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Title: #SPA80for80: Vivian Santora, SPA/MPA ’97
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Abstract: Vivian Santora built a career as fundraising professional and today serves as chief development officer at Women’s World Banking.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/18/2014
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Vivian Santora built a career as fundraising professional and today serves as chief development officer at Women’s World Banking, a global non-profit devoted to giving more low-income women across the developing world access to the financial tools and resources they need to build security and prosperity for themselves and their families.

As CDO, Santora secures strategic partnerships to implement Women’s World Banking’s programs and activities, and collaborates with the president and directors on the implementation of funding strategy. Women’s World Banking works closely with its global network of 34 financial institutions from 24 countries to create new credit, savings, and insurance products specifically designed for the unique needs of women. To date, the organization has changed the lives of 20 million clients globally.

Prior to joining Women’s World Banking, Vivian worked extensively in fundraising, politics, and government affairs in New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. She worked on President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2000 Senate race, re-election campaign and leadership PAC, government affairs for Cablevision, and for the Girl Scouts of the USA. In 2005, she started her own consulting company, providing strategic advice and fundraising, event management, and government affairs for public and private sector clients.

Santora graduated from the School of Public Affairs in 1997 with a master’s in public administration and a focus in public policy. Her political engagement began during her studies when she worked on President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign.

In addition to earning an MPA, Santora worked as a graduate advisor for Leadership Affairs at SPA and organized the first Women’s Leadership Conference, Voices of Leadership. Her practicum, which took place in the office of U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, provided analysis on legislative issues involving women’s health, sexual harassment and war crimes. Santora also holds a bachelor’s in both English and women’s studies from The University at Buffalo.

#MySPAHistory

“After graduating from UB in 1995, I wanted to continue my studies in a field that would provide me with both the skills and opportunities to make a difference in the world. It sounds cliché I know.

I heard great things about American University and was excited about the challenging coursework (i.e. statistics, economics and public finance) which would certainly take me out of my comfort zone.

My MPA experience certainly added to my ability to think critically, evaluate ideas, debate concepts and simply agree to disagree without raising my voice. In the heart of Washington, DC, I was offered unique, up-close exposure to the inner workings of our government.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Terry Szuplat, SPA/BA ’95
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Abstract: Communication is key for Terry Szuplat, the senior director for speechwriting in President Obama's National Security Council.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/18/2014
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Communication is key, especially for Terry Szuplat.

As the senior director for speechwriting at the National Security Council for President Obama, Szuplat is tasked every day with drafting clear and consistent language for the president to use as he communicates with foreign audiences, military and veterans groups, and, most importantly, the American people.

“It’s a very unique form of writing,” says Szuplat. “Sometimes it’s like writing a play. You’re looking to create moments where the speaker connects with the audience, intellectually and emotionally.”

Szuplat began his career in public service directly after graduating from the School of Public Affairs in 1995. He landed a position working for the Congressional Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, a job that had him travelling to agencies like the CIA and the Pentagon to investigate methods of declassification.

“I don’t think I could possibly be doing anything more beneficial to me in the long-run, just out of school,” Szuplat told AU student newspaper, The Eagle, in fall 1995 when asked about his post-grad career.

Szuplat transitioned smoothly into the new position after interning at the White House speechwriting office during the previous spring semester at the School of Public Affairs. He went on to serve as the chief speechwriter for the Secretary of Defense. Nearly 20 years later, he is hard at work again in the White House, where he directly supports the president. As one of President Obama’s speechwriters, Szuplat and his colleagues sometimes brainstorm ideas with the president, constantly editing and rewriting in order to find just the right words.

In 1999, Szuplat was named one of 100 people to watch this century by Washingtonian magazine. Prior to serving in the White House, he works in public affairs for the Senate Armed Services Commission writing articles and statements.

#MySPAHistory

“I simply wouldn’t be where I am today, without AU and SPA. As a senior at AU, I had the opportunity to intern at the White House speechwriting office—the very office I serve in today. My professors at SPA had a huge influence on how I think about government and public service. Even now, I still crack open my old course books for ideas and inspiration when drafting remarks for the President.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Eric Eikenberg, SPA/BA ’98
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Abstract: As chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, Eric Eikenberg fights with a fervor often reserved for lobbyists and political operatives.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/17/2014
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Eric Eikenberg can’t understate the importance of the world around him.

As chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, Eikenberg fights with a fervor often reserved for lobbyists and political operatives. For those that know him, this is no surprise.

Long before heading the prolific environmental organization, he was playing baseball around the edges of the vast watershed. His high school alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, was named after the prominent environmental folk hero and author of the influential book, The Everglades: River of Grass

When Eikenberg began his studies at AU, however, he was more interested in the lure of politics than the mire of environmentalism. In four years of undergraduate studies, he completed five internships—ranging from work at the Heritage Foundation think tank; to serving as a page at the Republican convention in San Diego in 1996; and even interning in the office of House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

Immediately following his graduation in 1998, Eikenberg returned to Florida to manage a state legislative campaign of a dear friend. That previous winter break, Eikenberg gained many of the skills necessary to run a political campaign when he took Profs. James Thurber and Candy Nelson’s intensive two-week course, the Campaign Management Institute. 

“All the consultants, all those experts came in during a condensed, intense period of time to explain the nuts and bolts of campaigning," says Eikenberg. "Being able to carry that out six months later in an actual state legislative race was exciting.” 

In 2000, Eikenberg ran another campaign for U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, a man he would later serve as chief of staff until the Congressman’s departure from Congress in 2006. In 2012, after a stint as a federal and state lobbyist, hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones tapped him to lead the nonprofit Everglades Foundation. 

Jones praised Eikenberg from the outset. “He has a deep understanding of what it takes to achieve success both in Washington and Tallahassee and he has the leadership skills that will help the Foundation continue to be at the forefront of Everglades restoration.”

For one well-versed in the high-octane sport of politics, environmentalism has brought on a new set of challenges. Rehabilitation efforts are often hindered in bureaucratic delay and inaction. Restoration of the Everglades is no exception, especially since it carries the largest price tag of any environmental project in history. Eikenberg, however, knows the stakes of this battle, and is prepared to fight for it.

“Water is the new oil. The minute you lose control of it, you’re finished.”

#MySPAHistory

“I often look back fondly on my time at AU. The belief that public service is an admirable profession was solidified during my course work in the School of Public Affairs. The knowledge gained, inspired me to experience first hand public policy and politics through multiple Capitol Hill internships during my four, memorable years at AU.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Joe Vidulich, SPA/BA ’08
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Abstract: A 2008 graduate of the School of Public Affairs, Joe Vidulich maintains strong ties to the AU community as an advocate for alumni and students alike through the Alumni Board.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/17/2014
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Joe Vidulich embodies Eagle pride.

A 2008 graduate of the School of Public Affairs, Vidulich maintains strong ties to the AU community as an advocate for alumni and students alike through the Alumni Board.

"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 when they receive their diploma,” he said.

Recognizing the need to build a support system for student veterans, Vidulich helped shepherd a financial gift from D.C. area freemason’s to established a graduate position to research best practices to support veterans in higher education.

Vidulich serves as the vice president of government relations for the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, which represents over 500,000 employees in Northern Virginia. He leads the chamber’s efforts to advocate for pro-business policies in a number of key industries, including transportation, healthcare, and public-private partnerships. Building on his experiences as student body president, and an alumnus of SPA’s Campaign Management Institute and Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute, Vidulich educates lawmakers and public officials on the importance of a robust business community.

“SPA taught me how to be an advocate for the causes I care about,” said Vidulich. “The School of Public Affairs provides for its students the tools necessary to be successful in your professional life.”

Another former student body president, Patrick Kelly, praised his predecessor. “There are very few individuals more selfless than Joe. American was made better by Joe when he was an undergrad and he continues to only do the same now as an alumnus.”

#MySPAHistory

"I fell in love with the campus and the spirit of the community. I saw that SPA really believed that given the tools and the knowledge, you can change the world. Every day, I use the skills taught to me by SPA’s faculty, some of the best 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."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Valerie Merahn Simon, SPA/BA ’94
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Abstract: CLEG major and participant in the inaugural SPA Dean's Leadership program, Valerie Merahn Simon was exposed to career options at SPA that she had never considered before.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/16/2014
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Valerie Merahn Simon arrived at American University intending to pursue a career in law. Her decision to major in Interdisciplinary Studies (Communications, Law, Economics and Government) and her participation in the inaugural class of the SPA Dean’s Leadership program expanded her skill sets and exposed Simon to career options she had never before considered.

Following her passion for public affairs and policy, Simon began working in the National Press Building for a media monitoring service, tracking and analyzing the news. Over the course of the next 10 years, she rose to become senior vice president of BurrellesLuce and a member of the 126-year-old company’s executive committee.

Simon currently leads the in-house advertising agency at Plymouth Rock Assurance where she is responsible for all marketing communications, brand management, advertising, market research, public relations, content marketing, video production and events. Under her leadership, the team has achieved a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® title for the Most Pledges to a Safety Campaign as part of company’s efforts to stop distracted driving, A Telly Award and 5 MarCom awards.

“I am particularly grateful for the mentors who offered me guidance during my time at AU, including President Kerwin, who was then dean of SPA, and Bill Sweeney, a founder and director of the Campaign Management Institute at American University,” said Simon.

Their influence inspired her to continue the tradition of mentoring students. In 2009, Simon became the co-founder of #PRStudChat, a dynamic community of public relations professionals, educators and students who share a common goal; to leverage social media in a meaningful way that will help bridge the gap between the academic and professional environments. The trending Twitter chat recently celebrated a 5th anniversary, and has included professors and students from universities around the globe, as well as industry professionals such as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, former Kodak CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett, and digital leader Brian Solis.

#MySPAHistory

“As a CLEG major, my economics courses helped me to develop an appreciation for data and analysis and gave me confidence in areas I had never before embraced. My communications courses honed my abilities to use that data and analysis to create and share powerful stories. Beyond the development of skill sets, the School of Public Affairs instilled in me a commitment to service, an enthusiasm for learning and the certainty that I can, and will, make a difference.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Dr. John Boyer, SPA/PhD ’89
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Abstract: After nearly 40 years of experience in healthcare, in both public and private sectors, Dr. John Boyer continues to look fondly on his experiences at SPA.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/16/2014
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After nearly 40 years of experience in healthcare, in both clinical and administrative settings, and in both public and private sectors, Dr. John Boyer continues to look fondly on his experiences at the School of Public Affairs. Indeed, he credits SPA with giving him the tools necessary to succeed in his professional life.

“I was able to immediately put so many of the skills and approaches to work, and bring the literature to bear on my day-to-day job,” says Boyer.

Boyer graduated from SPA in 1989, earning a PhD in public administration and public policy. Since that time, he has continued to stay in touch with his dissertation committee members, Neil Kerwin, James Thurber, and Laura Langbein. As a longstanding member of the SPA Dean’s Advisory Council, he also keeps connected with the university and other faculty such as Barbara Romzek and Bill LeoGrande.

Today, Boyer continues using the skills and knowledge earned at SPA. Since 1995, he has worked at MAXIMUS, a leading international provider of business services to government agencies in the areas of health care, child welfare, employment and education. A publicly traded company (NYSE: MMS), MAXIMUS is comprised of more than 13,000 employees worldwide, and assists individuals, children and families lead happier, healthier lives. During his tenure with the firm Boyer has led the Health Services practice, founded the MAXIMUS Center for Health Literacy, and established MAXIMUS Federal Services, a wholly owned subsidiary, where he served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for nine years.

Boyer now leads the MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation which, twice each year, awards cash grants to organizations across the nation that promote personal growth and community development. He is also the vice chair of the advisory board of Health eVillages, a non-profit organization that assists healthcare professionals practicing medicine in the world’s most challenging clinical environments by providing them with the latest in mobile healthcare technology. He is the treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area, and he serves on the leadership council of The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, which last year awarded him their coveted Ripple of Hope Award.

Before joining MAXIMUS, Boyer worked in the Pentagon for six years as director, Health Services Financing Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs). He also served on active duty in the U.S. Navy Medical Department for twenty-four years, in many clinical and administrative positions.

In addition to his doctoral degree from AU, he holds a master’s degree in management from the Naval Postgraduate School, a master’s degree in nursing from New York Medical College, and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from Illinois State University.

Looking back on his first degree, Dr. Boyer laughs, “Now how many times have I really needed differential equations?”

#MySPAHistory

“My education at AU was one of the best. In my later life—the career paths I chose—the AU experience was truly helpful. The School of Public Affairs truly enabled me to do a much better job in my work life.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Mike Panetta, SPA/BA ’93 and SPA/MA ’94
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Abstract: Mike Panetta is an award-winning public affairs campaign strategist who specializes in using digital and social media for creative issue advocacy and grassroots activism.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/15/2014
Content:

Mike Panetta is an award-winning public affairs campaign strategist who specializes in using digital and social media for creative issue advocacy and grassroots activism.

As a founding partner of Beekeeper Group, he provides strategic direction to the firm's overall growth and development and leads a number of the firm’s non- profit, trade association, and political clients. Mike also directs Beekeeper Group's embrace of mobile communications through the development of its Lobby Day mobile app. His work has been recognized with top honors from the American Association of Political Consultants, the Public Affairs Council, and George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet.

In November 2006, Panetta was elected to Washington, DC’s city-wide position of U.S. “Shadow” Representative, and served in this role for 3 terms until January 2013. Panetta continues to be a leading voice in the fight for District of Columbia statehood and voting representation in the U.S. Congress.

Panetta graduated from AU’s School of Public Affairs in 1993 with a BA in political science, and earned his MA in political science in 1994.

#MySPAHistory

“I was always impressed with how SPA combined traditional academics with real world experiences in public affairs. As students we had amazing exposure to thought leaders and experiences on both the 'political' and 'science' sides of American government.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Julian Bond
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Abstract: Julian Bond brings to SPA a proud history as a leader in the civil rights movement, a voice for social activism, and a facilitator of peace movements all across the country.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 12/15/2014
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Julian Bond brings to the School of Public Affairs a proud history as a leader in the civil rights movement, a voice for social activism, and a facilitator of peace movements all across the country.

He was an early advocate of marriage equality. His most recent arrest was at the White House in opposition to the Keystone Pipeline.

Bond joined SPA in the 1990’s as a distinguished adjunct professor of government. His classes—an honors course focusing on the oral history of the civil rights movement, and an advanced study of the politics of civil rights—are continuously filled with students excited to learn from an historic icon. 

He frequently engages with students outside of the classroom as well. Last autumn, for example, he joined National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) CEO Benjamin Jealous for a University Honors Program “Tea Talk” to discuss the evolution of race relations in the United States. When one student compared Jealous to rock star Bono, Jealous responded, “If I’m Bono, then professor Bond is John Lennon.”

Bond’s involvement with the NAACP began in Atlanta, where he served as local branch president. He was elected chair of the NAACP’s national board in 1998, a position that he held until 2010. 

A commitment to public service and championing civil rights began early in Bond’s college career. As a student at Morehouse College, he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and soon became its communications director. He served 20 years in the Georgia House and Georgia Senate, drafting more than 60 bills that became law. In 1968 he became the first African American nominated as Vice President of the United States by a major party before voluntarily withdrawing his name from the ballot because he was too young to potentially serve as president.

He has earned a wealth of accolades and written extensively throughout his career. Time magazine named him one of America’s top 200 leaders. The Library of Congress named him a living legend. Bond has hosted America’s Black Forum, Saturday Night Live and has narrated numerous documentaries, including the award-winning Eyes on the Prize series. He has commentated on NBC’s Today Show and was the author of Viewpoint, a nationally syndicated newspaper column. A collection of his essays is published under the title A Time to Speak, A Time to Act. Other poems and articles have appeared in several publications, including The Nation, Life, and New York Times.

#MySPAHistory

“After teaching at many fine schools, the students I am closest to are those I met and taught at SPA. We have developed lasting and continuing relationships.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Professor Taryn Morrissey
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Abstract: Taryn Morrissey, assistant professor at the School of Public Affairs, works to examine and improve public policies for vulnerable children.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 12/15/2014
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Taryn Morrissey, assistant professor at the School of Public Affairs, works to examine and improve public policies for vulnerable children.

From January 2013 to August 2014, she served as senior advisor to the deputy assistant secretary for human services policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). While at HHS, Morrissey helped to craft and implement the President’s Early Learning and Ladders-to-Opportunity Initiatives, strengthening and expanding early education and anti-poverty programs.

Back on campus, Morrissey recently led a group of AU researchers in a study of the relationship between high food prices for fresh fruits and vegetables and elevated Body Mass Index (BMI) levels in young children in low- and middle-income households.

“There is a small, but significant, association between the prices of fruit and vegetables and higher child BMI,” Morrissey said about the research, which was published in the journal Pediatrics in February 2014.

In 2011, Morrissey and colleagues from the University of Chicago and Cornell University released a study on associations between childhood obesity and mothers’ work schedules that raised international media interests and concerns.

She saw the results as an opportunity to understand the underlying issue of work-family balance. “Parents face constraints of long work hours, varying schedules, and family demands that make food shopping, meal preparation, and other activities difficult,” she explained. “If we can shed light on these constraints and the many factors that contribute to child BMI, we can help parents balance work and family demands and promote healthy weight among their children.”

Morrissey earned a PhD in developmental psychology from Cornell University in 2008, with a minor in social and health systems planning. She was a 2008-2009 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)/Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Congressional Fellow, and was subsequently hired as a health policy advisor on the staff of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, first for Sen. Edward Kennedy and then for Sen. Tom Harkin, where she helped craft the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

#MySPAHistory

“One of the many virtues of an SPA education is that the school truly values real-world policy and administrative experience among its faculty and students—and produces students who go on to make meaningful impacts.”

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Title: CEP Now Accepting Nominations for William K. Reilly Awards for Environmental Leadership
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Abstract: Two awards will be given—one for an individual in government (local, state, tribal or federal) and the other for an individual in the non-profit or business sector.
Topic: Environment
Publication Date: 12/12/2014
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The Center for Environmental Policy at American University’s School of Public Affairs is seeking nominations for the William K. Reilly Awards for Environmental Leadership.

The second annual Reilly Awards, named in honor of one of the most respected leaders in U.S. environmental policy, will be given at a ceremony during Earth Week in April at American University in Washington, D.C.

“The Center for Environmental Policy is focused on improving environmental governance in the United States and finding innovative approaches to the most pressing environmental challenges,” said executive director Dan Fiorino. “We want to recognize people who are making a difference to improve environmental outcomes.”

Nominations for the awards can be submitted here by January 31, 2015.

The Reilly Awards recognize the accomplishments of outstanding environmental leaders who have demonstrated innovation and effective problem-solving while engaging diverse interests and encouraging future environmental leaders.

Two Reilly Awards will be given—one for an individual in government (local, state, tribal or federal) and the other for an individual in the non-profit or business sectors. The nominations will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Provided effective leadership over a sustained period of time in environmental, energy, or sustainability issues in the United States;
  • Contributed to innovations in environmental solutions or new approaches to environmental, natural resources or energy policy;
  • Demonstrated the ability to engage and inspire others in achieving significant results;
  • Worked across the public, private, and non-profit sectors to solve problems in an inclusive and bi-partisan manner; and
  • Inspired or mentored early-career professionals.

Reilly was Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H. W. Bush. In 2010, he was appointed by President Barack Obama as co-chair of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling to investigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Decisions about the awards will be made by a subcommittee of the Program Advisory Board of the Center for Environmental Policy.

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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
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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
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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.

Tags: Alumni,Kogod School of Business,School of Public Affairs
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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.

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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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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