newsId: 1482DC6A-5056-AF26-BE2F2C3321E6C8EE
Title: #SPA80for80: Audra Dial, SPA/BA ’94
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Abstract: Audra Dial, one of Atlanta’s top lawyers, credits SPA with honing her interests in the foundations of the court system.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/25/2014
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Audra Dial, one of Atlanta’s top lawyers, began to hone her interests in the foundations of the court system and the historical precedents of the legal profession during her time at the School of Public Affairs.

Dial, who focuses on intellectual property litigation, currently serves as the managing partner for Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton’s Atlanta office. She focuses her practice on complex federal court trial work involving trade secrets, patent disputes, restrictive employment covenants, and business disputes involving intellectual property.

Those complex issues are one of the reasons Dial was attracted to the firm, which has a reputation for representing sophisticated clients on high-profile cases, both domestically and internationally.

She recently worked on a trade secrets case in which she obtained a multi-million dollar judgment against an aircraft manufacturer who was accused of misusing her client’s trade secrets in a contract for the Korean government. That judgment was one of the largest intellectual property verdicts in the state of Georgia between 2009 and 2013.

Dial has also represented a telecommunications company in a patent infringement case in which its rival was seeking $1 billion in damages. The jury found that the patents were invalid and that her client was not infringing them, and that decision was affirmed on appeal. 

In addition to her legal work, Dial avidly supports a number of charitable organizations through board and other leadership positions, including Savannah College of Art and Design, Special Olympics, Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Meals on Wheels Atlanta. She has served as the President of the Junior League of Atlanta, the third largest League in the country. Her community leadership earned her the Georgia State Bar’s Justice Robert Benham Community Service Award in 2013.

#MySPAHistory

“The School of Public Affairs provided a solid platform from which I could launch my legal career. My professors challenged me to attack problems creatively. Having that intellectual freedom has empowered me to develop innovative solutions for my clients.”

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Title: Shakespeare in the Alley
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: American University scholar in residence discusses the legacy of Bob Dylan.
Topic: Humanities
Publication Date: 11/24/2014
Content:

Keep on Keepin' On

"Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." That was Bob Dylan, on his celebrated 1997 comeback album Time Out of Mind. But despite his own ominous lyrics, rumors of Dylan's demise are often premature. More than 52 years since his self-titled debut, he's still touring and producing albums. On November 25, he returns to Washington, D.C. for a concert at DAR Constitution Hall.

Michelle Engert has written and lectured about the cultural impact of Dylan. In an interview, she offered some thoughts on the musician's legacy and longevity. "I suppose if he was still playing the acoustic guitar and the harmonica, and stuck with those themes of the early 1960s, it wouldn't last. It would be dated. But he changed," says Engert, an American University scholar and practitioner in residence, with a joint appointment at the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public Affairs.

Engert characterizes Dylan's career as one of constant reinvention. "He went from his early days when no one knew him as a Woody Guthrie imitator, to writing his own songs in the folk tradition, to using an electric guitar and leaving the folk tradition, to entering rock 'n' roll with really interesting music. Then we had the country music phase, so then we had the Americana phase. And this was all before 1970," she explains.

The Many Sides of Bob Dylan

1970 probably marked a turning point, as the consensus surrounding Dylan's brilliance started to unravel. After reeling off a string of classic albums that included Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and John Wesley Harding, Dylan released the critically-reviled Self Portrait. Dylan expert and supporter Greil Marcus used an expletive to describe it in Rolling Stone. (The comment was tame by today's Internet standards, but it's still one of the most memorable album reviews ever written.)

Aside from masterpieces like 1975's Blood on the Tracks, Dylan's 1970s and 1980s recordings were often polarizing. But Engert says this part of Dylan's catalog—which included synthesizers, saxophones, gospel-oriented female vocals, and the controversial "Christian" period—should be embraced. She mentions Street-Legal (1978) and Oh Mercy (1989) as particularly underrated albums.

"Even when he's made us angry by being different, it's a really diverse, important, ingenious body of work," Engert says.

This is related to how people first experienced Dylan in the 1960s. With protest songs like "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are a-Changin'," and "Chimes of Freedom," Dylan was dubbed a generational spokesperson for the growing counterculture. But he's spent much of his career running away from that label, and most of his songs are not especially political.

"We all go through these phases of what might be important to us at a given time. But when Dylan wanted to move out of that phase, the others didn't want to let him. They tried to hold him in that box," Engert says. "And had he listened, can you imagine all of the songs that the world wouldn't have been able to hear?"

His lyrics delve into love and relationships, God and the Bible, and the entire human experience, she adds.

Dylan is still on his Never Ending Tour that began in 1988. Though he's less experimental these days, Dylan is known for speeding up his ballads and slowing down his up-tempo tracks. In concert, even the most die-hard Dylaniacs can have trouble singing along with him.

"I think the re-arrangements for him were to keep it fresh," says Engert, who has written about his live performances. "He had multiple interpretations of the songs." She says you can see those songs re-imagined in his paintings, another art form he's explored.

Early Influences

In the 1980s, Engert was a teenager living in the Chicago suburbs. Around that time, Dylan had hit the MTV generation, with the video for "Sweetheart Like You" from Infidels running on the network's regular rotation. With the rise of compact discs, people were trading in their vinyl records—making them suddenly more affordable for Engert. "I went to a used record store with $20 and came out with half the catalog," she recalls. "So I got this huge volume of material, and I would just sit in my room and listen to it on vinyl."

A lifelong passion was born. Among other activities, she taught a class on Dylan in Munich, Germany.

Engert is now an attorney advisor at the Defender Services Office in the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in Washington. In the fall of 2015, she's set to become a full-time faculty member in the Justice, Law & Criminology Department at SPA.

Artist of the Century

Compared to other art forms, popular music is still a relatively young medium. Thus, Dylan's name might get excluded from the traditional pantheon of creative geniuses. Yet Engert considers Dylan the artist of the 20th century.

"I think that in universities people will look at Dylan's work, as a whole, on the level that they do Walt Whitman, on the level that they do Shakespeare," she says.

His voluminous and varied contributions, she says, set him apart from his contemporaries. "[Academics] are not going to study Neil Young. They're not going to study Van Morrison. With Dylan, we've got the books, we've got the films, we've got the paintings, we've got the sculptures. It's this whole creative output of more than 50 years, and it tells the story of America."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Betsy Fischer Martin, SPA/BA ’92
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Abstract: After taking advantage of AU's exceptional internship program, Martin went on to a long, successful career with NBC, eventually leading "Meet the Press" as executive producer.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/24/2014
Content:

Like 90 percent of students at AU’s School of Public Affairs, Betsy Fischer Martin took advantage of the school’s exceptional internship program during her time as an AU undergrad.

Fischer Martin interned on the Hill her Junior year, then at NBC’s “Meet the Press” her senior year. That NBC internship expanded into a full-time position as political researcher. Ten years later, she was leading the Sunday morning public affairs program as executive producer, where she oversaw editorial content, guest-selection, strategic planning, production, marketing, and financial decision-making. In 2013, Fischer Martin became the senior executive producer and managing editor of NBC News Political Programming, where she provided editorial direction for all political coverage at NBC. In 2014 she decided to leave NBC after 23 years for a portfolio of new projects that include writing and consulting.

Among her many accolades, Fischer Martin has earned two News and Documentary Emmys, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Political Journalism, and a Gracie Award from American Women in Radio and Television. In 2008, the World Economic Forum welcomed her into the class of Young Global Leaders.

She praises SPA for building networks to establish opportunities for students in Washington, DC. She also gained valuable experience at SPA in her work-study with James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. The academic and research skills she gained in that role prepared her for her work as a political researcher at NBC.

Fischer Martin graduated cum laude from SPA in 1992 and earned a Master of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from AU’s School of Communications in 1995.

#MySPAHistory

“The School of Public Affairs has established relationships and internship programs with so many prominent institutions, it really makes getting your foot in the door quite possible.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Professor Erdal Tekin
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Abstract: Erdal Tekin joined the School of Public Affairs in August 2014 to be in the epicenter of policy decision-making.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 11/21/2014
Content:

Dr. Erdal Tekin is an economist with an interest in studying questions of immediate policy relevance on health and risk behaviors. He joined the School of Public Affairs in August 2014 to be in the epicenter of policy decision-making. 

He has conducted extensive research on a wide ranging questions including the impact of home foreclosures on health, the long-term consequences of child neglect and maltreatment, economic determinants and consequences of child and adult obesity, and the effect of gun laws and access on crime and victimization, and the impact of child care subsidies on labor market decisions of parents and the well-being of children.  His current focus is mainly on studying the consequences of prenatal and early life conditions on short and long-term outcomes of individuals in a multitude of domains including health, human capital, labor market, and crime.  

Dr. Tekin’s research has appeared in many of the top journals in the field, including American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, Review of Economics & Statistics, Journal of Health Economics,Journal of Human Resources, Criminology,and Social Science & Medicine. His research has been funded by organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Family Foundation, and the Danish Council for Independent Research, among others.  His work has been cited over 1,400 times in the research literature and profiled by a variety of media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes magazine.

He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a fellow of the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). In addition, he is an editor of the Journal of Population Economics and an associate editor of IZA World of Labor, and IZA Journal of Labor Policy. He also serves as a co-organizer of the annual international workshop on the Economic Analysis of Risky Behaviors. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Prior to joining AU, Tekin served as  a professor of economics in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, specializing in health economics, demographic economics and applied microeconomics.

#MySPAHistory

"In addition to setting the standard for excellence as an academic institution, the School of Public Affairs at American University provides an invaluable platform that facilitates and advances cutting-edge research to bring careful evidence to some of the most critical policy questions facing the world."

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Title: #SPA80for80: Jennifer Fernandez, SPA/MPP ’15
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Abstract: 2014 Reilly Scholar Jennifer Fernandez paired an early focus on housing issues with a new passion in pursuing environmental policy after joining SPA's MPP program.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/20/2014
Content:

Named for Bill Reilly, former EPA Administrator and one of the nation’s most prominent environmental leaders, the William K. Reilly Fund for Environmental Governance and Leadership supports core programming for SPA’s Environmental Policy Center, as well as scholarships that help students like Jennifer Fernandez prepare to take on complex environmental challenges.

Fernandez, a Reilly Scholar in 2014, was particularly struck by the way Reilly emphasized the importance of overcoming political differences when recounting his experience co-chairing the bipartisan commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill with Democrat Bob Graham. “Everyone’s got to work together,” Fernandez reiterated, “and now more than ever, that’s a message that people need to hear.”

Fernandez came to environmental policy through a side door. A political science major as an undergraduate at the University of San Francisco, she developed a passion for affordable housing, writing her senior thesis on housing and gentrification, and beginning her career at Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC).

When she chose to attend graduate school at the School of Public Affairs, she decided to pursue environmental policy, but maintain a focus on housing issues. While doing just that in the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program, she also combined her unique skill set while working on green initiatives for a housing and community development organization called NeighborWorks, serving a one-year term through AmeriCorps VISTA.

The MPP program has given Fernandez the broader perspective on policymaking she desired to help her take her career to the next level. She singled out her course with Center for Environmental Policy director Daniel Fiorino as one that has introduced her to planning issues that she would not see from the developer side. “I see everything put into action in that class—taking it a step back and how it comes to fruition.”

Fernandez is grateful to have more financial support after a fulfilling yet draining term as a VISTA corps member. Her year of service paid off in the form of a new job—she was recently hired as an analyst for AARP, a position that seems to suit her passion for effecting change from behind the scenes.

#MySPAHistory

“You’re making the world a better place in a way that I think is very unsung. I think I really picked the right program at SPA. I have great professors—every one of them has been magnificent. It definitely reinforced my future career plans.”

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Title: Political Ambition Gender-Gap Could Last a Generation
Author: J. Paul Johnson
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Abstract: New research reveals prospects for more women seeking elected office unlikely for a generation.
Topic: Government & Politics
Publication Date: 11/19/2014
Content:

American University's Women & Politics Institute director and government professor, Jennifer Lawless in her newly co-authored Brookings paper Not a 'Year of the Woman" . . . and 2036 Doesn't Look So Good Either debunks the notion that 2014 was a watershed year for women running for elected office.

Lawless agrees that there were some notable achievements at the micro level: the first female Senator from Iowa, the youngest woman elected to Congress, the first African-American female Republican to win a House seat, and the first female governor of Rhode Island. Overall, however, Lawless and Loyola Marymount University professor Richard Fox explain that 2014 generally maintained the status quo:

*The number of female governors held steady.
*The 114th Congress will have the same number of women serving in the U.S. Senate as did the 113th Congress.
*The United States still ranks 100 globally in the percentage of women serving in the national legislature.
*The gender gap in political ambition persists.

Dearth of Female Candidates

Despite the fact that Lawless and her colleagues have found that women and men win elections at equal rates, raise comparable amounts of money, and receive similar media attention, women are far less likely than men to run for elected office. "When only about one-third of U.S. Senate or House races feature a major-party female candidate, opportunities for substantial gains are slim for women," says Lawless.

In 2001 and 2011, Lawless and Fox conducted national surveys of male and female potential candidates from the professions most likely to lead to political careers: educators, lawyers, business owners and executives, and political activists. The surveys revealed that men were approximately 40 percent more likely than women ever to have thought about running for political office. This gender gap presents itself regardless of political party, income level, race, profession, or geographical region, and it persists across all age groups. Lawless and Fox say, "No matter how we sliced or diced the data, the results were the same: when it comes to political ambition, men tend to have it, and women don't."

Why 2036 Does Not Look Much Better

Lawless and Fox's research is sobering because the prospects for any marked improvement will take at least a generation. The reason, Lawless explains, is that "The seed of a potential candidacy is planted early in life and only manifests itself into an actual political candidacy decades later." Indeed, Fox and Lawless found that nearly half of those who had considered running for office reported that they first thought about it by the time they were in college.

The professors find that there is little reason to believe that the gender gap in political ambition is smaller among today's young people than it is among adults. Lawless and Fox conducted a national random sample of more than 4,000 high school and college students between September and October 2012. They asked about their general interests in running for office, attitudes toward specific elected positions, and a series of professions to rank as careers that they might consider in the future. In every case, Fox and Lawless uncovered a gender gap in political ambition.

Establishing the Gender Gap

Lawless and Fox asked respondents whether they ever thought that they would run for political office. For 41 percent of them, the idea had crossed their minds. But the gender gap was remarkable. According to Lawless, "Overall, men were 80 percent more likely than women to have thought about running for office;whereas women were roughly 20 percent more likely than men never to have considered it."

College-aged respondents drove the gender gap. Whereas high school boys and girls had similar interest in running for office, the results indicated that, once they entered college, men's ambition to enter politics skyrocketed and women's remained the same.

*College men were twice as likely as college women to have thought about running for office and twice as likely to express "definite" interest in running for office.
*Women were 50 percent more likely than men never to have considered running for office.
*Thirty-six percent of college women, compared to 23 percent of college men, already decided unequivocally never to run for office in the future.
*College men were twice as likely as college women to choose a congressional career as their preferred option, when presented with a series of choices.

Explaining the Gender Gap

Although, no data track young people as they graduate from high school and enter college, Lawless and Fox identify immersion in politics, competitive experiences, and self-confidence as strong predictors of political ambition. And college men are more likely than women to have these experiences.

Colleges offer a wide array of academic options and extracurricular activities. "When students get to college, 'the shackles come off,' and young women and men have much greater control over how they spend their time and what interests they pursue as compared to high school curricula that offers little choice," says Lawless. "Men and women's interests diverge in college and politics is no exception."

When Will There Be a Year of the Woman?

To close the gender gap in political ambition, organizational efforts need to be made to engage women politically during their college years. Lawless and Fox conclude that high-profile, bipartisan women's advocacy groups, or even the Democratic and Republican Parties, would be well-served to launch national initiatives on college campuses.

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Contact Name: J. Paul Johnson
Contact Phone: 202-885-5943
Contact Email: jjohnson@american.edu
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Title: #SPA80for80: Adam Rosenblatt, SPA/BA ’06 and SPA/MA ’07
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Abstract: Adam Rosenblatt uses lessons from SPA to understand the value of data-driven decision making in today’s political and corporate arenas.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/19/2014
Content:

Adam Rosenblatt understands the value of data-driven decision making in today’s political and corporate arenas. He discovered and refined this passion for “using research to solve problems” while a student at the School of Public Affairs.

As a Director at Penn Schoen Berland, Rosenblatt has led complex public opinion studies for clients facing challenging dilemmas in the boardroom and the ballot box: from Federal agencies to Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between.

Working for one of the premier research-based strategy and message consulting firms, Rosenblatt says he uses the skills he honed in SPA courses and projects to provide his clients with a competitive advantage. He says it’s a “dream job that harnesses what I learned at AU, both inside and outside the classroom.”

Rosenblatt has overseen behavioral, attitudinal, and messaging studies employing research techniques ranging from qualitative focus groups to quantitative studies to “assess challenges through a zero-sum mindset: if you’re not winning, you’re losing.”

His accomplishments have been recognized by numerous awards from the American Association of Political Consultants, Campaigns and Elections magazine, and through victories in sectors including healthcare, technology, politics, and business.

Rosenblatt credits his success to three SPA programs in particular: the Leadership Program, the Campaign Management Institute, and the Public Affairs and Advocacy (Lobbying) Institute. He says these intensive courses “combined traditional classroom learning and real-world scenarios,” which well prepared him to pursue a career where he serves as strategic partner to his clients “charting out a research-driven approach towards victory, whatever the situation.”

#MySPAHistory

“I hang both my AU diplomas proudly in my office and I feel the value of my degrees have grown every year. Knowing the quality of AU’s programs, I always make sure to recruit from SPA.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Stephen Bronskill, SPA/BA ’13
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Abstract: Stephen Bronskill joined Teach for America to better understand how the policies he learned about during his time at SPA actually affect people.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/19/2014
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Stephen Bronskill joined Teach for America to better understand how the policies he learned about during his time at SPA actually affect people.

“While my abilities as a teacher are limited,” Bronskill said, “it is inspiring to watch my students dream big even under profoundly difficult circumstances. I am privileged to work with veteran teachers and community leaders who have dedicated their lives to expand opportunities for young people here. “

Bronskill teaches biology at Pine Bluff High School in Arkansas, a state in which only 19% of students meet ACT College Readiness Standards – the nation’s lowest rate.

His four years at AU’s School of Public Affairs reflected his desire to combine the theoretical with the practical. As a first-year student at AU, he created the Community Service Coalition (CSC) after hearing journalist Tom Brokaw describe the need for civilian leadership academies. The CSC has grown into a thriving coalition of 40 student groups that makes use of varied resources for community service projects. Bronskill also held a number of internships -- including an internship at the White House -- and he also studied environmental issues for a semester abroad in India.

Bronskill’s work at AU garnered him a number of awards upon graduation, including the President's Award, AU's highest undergraduate honor; a national Udall Scholarship for his commitment to environmentalism; and the Stafford H. Cassell Award for his dedication to the university. He was also a national finalist for a Truman Scholarship for public service.

Bronskill, a member of University College and SPA’s Leadership Program, graduated with degrees in political science and environmental studies.

#MySPAHistory

“It is humbling to see the impressive public service performed by current and former SPA students. I am thankful that so many from AU are working toward a more equitable future for kids no matter where you are born – from the Arkansas Delta to the nation’s capital.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Professor Lynn Addington
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Abstract: Lynn Addington, professor of justice, law and criminology, is now one of the nation’s foremost experts in crime measurement.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 11/17/2014
Content:

Lynn Addington studies crime by the numbers.

Her interest in crime data began in graduate school when she worked on a project to develop hate crime questions for the US Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey. “Studying crime data and working to improve our measures of crime might not be ‘hot topics’ but this information provides essential foundational knowledge. Having accurate and complete crime statistics are critical for policymakers to evaluate programs, academics to assess theories, and the general public to better understand their risk for victimization.”

Addington is now one of the nation’s foremost experts in crime measurement. She currently is working directly with federal agencies on projects to improve our two primary sources of national crime statistics: the National Crime Victimization Survey and the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. She is completing a Visiting Fellowship with the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics where her project concerns redesigning the NCVS. She also serves as the only academic representative to the FBI’s focus group supporting the UCR’s National Incident-Based Reporting Program. Addington is a regular consultant on school crime surveys for the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to her work with crime statistics, Addington studies issues surrounding violent victimization that include rape/sexual assault, school violence and homicide. Her work has been supported by research grants from the American Educational Research Association, American Statistical Association, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and National Institute of Justice. She also presented before the federal advisory committee that reviewed the military’s responses to sexual assault.

Addington has an extensive publication record. She is the co-editor of an original volume of research entitled Understanding Crime Statistics: Revisiting the Divergence of the NCVS and UCR (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Her articles have appeared in a range of outlets spanning criminology, education, law, and sociology. In January 2015, she will begin a four-year term as editor of the journal Homicide Studies.

#MySPAHistory

“SPA provides an exciting and supportive environment for scholarship. I have capitalized on our DC location and become actively engaged in research that matters and has direct policy implications. SPA recognizes and encourages this work. SPA also is generating a teaching environment that facilitates undergraduate involvement in research projects and field experiences.”

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Title: #SPA80for80: Dante Chinni
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Abstract: Dante Chinni's research and analysis through his directive, the American Communities Project, is providing key data for NBC's "Meet the Press" and other publications.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 11/12/2014
Content:

Dante Chinni, practitioner in residence with the School of Public Affairs at American University, knows that sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time.

Shortly after Chuck Todd was announced as moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chinni finalized a partnership with NBC News and Todd to provide detailed data analysis in key congressional and gubernatorial races during the 2014 midterm election cycle and beyond.

The deal was months in the making, long before Todd knew he would be hosting the longest-running television series in U.S. history.

Chinni has been covering politics and the media for more than 15 years. He directs the American Communities Project (ACP), an initiative that breaks down the 3,100 U.S. counties into 15 archetypes to study their shifting cultural, economic, and political landscapes in a time of turbulent change. As part of the project, Chinni writes stories and analyses for media partners including WNYC Radio in New York, and writes the regular Politics Counts online column for the Wall Street Journal.

“I'd been on the Daily Rundown with Todd a few times,” Chinni says, “and we wanted to figure out a way to work together. The nice thing about this deal is it let's us collaborate and shines some light on the ACP and on the School of Public Affairs.”

Chinni also serves as a fellow at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at SPA.

He is the creator of Patchwork Nation, which won a 2009 Knight Batten Award for journalistic innovation, and he is the co-author the book Our Patchwork Nation published in 2010.

Previously, Chinni worked as a reporter-researcher at Newsweek and a senior associate at the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He has written for publications including The Economist, Columbia Journalism Review, and the Washington Post Magazine.

#MySPAHistory

“The School of Public Affairs has been really supportive of this initiative, giving me access to the people and resources that can really make this partnership grow.”

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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
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Abstract: Few alumni embody the phrase “Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle” as well as Joe Vidulich, SPA/BA ’08.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/07/2014
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

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