how to advocate for them.

Morabito’s workshops culminated on Capitol Hill, where participants learned environmental advocacy through a Congressional perspective from staffers in Representative Elijah Cummings’s office.

“I would say the most rewarding thing about this project has been seeing that others are just as passionate about the issue of climate change and just as eager to make their voices heard about it. As someone who’s been passionate about the environment since I was a kid, I sometimes forget that I’m not alone in caring,” reflected Morabito.

Megan Crowley (‘17) chose to address the marginalization of LGBTQ+ individuals through a storytelling project. Crowley has collected stories from individuals that focus on how those who identify with more than one marginalized identity are affected. Crowley published her storytelling project in AU’s AmWord magazine, as well as Buzzfeed and other LGBTQ+ blogs.

David Shadburn (‘15) puts it simply: “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the Leadership Program.” The resources and empowerment provided to Leadership students to address social issues of concern to them allows the learning to transcend classroom walls. Students begin in the classroom learning how to affect social change, followed by an opportunity to go out in the community and affect the social change.

Each year Leadership Program students address more than 30 social issues to leave the world a better place than when asked the question, “What is a social justice issue of concern to you?”

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Title: BleakHouse Poetry Press honors social justice writers, artists
Author: Lee Ivory
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Abstract: BleakHouse Publishing, an independent press founded by School of Public Affairs Professor Robert Johnson recently honored members of the publishing house for their outstanding work.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 05/19/2015
Content:

BleakHouse Publishing, an independent press founded by School of Public Affairs Professor Robert Johnson recently honored members of the publishing house for their outstanding work.

SPA undergraduate Tatiana Laing was recognized at the annual awards ceremony for her work as an alternative breaks leader, writer and #BlackLivesMatter activist. She and American University senior Alexa Marie Kelly were awarded the annual Victor Hassine Memorial Scholarship.

Laing also will be the 2015 BleakHouse Fellow. In this role, she will work with Johnson to produce creative, social justice work.

Rachel Ternes, another AU senior, was honored for her outstanding artwork. She created paintings for the covers of Kelly’s new book, Black Bone: Poems on Crime and Punishment, Race and Justice, and Chandra Bozelko’s book, Up the River.

Ternes’ work earned her acceptance into the BleakHouse Distinguished Writers and Artists Guild. She is the first undergraduate to receive this honor.

Johnson said he was very proud of the honorees, particularly the students.

“It’s a wonderful thing. I get students from all across the university … I’m very fortunate,” he said. “It’s probably the most gratifying thing I do at the university, as an extension of teaching.”

The awards ceremony – held March 26 at the Mary Graydon Center - kicked off with Kelly reading from her book’s titular poem, Black Bone. She said her poem addresses racial profiling and sentencing inequalities in the criminal justice system.

Kelly also produces BleakHouse’s literary magazine, Tacenda, each year, and she recognized this year’s published Tacenda writers for their achievements.

Bozelko, another BleakHouse author, was honored for Up the River. Her poetry collection reflects on her time in prison and moves through a number of voices, including judges, prison guards, nurses and prisoners.

In her remarks, Bozelko thanked BleakHouse for the opportunity to publish and urged the audience to listen to prisoners because, doing so, was the start of a “revolution.”

The night’s Social Justice Advocacy Award went to Diann Rust-Tierney of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Johnson said the advocacy award “is something we’re very proud of.”

He also pointed out that, in the case of Bozelko and others before her (notably Charles Huckelbury and Erin George), Bleakhouse pushes to publish work from writers outside AU.

“We have such an exciting group of people contributing to us. … When we can, we try to use the work of people in prison or formerly in prison,” he said.

In a special moment at the ceremony, BleakHouse veteran Sonia Tabriz thanked Johnson for his support and guidance. Tabriz read praise for Johnson that was written by the students he has mentored over the years.

The non-profit poetry press, started in 2006 by Johnson, tackles issues within the criminal justice system - from the death penalty and mass incarceration to police brutality and racial prejudice.

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Title: SPA’s Online MPAP Program Ranked Among Top Ten in the Nation
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Abstract: Top Management Degrees rated SPA’s online program, directed by assistant professor Sonja Walti, as #6 in the country, and highest overall throughout the Washington, DC-area.
Topic: Education
Publication Date: 05/18/2015
Content:

The School of Public Affairs’ online Master of Public Administration & Policy (MPAP) ranks among the top programs of its kind, according to data recently released by Top Management Degrees.

The online business education and career guide rated SPA’s online program, directed by assistant professor Sonja Walti, as #6 in the country, and highest overall throughout the Washington, DC-area.

"We are proud to be recognized as among the very top online degrees in public administration,” Walti said. “That recognition demonstrates that students across the country—and beyond—are seeking a proven degree from AU’s top-ranked School of Public Affairs, with its close connections to well-versed DC experts."

The Online MPAP program provides students with analytical, contextual, ethical, and substantive skills and knowledge to effectively advise public policy and lead public programs in government, the non-profit and the private sector in the United States and abroad. SPA’s award-winning faculty deliver academic credentials, real-world experience, and immersion into the Washington D.C. political and policy arena, offering students unique access to both world-class education and preparation for immediate success beyond the classroom.

Top Management Degrees derived the rankings by combining the results of two of the most influential higher education rankings in order to give a well-rounded view of the programs available. Additionally, each school was ranked based on its accreditation from the NASPAA, the highest recognized global accrediting body of master's degree programs in the fields of public administration and policy. Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report ranked SPA #12 among the top public affairs institutions, and #8 among the top public management administration programs

Tags: Online Learning Program,Public Administration,Public Administration & Policy,Public Policy,School of Public Affairs
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Title: CEP Tackles Effects of Climate Change on Children’s Health
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Abstract: SPA's Center for Environmental Policy co-hosts conference at the Wilson Center offering policy solutions for parents as children confront the effects of climate change.
Topic: Environment
Publication Date: 05/13/2015
Content:

Scientists, policy leaders and public health experts broadcast many messages warning of the effects of climate change. On the Monday following Mother’s Day 2015, a new, important message crystallized: Let’s support parents.

The Woodrow Wilson Center in downtown Washington, DC hosted an important panel co-sponsored by the School of Public Affairs’ Center for Environmental Policy (CEP) and the Children's Environmental Health Network. Entitled “The Social and Economic Costs of Climate Change on Children’s Health”, the conference became a rallying cry toward policymakers to help enact laws that will help parents across the country tackle the effects of climate change on their children’s well being including their health, wellness, and ability to learn.

Children, panelists argued, are especially susceptible to the negative effects of a changing climate. “We talk a lot about celebrating mothers and fathers…but we don’t do a lot for them,” said Sylvia Brandt, associate professor at UMASS-Amherst. “We see that you are struggling and that it is impacting you,” she exclaimed, further posing the question what can academics and policymakers do to support families struggling to cope with the environmental effects on their children.

Research presented at the conference highlighted the interconnectedness of climate change and health effects. The social and economic burdens of asthma, for example, illustrate the difficulties faced by all members of the family. As extreme heat events become more frequent, asthma prevalence is likely to rise, and the illness is further exacerbated by changes in ragweed and ozone levels. Lisa Palmer, a panelist from the Wilson Center tweeted:

Mothers of kids with asthma: 18% of these moms forced out of labor market due to kids' chronic illness. #cep2015 #climate

— Lisa_Palmer (@Lisa_Palmer) May 11, 2015

The conference both addressed the impacts of climate change on children’s health, and provided examples of how communities are working to mitigate those impacts. Dan Fiorino, the director of CEP, and William K. Reilly, founder of TPG Global and recent commencement speaker for SPA, welcomed panelists and viewers, setting the stage for the four-hour long conference.

“Children are ready to know about the environment, they want to know about it—not just in self-interest, but as part of their broader curiosity,” Reilly told audience members.

Ultimately, the panelists introduced a positive set of goals moving forward including the integration of academic fields due to the interconnectedness of climate change issues, and empowering curious youth to tackle the effects of climate change. “The top concern now is getting people to move from short-term to long-term thinking and policies in these issues,” Fiorino concluded.

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Title: Five Historical Tidbits About AU Commencement
Author: Patrick Bradley
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Abstract: The lowdown on AU graduation ceremonies back a century.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 05/06/2015
Content:

1. Because Bagpipes — What’s the deal with AU’s commencement bagpipers? Well, the tradition goes back to 1980, when the university president at the time decided to surprise students by replacing the tune “Pomp and Circumstance” with a procession of the Scottish instruments. He believed the typical graduation song was too reminiscent of high school. The bagpipes stuck, now extending to freshman convocation ceremonies in order to bookend the AU student experience.

AU class of 1927;

2. Location, Location — Over the past century (that’s right, AU’s been graduating students for about a century), commencement has hopped around various venues throughout Washington, D.C. In addition to ceremonies taking place outdoors in front of Hurst Hall or on the now-athletic fields, AU hosted graduation at the DAR Constitution Hall and the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

It wasn’t until 1988 and the opening of Bender Arena that graduation ceremonies finally settled in the spacious sports complex where they continue today.

President Dwight Eisenhower at the podium;

3. Star Power — With a student body so politically active, commencement at AU is bound to attract some high caliber speakers. Since graduating the first class of undergraduates in 1927, commencement has seen the podium occupied by the likes of U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton; Thurgood Marshall and other Supreme Court justices; former Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin; and numerous other political heavy hitters.

Not to be outdone, the School of Communication has hosted broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite, Hollywood producer Barry Levinson, and—just last year—TV personality Katie Couric, to name a few. Check out this year’s list of speakers.

Barry Levison at the podium in 1999;

4. All Together — AU now holds separate commencement ceremonies for each of its schools and colleges. This year, five will take place in Bender Arena over the course of two days, and seating inside will likely be at max capacity for each. The Washington College of Law will hold its ceremony separately a week later. Until 1969, however, all of AU graduated together, in one large event. In 1969, there were seven ceremonies in total—including those for the now-defunct School of Nursing and College of Continuing Education—and all of them took place on one day, from the campus amphitheater, fields, and Kay Spiritual Life Center to the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church across the street.

5. Brace Yourselves, Winter Commencement — For the first time in more than a decade, AU will host winter commencement on December 16, 2015 for August and December graduates. The move comes as the university community grows rapidly while also welcoming more nontraditional students and those who might graduate on different timelines. So, if you're finishing your degree soon, don’t worry; AU’s got you covered this winter.

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Title: SPA Professor Jennifer Lawless sends message to Class of 2015: Run for Office!
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Abstract: In Running for Office Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox explore young people’s opinions about contemporary politics and their political ambition (or lack of it).
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 05/05/2015
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Graduation season has arrived for high school and college students and if American University professor of government Jennifer Lawless and her co-author, professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University Richard Fox, were giving commencement speeches to the Class of 2015, they might go something like this:

“We have good news and we have bad news. After conducting a national survey of more than 4,000 high school and college students, plus more than 100 in-depth interviews with these young people, the good news is that you are civic-minded and want to improve your communities. The bad news is that, according to our survey, eighty-nine percent of you have already dismissed the idea of ever running for political office.”

Lawless and Fox, the authors of the new book  Running from Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics(Oxford University Press, May 2015), might also say:

“But it’s not your fault. Politicians and the dysfunctional political system have contributed to your lack of political ambition. Teachers, coaches, and the media have reinforced the most negative aspects of the political arena. Government shutdowns, hyper-partisanship, political scandals, and gridlock have turned you off to thinking politics is way to solve problems. In fact, these kinds of things have soured your parents and other mentors from encouraging you to consider a future in elective office. But consider the consequences...”

500,000 Elected Offices in Search of the Best and Brightest

There are more than 500,000 elective offices in the United States, many of which serve as stepping stones to higher office. “Elected officials craft, shape, and implement the laws that affect citizens now and for generations to come,” explain Lawless and Fox. But only a fraction of the best and brightest young people – a mere 11 percent of people in their survey – are willing to seek elected office.

In fact,they would rather do almost anything else. In one set of questions, Lawless and Fox presented students with four career options – business owner, teacher, mayor of a city or town, and salesperson – and asked them which they would most like to be, assuming that each paid the same amount of money. Nine out of ten respondents chose a career other than mayor as their first choice. Nearly 40 percent reported that it would be their least desired job.

They also asked them which of the following four higher echelon jobs they found most appealing: business executive, lawyer, school principal, or member of Congress. Serving as a member of Congress came in dead last (just 13 percent of young people chose it). However, it placed first on the “least desirable list.”

“Young people are interested in saving the world and care about making their communities a better place. But they don’t consider electoral politics a way to achieve those goals,” says Lawless.

Political Dysfunction Turning Young People Off

Who can blame young people for ranking a political career so low on their list of life goals? This generation has witnessed hyper-partisan vitriol coming not only from the mouths of politicians, but also from the profusion of pundits and media outlets catering to the extremes on the political spectrum. The increased bandwidth of the Internet – from blogs to cable news to social media – spew partisan brinkmanship 24 hours a day that has stripped away any goodwill elected officials might ever have generated. Eighty-five percent of the survey respondents did not think that elected officials want to help people; 79 percent did not consider politicians smart or hardworking; nearly 60 percent believed that politicians are dishonest; and fewer than 30 percent thought that candidates and elected leaders stand up for their convictions.

Can the Appeal of Elected Office be Resurrected?

Lawless and Fox provide practical and innovative suggestions for how new technologies, national service programs, and well-strategized public service campaigns could generate political ambition in young people. “If young people saw politics as a vibrant, effective way to engage with and improve their communities and society,” say Lawless and Fox, “then more of them would not be turned off by the thought of entering the fray.”

Five suggestions are provided in Running from Office that could change young people’s attitudes. But it will take money and motivation, combined with politicians serving as better role models, supporting innovative programs, and partnering with entrepreneurs, activists, journalists and teachers to combat the political ambition deficit.

Here’s how Lawless and Fox suggest to shift current attitudes:

  • YouLead Initiative is a national service program with the message that young people are needed to foster new leadership. It would seek to change their impressions of politicians and encourage potential political leadership by identifying high school and college students who have already exhibited leadership success.
  • Playstation for Politics is a way to engage young people on a platform where they already spend a lot of time: video games. Building video games around becoming a candidate and engaging in campaigns and elections (including financing a campaign, weathering a scandal, and developing a platform to win both a primary and a general election, with all the pitfalls along the way) could be an educational thrill.
  • Political Ambition – Put That in Your Bong and Smoke It proposes making political engagement a fundamental part of the college application experience. Lawless and Fox adhere to the belief that civic interest should be added to the factors colleges consider in the admissions process. They make clear that college applicants should be aware of major political issues and that college admissions officers should incentivize the importance of following current events and policy debates.
  • Girls Uninterrupted - Increase College Women’s Political Ambition solves two problems. First, it’s a program that mentors, equips, and encourages young women to consider running for elected office, which could help close the gender gap in political ambition among adults. College men in the survey indicated they are twice as likely as college women to express interest in running for elected office later in life. Second, by increasing the percentage of women interested in running for office, the program would increase the talent pool of potential candidates more broadly.
  • The Go Run App would identify all elected offices throughout the country. Users would enter their zip code and learn what elected positions are available in that community, the responsibilities associated with each, and the nuts and bolts involved in running for them. As basic as this information might sound, no central clearinghouse currently exists to provide this fundamental information.

Ultimately, Lawless and Fox paint a political profile of the next generation that serves as a vital wake-up call – one that sounds an alarm about the long-term, deeply embedded damage contemporary politics has wrought on U.S. democracy and its youngest citizens. But the suggestions they provide propose clear ways that we can right the course.

Tags: American Politics,Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies,Government,Government Dept,Politics,School of Public Affairs,Student Government,Women and Politics Institute
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Title: Inspiring Graduate Stories: Joelle Appenrodt
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: This SPA grad isn’t ready to leave the classroom.
Topic: Government & Politics
Publication Date: 05/04/2015
Content:

Love of Learning

Graduating from college is a time to reflect on everything you've learned. But one thing you've probably realized is that there's so much more knowledge to obtain. Joelle Appenrodt possesses that kind of curiosity, and she enjoyed being an undergraduate at American University. Now, she's decided to stay here a little longer. "I am not ready to leave the classroom. I really do love learning," she says.

Appenrodt is finishing up her bachelor's degree in political science and CLEG from AU's School of Public Affairs. She'll remain at SPA to earn her master's degree in public administration. While attending graduate school, she'll continue in her current job at the Justice Department.

"I think that AU and SPA have been incubators for my commitment to public service. I think I knew about that [interest] coming in, but this has really just strengthened my commitment," she explains. She's also earning a certificate in women, policy, and political leadership, and another certificate in advanced leadership studies.

Maximizing Her Potential

Appenrodt has been an award-winning student leader on campus. Yet without some encouragement years ago, she might never have attended college at all. During her junior year of high school, students filled out a survey about future plans, and she didn't check the "college" box. Appenrodt vividly recalls what happened next: "The assistant principal at my high school called me into her office, and she had the piece of paper on her desk. And she said, 'Joelle, you are going to college!'"

She heeded her advice, eventually choosing AU and becoming the first person in her family to attend college. "I was fortunate enough to have a number of high school mentors, who were able to pass all sorts of opportunities my way and make sure that I was maximizing my potential," she says.

Appenrodt was shaped by her environment and upbringing. She grew up in Marin County, California, an area with vast economic wealth disparities. She was a minority white student in a majority Latino high school in San Rafael. "I think that when you come to school, and you know that there were immigration raids in some of your classmates' communities last night, that is just an entirely different ballgame. And it made me so grateful for my education," she says.

She's also faced her own obstacles over the years. When she was 13, another student leapt onto her back and caused fractured vertebrae. She's still coping with chronic back pain. "I'll reach a point in my life when I really do need to deal with it," she says. "But it's just part of my lifestyle, and I've learned to live with the pain."

Embracing Leadership

Appenrodt has been part of the SPA Leadership Program, which she calls her defining experience at AU. She served as a teaching assistant and eventually co-student director for the program.

SPA Leadership Program Director Margaret Marr offers high praise for Appenrodt. "Joelle is just an extraordinary human being. I think she's the most organized person I've ever met," she says. Marr explains how other students have trusted and confided in Appenrodt. "She's helped a number of students through trying circumstances."

During her first year, she took part in the SPA Undergraduate Research Symposium. She won the excellence in research award for a study on campus climate, as part of a group surveying nearly 400 AU students and delving into the matter of sexual assault.

Appenrodt embraced a leadership role on this issue. She co-founded and became president of Stand Up AU, a student-run organization aimed at combatting sexual assault. When the university reconvened the Sexual Assault Working Group, she sat on the committee as a student representative.

In addition, she was formerly chapter president of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Among other honors, she's been recognized with an American University Eagle Involvement award and the AU Fraternity and Sorority Life outstanding senior award. In late April, she won the SPA outstanding service award for undergraduates.

Classrooms and Workplaces Collide

As if all of that wasn't enough, Appenrodt got solid work experience. She interned in the district office of Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif. and worked with the National Organization for Women (NOW). She parlayed a Justice Department internship into her current job as a paralegal specialist in DOJ's Civil Division, Appellate Staff.

She mentions one AU highlight that epitomizes experiential learning. In the fall of 2014, her Law and the Political System class was studying a Supreme Court case, National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, which was about presidential power to make recess appointments. The next day, as part of her DOJ responsibilities, she was at the National Archives and Records Administration photographing evidence on the exact same case. "The learning in the classroom and the learning in D.C. were just colliding in the most perfect way possible," she remembers. "You always hear that D.C. is your learning laboratory. And in that moment, it absolutely was."

Tags: Advanced Leadership Studies,Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government (CLEG),Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government (CLEG),Featured News,Media Relations,Political Science,School of Public Affairs
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Title: Inspiring Graduate Stories: Ta Lynn Mitchell
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: CAS sociology grad overcame adversity and helped other students along the way.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 05/04/2015
Content:

These days, Ta Lynn Mitchell is enjoying some hard-earned success. She's about to get her bachelor's degree in sociology, with a minor in public administration and policy and a certificate in advanced leadership studies. She also just won a student research award for Best Oral Presentation in the Social Sciences by a Junior or Senior. But life has been anything but easy for Mitchell. Her story is one of perseverance and resilience.

A Voice for Herself

Mitchell was born in Fresno, California, but she mostly grew up in Oakland. From a close-knit family, her great-grandparents sometimes took care of her while her mom was working. "My mom always advocated for me. So I think I learned to have a voice for myself from her," she says.

During Mitchell's junior year of high school, her parents got divorced. Unable to afford the same living arrangement, Ta Lynn and her mother were forced to move abruptly. A friend took them in, with mom and daughter living in one room and sharing a bunk bed.

At this time, Mitchell was taking lengthy commutes with one of her teachers to an all-girls school in San Francisco. "I had to change the location of where I was supposed to meet my teacher for the carpool, and I never told her why. I just said, 'You know, we moved.' So, I was going through all of this stuff at home, but I didn't tell anyone," she recalls.

As a child of divorce dealing with financial hardship, Mitchell tried to sort through her personal feelings. "I love helping people and taking care of people. So my first instinct was to take care of my mom," she says. "But not only that, I had to support myself, too. And I had to kind of figure that out."

Finding Happiness

Mitchell got accepted to American University and entered the next phase of her life. But during her freshman year, money problems back home were taking a toll. Mitchell's mom became guardian to a recently deceased cousin's two grandchildren, causing additional financial strains on the family. "Honestly, at the time, I didn't know if I was going to return to AU," she says now.

Yet through grant money and various jobs on campus, Mitchell was able to remain in school. And through all of this, she's found ways to help other students as well. She's finishing up her stint as an RA in Anderson Hall, and before that, she was an RA in a social justice living-learning community.

"Ta Lynn has this beautiful heart, and has used it to serve the university well," says Margaret Marr, director of the SPA Leadership Program that included Mitchell. "She's faced significant challenges all the way around," she adds. "I'm just enormously proud of her."

Mitchell studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. Remember that United Nations-sponsored report naming Denmark the happiest country in the world? Well, that's what inspired Mitchell to go there. Can you blame her?

The experience, she says, was amazing. She was part of a program that studied tolerance, with a focus on Muslim immigrants. In addition to traveling extensively throughout Europe, she lived with a host family in Denmark. "They were so loving, so supportive. And we just had great conversations. They showed me a different side of life. In the States, to bond [people] sit down and watch TV," she explains. "But there, you sit down and you have some tea, and you talk."

Race, Justice, and Mentoring

After Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri made international news, she discussed race relations with her host family. "They were understanding and wanted to hear my perspective. I felt like there I was viewed more as American, before I was African-American. And here, I view myself as African-American first," she says.

Mitchell talks candidly about the difficulties of being a minority. "I think as black women we have to prove ourselves and prove that we're worthy. And being able to know that I'm okay just how I am."

She's been a passionate advocate for racial equality, and she's studied the "school-to-prison" pipeline affecting African-American and Latino students. "This is a zero tolerance policy, which for minor infractions like your shirt being the wrong color, you can literally go to juvenile hall. That starts the cycle. And once you're there, it's no going back," she says.

Instead, she's supported less punitive measures, such as mentoring and education. While at AU, she created a seminar series and mentoring program that connected young girls from Oakland with professional women of color. Her capstone was titled, "Elements of Mentor Programing That Add and Detract from the Development of African-American Girls."

Present and Future

During her final semester at AU, Mitchell interned on Capitol Hill for Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif. Following graduation, Mitchell will teach elementary school in New Orleans as part of Teach for America.

Though still quite a distance from Oakland, she can still return for her large family reunions every year. And her bond with her mother remains strong. Just as Mitchell is earning her degree from AU, her mom is finishing up her master's degree in leadership, concentration social justice, from Saint Mary's College of California.

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Title: Well Awarded Wonks
Author: Patrick Bradley
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Abstract: Meet this year’s University Student Award recipients!
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 05/01/2015
Content:

Commencement season at AU also signals awards season on campus, as a host of graduating students gain official recognition for accomplishments that range from classroom triumphs to making AU a better community for all.

Read on to meet this year’s recipients! University leadership will present these awards to the recipients on May 8 at a President’s Awards Program and Reception.

Outstanding Service

AU recognized SPA student and former Student Government president Patrick Kelly with the Outstanding Service to the University Community Award. Under his leadership, the university created a new LGBT studies minor and restructured the Student Activities Fee.

Fellow Outstanding Service Award recipient Lorraine Magee established a She’s the First chapter on campus and raised more than $36,000 to support educational equality for girls.

For Kelly, the award is more about the institution than about his many successes.

Patrick Kelly;

“It’s really a reflection of all the incredible opportunities and experiences I was able to have as a student at American University,” Kelly explained. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that AU was more than a school—it was a home.”

Outstanding Academics

For her research around human trafficking, School of International Service Ph.D. student and adjunct professor Davina Durgana received Outstanding Scholarship at the Graduate Level Award.

“It’s an honor,” Durgana said, “and it represents the appreciation American University has for the diversity of accomplishments that are possible here. It shows there’s not just one way to achieve an award. I’m grateful for the recognition.”

Also recognized with this graduate level award is Brendan Tunstall, a Behavior, Cognition, and Neuroscience Ph.D. student in the College of Arts & Sciences who has focused his extensive research on addiction.

Academic award winners;

CAS swept undergraduate academic recognition, as students Monika Gasiorek and Jonathan Wallen drew scholarship awards for the respective research of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and derivatives markets.

Achievement

Campus Life’s Student Achievement Awards spotlight those students most actively involved in improving the university—just like the former students, staff, and faculty members whose names designate the 10 awards.

Organist and arts management student Alex Gilbert-Schrag received the Evelyn Swarthout Hayes Award, named for a former music professor who championed inter-disciplinary music education at AU.

“I transferred in two years ago. For me to have been able to complete as much as I have in the last two years, it’s nice to be recognized for it with this award,” Gilbert-Schrag said. “Especially with her legacy as a person, it’s amazing thing to be able to follow in her footsteps.”

Cambodian student Essarayoss Mean earned the Carlton Savage Award by bridging cultural groups on campus. He hopes his success inspires future students to further his cause.

“I’m very honored,” he said. “It motivates you to do more hard work and encourages the new generation of students to integrate with international students and provide cultural understanding between communities at AU.”

Cj Murphy’s strides in the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program, as the 2015 Class Council president, and as co-captain of the Cheer Team garnered her the Stafford H. Cassell Award. While the School of Communication’s Adam Garret landed the Kinsman-Hurst Award for his support of student rights and responsibilities as director of the Student Advocacy Center.

Achievement winners group;

Community service advocate Diana Williams will accept the Bruce Hughes Award in recognition of her leadership rallying hundreds of students, staff, and faculty to participate in the Freshman Service Experience and MLK Day of Service.

Williams credits her late grandmother for her own generous spirit.

“She really contributed greatly to who I’ve become as a person in giving back to the community and leadership skills. I’m happy to receive this in her honor and to continue going in the direction that she was,” she said.

Her friend Chante Harris claimed the Harold Johnson Award for volunteer work with the child literacy programs JumpStart and D.C. Reads, as well as her involvement in promoting gender and racial equality.

Kogod School of Business student Nicholas Eng co-founded the nonprofit Unfused, which connects youth with college-age tutors via the web. For his efforts, he’s gained the Fletcher Scholar Award. He hopes the award will inspire others—particularly his staff of tutors.

“It’s good for the team that we have behind us to see that working hard does lead to being recognized,” he said. “It sends a good message to them.”

 Candace Evilsizor;

SIS’s Candace Evilsizor nabbed double honors for her work with refugee communities across the globe, earning herself the President’s Award and also receiving the Fletcher Scholar Award with Eng.

Meanwhile, Charles W. Van Way Award recipient Rachel Ternes impressed the selection committee with her steadfast leadership around religion and social justice.

Accounting major Heidi Friedrich will take home the Charles C. Glover Award for promoting business education and financial literacy among AU students.

“I came into Kogod, and I never saw the potential that my professors would put me up for this award,” she said. “It’s just an honor to represent the Kogod community.”

As Kennedy Political Union director, SPA student Chandler Thornton brought a diverse set of speakers to campus, from Vice President Dick Cheney to activist Lilly Ledbetter.

“I am proud of what we were able to accomplish for the student body by creating lasting memories,” Thornton said. “I am honored in particular to receive the Catheryn Seckler-Hudson award, named after one of AU’s most influential pioneers and early campus leaders who contributed to much of what we know today as American University.”

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newsId: 7CDA6A7D-5056-AF26-BE16F3942BA32244
Title: Dedicated to Diversity: Alumna is United Way’s Chief Diversity Officer
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Darlene Slaughter’s love of people and teaching, plus her AU degree, fuels her passion for inclusion.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 05/15/2015
Content:

“Having more diversity in the workforce will give a company or organization better results, have people collaborating better together, and ultimately impact the bottom line,” says Darlene Slaughter, SPA/MSHR ’93, who was recently named chief diversity officer at United Way Worldwide after spending many years at Fannie Mae, where she was also chief diversity officer.

The United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit organization. Its mission is to create community solutions in support of education, income, and health. United Way is engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide.

At United Way Worldwide, the leadership and support organization for the global network, Darlene is responsible for ensuring diversity and inclusion are valued both at United Way Worldwide as well as all local United Ways. She represents the United Way at conferences, highlighting its efforts to reach across cultural boundaries. She also helps recruit and develop talent for the organization and travels to local United Way offices as a guest speaker or to create a strategy if they are struggling to reach a particular community of people.

“It’s a dream job because it encompasses everything from being the classroom teacher, to helping organizations think about how they are designed, to mentoring, and being a spokesperson for the United Way. … It’s an honor,” Darlene says.

Darlene’s dedication to diversity stemmed from her lifelong desire to be a teacher. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Howard University, and although she never taught in a classroom, Darlene always found herself in jobs that required her to educate others. She loved working with and teaching people, so it only seemed natural to pursue her master’s degree in human resources and organizational development.

“You learn about organizations and systems and human behavior but ultimately, the program itself is all about you, the individual, and what role you play in the world and how you create change in the world. It was enlightening to learn about yourself and what makes you the way you are, and then how you can use yourself as a tool to help others. It’s very powerful,” she says. “You are the change agent that organizations need; that’s what the degree is all about.”

Darlene has returned to campus and spoken to current students in the program through her friendship with Professor Mark Clark. She has also mentored students she met in Professor Clark’s classroom, always happy to answer questions or offer advice. She likes to give back, she says, because, “To this day, I look back and see that the work I am doing today absolutely is informed by everything I learned at AU.”

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Title: Key Alumna Helps Lead U.S. Response to Ebola and Other World Crises
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Mia Beers recently returned from West Africa where she helped support the U.S. government's response to Ebola.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/09/2015
Content:

When a catastrophic disaster hits a region of the world and the United States is sending assistance, chances are American University alumna Mia Beers, SPA/MPA '10, is a crucial piece of the puzzle. 

This past year, she says, has seen an unusually high amount of disasters, which means that instead of staying in D.C. to coordinate the government response, Mia and many other USAID staff have been deployed in the field.

In November and December of 2014, Mia was asked to lead the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) tasked with helping coordinate and support the U.S. government's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Mia was based in Liberia but oversaw teams on the ground in that country as well as Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Mali.

As team leader, she worked in partnership with the CDC, U.S. Public Health Service, and Department of Defense to provide treatment units, medical supplies such as personal protective equipment, and direct funding to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies. Her team also provided critical information to teams on the ground and the media, monitoring the outbreak and reporting on the evolving situation.

"There is a really incredible group of people from the U.S. government -– USAID and other agencies –- responding to Ebola in West Africa," Mia says. "I was just one of many people working on the response. The United States should be proud of its efforts in West Africa."

In any given year, USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance will send humanitarian aid to people on behalf of U.S. citizens in response to between 60 and 80 disasters. Four major efforts at the moment include: helping West Africa respond to Ebola, aiding those affected by the South Sudan conflict, working with victims of the Syrian conflict, and assisting displaced populations in Iraq.

When she isn't part of the on-the-ground response, Mia heads USAID's Humanitarian Policy and Global Engagement team, which supports U.S. disaster assistance. Her team helps with strategic communication and information dissemination, facilitates inter-agency relationships, coordinates funding, and makes policy recommendations to the U.S. government and United Nations.

Mia's interest in international affairs was sparked during her undergraduate education. After graduating from George Washington University, she got a job in Africa. "I thought I would be overseas for a short time; so did my family, but [while working for CARE in Somalia] I 'got the bug,' and didn't officially come home until 14 years later," she says. During those years, Mia worked for NGOs and USAID.

"I loved working in the field with an NGO having direct contact with communities, and when I moved to the U.S. government, I was really drawn to public service. ... My colleagues and I are proud of what we do. To say you are part of the U.S. disaster response and represent the American people is pretty amazing," she says.

When she returned to the U.S., Mia wanted to "to become an extraordinary leader -- one who inspires people to do their best and willing to take more risks." A recipient of the Donald G. Zauderer Scholarship, she enjoyed learning from her fellow students in the Key Executive Leadership Program at AU. 

"You learn from the faculty but also from each other. I learned as much from other federal managers as I learned from professors because we had so many shared experiences," she recalls.

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Title: SPA Alumna Makes Career Move to University of California, Berkeley
Author: Kristena Wright
Subtitle:
Abstract: Rosemarie Rae, SPA/MPA ‘09, joins the higher education field after more than 30 years in the non-profit sector.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/11/2015
Content:

Rosemarie Rae, SPA/MPA '09, was recently named associate vice chancellor of finance and chief financial officer at the University of California, Berkeley. As a graduate of AU's public administration and Key Executive Leadership programs in 2009, Rosemarie actually started her graduate work late in her career. "I was in my mid-forties when I joined cohort 36. It was career- and life-changing. But I do contribute the experience I had at American University as a direct link to where I am now," she says.

Coming up on her one-year anniversary at UC Berkeley, Rosemarie actually spent the last 15 to 20 years in the nonprofit sector. "I used a lot of my research experience from my cohort," she says. "So many of the things I learned have really proven to be cornerstones of what guides my work today. I spend most of my time at Berkley in strategic conversation, and I really learned the art of strategic thinking from professor Robert Tobias, director of business development for the key executive leadership program, and other AU professors," Rosemarie adds.

Rosemarie shares that most of her current work is related to finance. Her undergraduate degree is in accounting;she sat for CPA exam and passed, and this has helped her tremendously over the years. However, the brunt of her work focuses on the alignment with other C-level executives at Berkeley and how they think about resource allocations. Additionally, they spend a vast amount of time figuring out the best use of their limited resources and how it supports the institution's strategic vision. 

Prior to beginning at Berkeley, Rosemarie served as the chief financial and administrative officer of The National Trust for Historic Preservation as well as executive vice president, chief strategy officer, and CFO at Volunteers of America. Berkeley is her first job in higher education. She says, "My nonprofit experience was similar in nature to higher education, so I felt well prepared."

Before her career change, Rosemarie went back to graduate school at AU for herself. She says, "I'm originally from the east coast, and I was eager to be in an academic setting and have an opportunity to learn and explore new ideas. It was far more rewarding than I ever thought it would be."

Her advice to students is the same advice she gives now as an administrator: "You have to realize that people really do want to help you. Whether it be your professors or your peers, tap into the resources that are offered to you. Mentorship is a great thing, professors are great, but think beyond the professor to someone who is in your field. Build your career by taking an interest in a range of things that will be helpful for career advancement," she says.

Her final thought for students, "Take a leadership role every chance you get, you'll need to strengthen that muscle if you want to be in a place of power in your future."

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Title: SPA Alumnus Takes Student Leadership to the National Level
Author: Karli Kloss, SIS/MA '15
Subtitle:
Abstract: The National Campus Leadership Council connects student policymakers across the country.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 02/13/2015
Content:

From AU Student Government president to executive director and cofounder of the National Campus Leadership Council, Andy MacCracken, SPA/BA ’11, SPA/MA ’14, has shown a deep commitment to addressing the most pressing concerns facing this generation’s college students. 

At NCLC, Andy and his staff empower student body presidents and their teams to collaborate and tackle major issues like sexual assault, student load debt, student veterans’ affairs, and access to mental health services. NCLC connects these groups to other campuses, policymakers, and the media while providing technical assistance and professional skills trainings to ensure they are effectively lobbying for change. 

Right now, NCLC is running campus outreach for the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign to stop campus sexual assaults. Working with approximately 300 campuses, NCLC’s role is to support the work students are already doing around education and prevention. 

Speaking of the White House, last year Andy had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to introduce President Obama ahead of the president’s remarks about executive actions that would support federal student loan borrowers. He also visited the White House as a panelist for the “It’s On Us” campaign. 

Andy served as AU’s Student Government president during his junior year. Following, he was involved with different efforts to facilitate greater collaboration among student leaders regionally and nationally. As some of those efforts began to merge into each other, Andy decided it was time to turn this side project into a full-time career.  

“A lot of what I learned in the SPA Leadership Program, Campaign Management Institute, and Public Affairs Advocacy Institute shaped my approach to starting my organization. Each of those programs are top notch in developing critical thinking and mission-focused strategy on top of hands-on experience,” Andy says. 

NCLC’s role in the higher education community continues to grow, as it hosts national student leader summits in collaboration with the White House. Students today face many issues, from employment gaps to soaring student debt, and Andy says NCLC is committed to opening dialogue and access between student leaders and policymakers. 

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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
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“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
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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.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Board,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,School of Public Affairs,Athletics
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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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newsId: 08FF149F-A39F-A15E-758315C96181311A
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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