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SPA Helps Applied Politics Grad Finds his Place on the Hill

Dan Lindner

Dan Lindner, an SPA grad with a new plum assignment as U.S. Representative Judy Chu’s press assistant, credits every job he’s had in Washington to AU. But his success is just as much a result of putting himself in opportunity’s path.

Lindner doesn’t downplay the tough job market he faced upon graduating last May. Since coming to Washington to earn a master’s degree in applied politics, Lindner had acquired solid skills working at research and polling firms, and as a speechwriting intern with the Environmental Protection Agency. Not enough, according to a strategic communications firm where an AU connection had secured him an informational interview.

“They told me, ‘You’ve got all this experience and education, but you’re not really valuable to us until you’ve worked on the Hill,’” Lindner recounts.

Lindner took the advice to heart. He found an internship with U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard’s office where he assisted the press secretary and wrote policy briefs. He also kept his ear to the ground and soon learned about the position in Rep. Chu’s office.

Four interviews and two writing tests later, Lindner scored the job despite allegedly being up against a former press assistant and intern.

“It’s a great position. I will have a lot of autonomy to face challenges on my own,” said Lindner, who now handles press inquiries, maintains Chu’s social media presence, and writes floor speeches and more.

While Lindner is now laser-focused on a career in political communications, as a new student he wasn’t sure what space he wanted to occupy in the political realm. It was a speechwriting class and the encouragement of SPA professor Bob Lehrman that prompted Lindner to seek an internship with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s speechwriting department.

“It was an amazing entry into the world of political communications. I had direct contact with the cabinet secretary, and helped sculpt messages on important topics like the Gulf oil spill and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard,” he said. “It was exciting because I would hear the administrator speak on something big like the green jobs initiative, and I could recognize my work in her words.”

Lindner also helped maintain Jackson’s online presence though blogs, op-eds and other forms of communication.

The experience revealed political communications to him as the best of both worlds. 

“Your task is to bridge a knowledge gap, but you have complete freedom as to how you do that, whether it’s through a speech or new media. You get to exercise creativity, but still dig into to substance,” said Lindner. 

That exposure ultimately led the articulate yet soft-spoken student to compete for and win the honor of graduation commencement speaker. “It was one of the best experiences I ever had,” said Lindner, “and there is no way I would have ever tried it without the other experiences I’d gained at AU.”

While Lindner sees a clear path ahead – dig in, work hard, become a press secretary and communications director, eventually run his own shop in strategic communications – he attributes that clarity to his time at American.

“I’m just getting started but I have a clear path forward,” he says. “AU made that happen.”