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Title: #SPA80for80: Allison Bawden, SPA/MPA ’04
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Abstract: Alumni like Allison Bawden help the School of Public Affairs maintain a connection to its original mission as a training ground for federal employees.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/17/2014
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SPA was established in 1934 as a training ground for federal employees. Today, alumni like Allison Bawden help the School of Public Affairs maintain a connection to that original mission.

Bawden now serves as an assistant director with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), where she focuses on important national security issues, specifically nuclear security and cleanup. She has also helped SPA develop its MPP practicum and meets regularly with students to discuss career opportunities in the federal government.

Her role at GAO keeps Bawden focused on important national security issues, specifically nuclear security and cleanup. Her expertise in public administration translated into extensive program evaluations and audits of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an agency within the Department of Energy (DOE). Established in 2000 by Congress, the NNSA is responsible for the management and security of U.S. nuclear weapons, U.S. naval reactor programs, and international nonproliferation issues.

Bawden's work has contributed to numerous reports on nuclear security, critically examining current policies and providing recommendations to improve those policies. Her most recent contributions were to a pair of reports focused on greater transparency in both the Department of Defense's budget estimations regarding nuclear weapons programs and the DOE's method of valuing uranium transactions.

Bawden began her career at GAO on the Acquisition and Sourcing Management team, and completed additional graduate coursework in national security studies at the United States Naval War College. During a break from evaluating the NNSA between 2010 and 2012, she served as the strategic planner within the GAO's Natural Resources and Environment team.

#MySPAHistory

"I truly enjoyed my experience at SPA and have continued to benefit from the concepts to which I was exposed by professors who challenged me and set expectations for the highest quality work.Similarly, the breadth of experiences and interests of my fellow students inspired me to co-found with other classmates the student journal The Public Purpose, which I am so proud to see continues to flourish. It was an AU and SPA alum who hired me at GAO, and I aim to continue to pay it forward!"

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Title: #SPA80for80: Professor Jessica Waters
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Abstract: An enthusiastic member of the SPA community, Waters nvisions a new model of 21st century education, and constantly seeks to improve the student experience.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 10/14/2014
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Jessica Waters' enthusiasm for AU's School of Public Affairs runs deep. She is an alumna of SPA – later earning her J.D. from AU's Washington College of Law – and now serves as SPA's associate dean for undergraduate education. Faculty and students alike praise Waters' dedication to the school, her profession, and the community.

Waters has been the recipient of the American University and School of Public Affairs University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in a Term Appointment, in part for her leadership role in the school. 

She envisions a new model of 21st century education, and constantly seeks to improve the student experience. In addition to notable work in the classroom, Waters has been recognized for her outstanding coaching of the Mock Trial Team, collaborating with students in research projects, and active participation with students in professional activities.

"Her unwavering encouragement and support helped transform the Mock Trial Team from its early beginnings to its current status as a nationally ranked team," said Sarah McIntosh, SPA/BA ’13.

Outside the classroom, Waters has worked tirelessly as a guardian ad litem – a voice for children in the legal system, and as an advocate more broadly for those whose voices may not otherwise be heard. Prior to joining the AU faculty, Waters was a litigator at WilmerHale, where she was part of the team that drafted an amicus curiae brief against the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in the 2007 Supreme Court case Gonzales v Carhart. She also served as a federal law clerk for the Honorable Emmet Sullivan on the D.C. District Court.

#MySPAHistory

"My years as an undergraduate in SPA changed the course of my life. I was exposed to people and opportunities that I don't think would have been possible at any other school.  And it was those connections that paved the way for my career as an attorney, and later my work in academia."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Keith Thirion, SPA/BA ’08
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Abstract: Leading the cause to prohibit transgender discrimination, Thirion blends academics and action selflessly as an SPA alumnus.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/14/2014
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Keith Thirion has a long history of advocacy and leadership in fighting for social justice. 

Earlier this year, Thirion led the public education campaign supporting the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which prohibits discrimination against transgender Marylanders, and went into effect on October 1, 2014. Many supporters of the legislation credit his activism alongside the hard work of leaders of Equality Maryland and transgender Marylanders for the law's passage.

Thirion, a transgender man, currently serves as the director of advocacy and programs for Equality Maryland, where he oversees public education programs and supports legislative initiatives to advance equality for LGBT Marylanders.

"He is the epitome of what SPA seeks to instill in its students: the blending of academics and action, theory and praxis," Briana Weadock, one of his advisors at SPA, said. "He tirelessly and selflessly embodies the motto, 'Ideas into action, action into service.'"

He served on the Steering Committee of the Maryland Coalition for Transgender Equality, a coalition of over 50 organizations working to advance equal rights for transgender Marylanders. His past work includes: lead organizer for Basic Rights Montgomery, the 2008 campaign to uphold Montgomery County's transgender anti-discrimination law;field organizer on Proposition 8 in Los Angeles;and 2006 summer organizing fellow with the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Thirion also worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, where he managed the organizing team to advance renewable energy policies and fight carbon pollution in Virginia. His leadership contributed to victories such as defeating the largest proposed coal-fired power plant in Virginia, and drawing unprecedented public attention to the commonwealth's largest and dirtiest utility.

#MySPAHistory

"My time at AU, and the School of Public Affairs specifically, taught me that social change comes from effective advocacy within the political system combined with challenging what is politically possible, always in the service of those most vulnerable to discrimination and disenfranchisement in the political process," Thirion said. "Most of all I saw firsthand that academia furthers political activism, and activism furthers the impact of academia."

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Title: Finding Wales
Author: Patty Housman
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Abstract: Matt Waskiewicz ’16 researches economics in Wales on a Fulbright Summer Institute grant.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 10/09/2014
Content:

What do the country of Wales and western Massachusetts have in common? 

Matt Waskiewicz; BS economics, BA political science ’16; spent six weeks in Wales exploring the answer to this question on a Fulbright Summer Institute grant. 

He began his trip at Cardiff University, located in the Welsh capital on the south coast, studying how shipping and mining have shaped the country’s economy. He then traveled north to Bangor to learn about traditional Welsh culture and how the local tourism industry is working to create jobs and preserve the region’s cultural heritage. Waskiewicz ended his trip at Aberystwyth University in Mid Wales, an agricultural area known for its wind farming industry, where he looked at sustainable energy practices. 

“My Fulbright gave me the opportunity to examine a post-industrial society similar to the United States and its ability to adapt to the twentyfirst century realities of globalization and climate change,” he says. “The United States is grappling with many of the same challenges as contemporary Wales.” 

Common Ground

It was a photograph on the Fulbright website that first got Waskiewicz thinking about Wales. The image of the country’s rural north reminded him of home. “The rolling hills and picturesque farms looked very similar to those of my small hometown of Hadley in western Massachusetts,” he says.

He discovered that the two places have more in common than their landscapes. Like western Massachusetts, Wales has a large Polish population. Between 1945 and 1950, the United Kingdom opened its doors to refugees from Poland seeking to escape Soviet oppression behind the Iron Curtain, and a wave of immigrants poured into tiny Wales. A second wave of Polish immigrants has been arriving over the past decade, and Polish-born residents now outnumber all other immigrant populations. 

“I was fascinated because I am half Polish,” says Waskiewicz. “Polish culture is very strong in the tiny community where I grew up. We went to polka concerts, celebrated Polish holidays, and made pierogi together at church. Wherever you go in western Massachusetts, you’ll find Polish music and food and culture.” 

The Fulbright gave him an opportunity to compare Polish immigrant culture in Wales and the United States. During his second week in Cardiff, he visited a family owned Polish restaurant. “It made me think of my ancestors and other Polish families who came to the United States to create better lives. And in both Wales and in western Massachusetts, it was through hard work and determination that the dream of a good life became a reality.” 

Over the course of six weeks, Waskiewicz found other connections between Wales and western Massachusetts. Both places, he observed, face the challenge of providing a future that is both economically and environmentally sustainable. Both had been dominated at one time by industry and supported by agriculture. Though they thrived on different industries—coal in Wales and textiles in western Massachusetts—they share the challenge of regenerating their economies after the shuttering of their dominant industry. 

Bringing It Back Home

Waskiewicz hopes to apply what he learned in Wales toward a career in politics and public service. He’s already tested the political waters with two internships on Capitol Hill.

At AU, he has been a member of the AU Honors Program, a resident assistant, a trumpeter in AU’s jazz band, and the president of the Student Honors Board. Eventually Waskiewicz plans to go to law school, but in the interim he wants to take time off from his studies to do political work in DC or Massachusetts. 

“Studying in Wales was an incredible experience,” he says. “The Fulbright program gave me an opportunity to see how we all impact each other economically, culturally, and environmentally, even across rivers and oceans. By studying the transformations in Wales, I better understand how similar changes might happen in the United States. Someday I want to help make changes like this happen.”

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Economics,Economics Dept,Research,Students,School of Public Affairs
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Title: #SPA80for80: Jodi McCarthy, SPA/MPA ’10
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Abstract: Jodi S. McCarthy, director of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Air Traffic Control Facilities Directorate (ATCF), is an exemplary leader responsible for a number of high profile and politically charged projects.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/09/2014
Content:

Jodi S. McCarthy, director of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Air Traffic Control Facilities Directorate (ATCF), is an exemplary leader. She is responsible for a number of high profile, high impact, and politically charged projects within the FAA. 

Her primary endeavor of leading National Airspace System (NAS) Facility Sustainment efforts is a major challenge because a tremendous amount of resources are necessary to maintain and sustain the complex, interdependent, and aging NAS infrastructure system of over 30,000 staffed and unstaffed facilities.

With an annual budget of approximately $400M, Jodi and her team are charged with addressing a nearly $2B backlog in sustainment needs. Under her supervision, the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) experienced a reorganization that added four groups from other service units and 40 additional employees to ATCF. She developed and implemented integration and communications plans that allowed her to build on existing strengths and assess development opportunities while gaining efficiency and creating a unified team focused on agency goals. 

She also combined the group's sustainment programs to develop a strategic "get-well" plan, eliminate redundant processes, and improve the communication links between the ATO and other Service Units. As a result of her actions and thought-out approach, the realignment of ATCF was seamless. Once the organization was aligned, Jodi changed the conversation around FAA infrastructure through careful prioritization of sustainment projects across all ATCF groups. She communicated and strategized plans across organizations and began tackling systemic problems in a clear, efficient manner. 

Under her guidance, what began as a ten-year "get-well" initiative for the alignment and planning of ATCF projects and objectives between adjacent organizations grew into a Sustainment Strategic Plan recognized by the Vice President of Technical Operations and extended to the entire service unit. She delivered a product that grew into a Technical Operations-wide program that reduces risk, saves costs, and improves efficiency across the agency.

To maintain the integrity of information flows over such a large range of projects, Jodi also coordinated with each of the ATCF groups and ensured her team of employees felt a sense of inclusion and ownership in the success of the directorate. She actively spoke about the new ATCF structure across all levels and lines of business within the FAA which resulted in business and performance goal discussions and brainstorming sessions about measures of success for the directorate. Within the ATO and FAA she also helps shape the conversation as a member of the Capital Investment Team Acquisition Workforce Council, Senior Executive Council on Greening Initiatives, and Department of Transportation's Crisis Management and Continuity of Operations cadres.

Through her ability to lead and rally people, Jodi created a team with a strong sense of pride and connectedness to one other and their work. Her commitment to service-above-self impacts her peers and employees because she holds herself accountable to the same behavior and high standards she asks of them.

She has built the level of professional trust with her team and the FAA necessary to address and solve problems, invest in the future of her team, and position the agency for future success. As a leader, she is building a focused way forward while developing employees who will do the same.

Her leadership has resulted in more strategic and focused dialogue and decision-making, which are producing clear priorities and positive results for ATCF. And her impressive work was recognized earlier this year with the ATO Superior Leadership Award.

#MySPAHistory

"My experience at the School of Public Affairs Key Executive Program prepared me to lead during challenging times, and cemented my belief in the importance of public service."

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Title: Tobias Receives the Stockberger Award
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Abstract: Robert Tobias, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of public sector human resource management, received the Stockberger award.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 10/09/2014
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The International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) recently recognized Robert Tobias, Director of Business Development for the Key Executive Leadership Programs housed in the School of Public Affairs, as the 2014 Warner W. Stockberger Achievement award recipient during the International Training Forum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"I am pleased to receive the Warner W. Stockberger Achievement Award because recognition by one's peers is the highest honor," shared Robert Tobias.

The annual award is presented to a person in recognition of outstanding contributions in the field of public sector human resource management at the federal, state or local levels.

In addition to Mr. Tobias' award, an article appeared in HR News Volume 80 No. 10.

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Title: A Month to Celebrate
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: Latino students are making an impact at AU.
Topic: Student Life
Publication Date: 10/08/2014
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September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. It's a time to celebrate the rich and vibrant culture of Hispanic or Latino Americans. At American University, Latino students have made enormous contributions to campus life. Plenty of bright, engaged Latinos are making an impact at both the university and in the larger community. These students are proud of where they came from and excited about where they're headed.

Heritage and Upbringing

Carlos Vera was born in Colombia, but his family jettisoned the area over escalating violence perpetrated by the insurgent group FARC. They relocated to Southern California and Vera went to high school in Hesperia in San Bernardino County. AU gave him scholarship and grant money to attend. He also joined the Army Reserve, which helped him with loan repayment and expedited his citizenship process. (He became a citizen in 2012.)

American University student Carlos Vera hopes to be an advocate for a variety of educational programs.

"The reason why I want to do politics is really to help people have more of a voice, not just Latinos but for the lower socio-economic classes," says Vera. He hopes to be an advocate for a variety of educational programs. "I'm a former Upward Bound member and I'm a Pell grant recipient. These are programs that I want to continue fighting for because I've benefited from them."

It's a classic pursuit of the American dream. Millions of working class Latino parents put in long hours and multiple shifts to enable their children to attend college. And these stories are not unusual at AU, either. The Center for Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) has a program for students who were the first in their families to get the university experience.

Yet Melina Hernandez climbed an even steeper hill: She was the first person in her family to attend high school. She grew up in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, where her mother works in cleaning services and her father is in construction. They both emigrated from Mexico.

"I take so much pride in where I come from, who I am, what my parents have been through," says Hernandez, a sophomore political science major and history minor. "I'm first generation at everything—learning English, going to high school, going to college, moving away from my parents."

Hernandez is eternally grateful for the sacrifices her family has made. "At the end of the day, I just want to reward my parents for these past 19 years of support."

Jose Luis Vasquez hails from a Texas border town in the Rio Grande Valley, and he's spent a lot of time in the United States and Mexico. Growing up, he learned English, Spanish, with the occasional mixing of the two languages. From a family of small business owners, he describes his upbringing as more "blessed." But he lived near impoverished communities of mostly Mexican immigrants in Texas. "People are living in little subdivisions where they don't even have a mobile home. It's like a little shed, and their floor is dirt—it's not even like tile or anything," he explains.

After high school, Vasquez made the journey to AU. And he still warmly recalls the marathon drive from Texas to Washington in his family's Ford Excursion, just before freshman year. "It was long, but I knew my parents felt super proud," he says. "It was the best memory of my life so far."

Capitalizing Every Opportunity

Latino students on campus are making the most of their educational opportunities. Vasquez, a sophomore economics major, interned for Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas—recently labeled a rising star by Politico. Over the summer in Texas, Vasquez helped out on the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Wendy Davis.

The executive board of LASO, the Latino & American Student Association at American University.

Vera's hard work is paying off. He's a senior political science major and he's already taking classes towards his master's degree from the School of Public Affairs. Through a State Department scholarship and an AU mobility grant, he worked as a legislative assistant in the European Parliament for Slovak member and former NHL player Peter Stastny. Vera credits AU for opening up multiple avenues for success. "This has allowed me to see that I can do much more than I ever thought I would," he says.

Hernandez, who is now vice president of the Latino & American Student Association (LASO), is planning to pursue a career in immigration law and politics. She's taken advantage of the D.C. location, attending functions sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Embassy of Mexico.

Strength in Numbers

With a fast-growing demographic, Latino political clout is expected to skyrocket in the coming decades. And this population has grown at AU as well. The number of degree-seeking Hispanic undergraduate students has increased from 539 in fall 2011 to 767 in fall 2014. And the Hispanic percentage of the undergraduate student body has climbed from 7.9 percent in fall 2011 to 10.8 percent in fall 2014.

Several students praised the work done by the Center for Diversity & Inclusion. "They host a bunch of events that unite many cultures, not just Latinos," says Alex Garcia, a sophomore double majoring in political science/law and society.

Garcia is also the current president of LASO. A first-generation college student and the son of Salvadoran immigrants, he talks about the common bonds forged at AU. "I thought that I would be the only one with this background, and I'd be going through this alone. But I went to CDI and I went to some of the LASO meetings, and I found out I wasn't. There's a group of us."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Zachary Rybarczyk, SPA/MPP ’15
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Abstract: Zachary Rybarczyk believes his Boren Fellowship in Morocco will teach him "the successes and challenges of providing urban and rural populations with clean water and adequate sanitation."
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 10/06/2014
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Zachary Rybarczyk believes that his Boren Fellowship in Morocco to research water access and government policies will teach him "the successes and challenges of providing urban and rural populations with clean water and adequate sanitation."

Rybarczyk worked with the director of SPA's Center for Environmental Policy to apply his domestic policy studies to the Boren Fellowship's international framework.

"Over the coming months, I will reach out to [Moroccan] environmental officials and NGO coordinators to learn more about the successes and challenges of providing urban and rural populations with clean water and adequate sanitation," Rybarczyk said.

Prior to receiving the fellowship, Rybarczyk maintained a foothold in the world of public policy through internships at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Center for American Progress, and in the office of Rep. Nancy Garland, D-Ohio.

For his capstone project, he investigated pollution mitigation tools under the 2014 Farm Bill for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. "The introduction to the inner workings of the USDA and the subject matter expertise that I gained will be invaluable to my future career," he said.

Boren Fellows are granted monetary awards up to $30,000 by the National Security Education Program (NSEP) to engage in research throughout areas of world critical to U.S. interests. Research often occurs in nontraditional security fields, including sustainable development, population growth and migration, economic competitiveness, and access to safe water.

#MySPAHistory

"I feel very fortunate to have chosen a program with attentive professors that took time to get to know me. They have offered advice for life in and outside of the classroom, and some that even helped guide me professionally."

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Title: Packard Foundation Establishes “Reilly Endowment” at SPA
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Abstract: The Center for Environmental Policy was awarded a $500,000 philanthropic grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, establishing the William K. Reilly Endowment.
Topic: Environment
Publication Date: 10/06/2014
Content:

The School of Public Affairs at American University is pleased to announce that its Center for Environmental Policy has received a $500,000 philanthropic grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. This grant, made in honor of William K. Reilly, will establish the William K. Reilly Endowment for Environmental Governance and Leadership ("Reilly Endowment").  The Packard Foundation gift to the center is a tribute to the substantial contributions Mr. Reilly has made to environmental and energy policy in the United States and globally, as well as to his 15 years of service to the Packard Foundation board.

"The Reilly Endowment honors Bill Reilly, one of the nation's most prominent environmental leaders, and greatly expands the capacities and potential of SPA's Center for Environmental Policy," shares Barbara Romzek, Dean of the School of Public Affairs.  "We are very grateful that the Packard Foundation has made this significant investment in our efforts to establish the Center as a national leader in environmental policy education and dialogue."

The new Reilly Endowment will provide leadership support for environmental policy initiatives at the Center for Environmental Policy and School of Public Affairs. The endowment will enhance the Center's capacity to engage faculty in applied policy research, feature distinguished speakers, and host forums on key environmental policy concerns. The Packard Foundation grant also serves as a leadership challenge gift in the university's effort to secure additional endowed funds to advance center programs and research activities.

"Much like the Packard Foundation, we have benefited greatly from Bill Reilly's leadership and guidance as the Center's vision and programming has evolved," comments Dan Fiorino, director of the Center for Environmental Policy. "The Packard Foundation's gift is a fitting tribute to his leadership, and will greatly benefit the Center as we expand our national programming and reach."

To learn more about the Reilly Endowment and the Center for Environmental Policy, please visit http://www.american.edu/spa/cep/ or contact Dan Fiorino (202-885-3864) or Dan Mackeben, director of development, School of Public Affairs (202-885-3968).

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Title: #SPA80for80: Jonelle Williams, SPA/BA ’09
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Abstract: When FDR founded the School of Public Affairs in 1934, he envisioned great opportunities for future students – for initiative, for constructive thinking, and for practical idealism. SPA alumnus Jonelle Williams epitomizes those ideals.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/03/2014
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When FDR founded the School of Public Affairs in 1934, he envisioned great opportunities for future students – for initiative, for constructive thinking, and for practical idealism. SPA alumnus Jonelle Williams epitomizes those ideals.

Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Williams and his parents fled the country due to a civil war. After stops in several other countries his family ultimately sought refuge in Baltimore, MD, where Williams completed middle and high school.

Williams applied to only one school – American University's School of Public Affairs. He earned several awards during his academic career, including the Black Law Enforcement Executives Scholarship Award and the GEICO Achievement Scholarship Award.

A racial profiling incident in 2006 ignited Williams' passion to dig into the issue through an independent study course at SPA. His research entered the national debate after he presented it to industry leaders at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

Today, Williams is intent on making the world a brighter place through reasoned social change. He works to improve the lives and communities of those in his home country, serving as director of strategic planning at Sierra Leone Policy Watch Think Tank, which aims to improve policy decisions in Sierra Leone. Current projects include a bill to advocate for voting rights for Sierra Leoneans living abroad, and a comprehensive education policy that will engage the country's unemployed youth. He encourages people not to complain about social issues, but to develop solutions that really work and deliver them to communities.

In addition to his role as vice chair of the AU Black Alumni Alliance, Williams serves on the AU Young Alumni Board. He was a recipient of the 2013 AU Alumni Rising Star Award and was named this year to African Luxury Magazine's "30 Under 30 Sierra Leoneans to Follow."

#MySPAHistory

"I enjoyed interacting with my SPA professors who provided candid and practical advice, steering me in my career. After my independent study on racial profiling and law enforcement reforms, my professors helped provide different networking opportunities to present my research. I went on to present at the Academy of Criminal Justices Sciences Conference, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Berkeley (California) Police Review Commission."

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Title: The Next Generation of Leaders: Sarah McBride’s Pride for AU
Author: Megan Patterson, SIS/BA ’11
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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
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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.

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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.

 

 

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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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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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