Spring 2020 Fellows

As an incubator for policy innovation and convener of the best minds in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, the arts, and journalism, the Sine Institute announced its 2020 class of Fellows and Distinguished Lecturers. These experts lead discussions and study sessions with students, as well as convened and participated in campus-wide events throughout the year. Learn more about this past year's inaugural class of Fellows.

Alphonso Jackson headshot

Alphonso JacksonSecretary of Housing and Urban Development
under President George W. Bush

Seminar Series

Separation of Power: What is the true role of America’s Institutions?
In an era of divided government what are the true separation of powers? and what is the role of the various branches in government? Each seminar will introduce the students to the operations of American institutions by examining issues related to public policy lawmaking and interaction amongst courts, the legislative and executive branches of government and social action in shaping policy. This seminar series delves into the interaction between the branches, how the current political environment impacts this process, and what role can citizens play in achieving true democracy. The series will create a greater appreciation and understanding of the interdependence between affairs in individual communities, the United States and the world.

Seminar Schedule

The Path to the President’s Cabinet: My Personal Story

February 5, 2020 | 5:30-7PM | Kerwin Hall 301

Take a journey with Alphonso Jackson as he navigates the steps in his career and the decisions made to lead him to one of the most prominent jobs in the country - a Cabinet Secretary Position in the US Administration. What does it take what are the obstacles and what does it actually mean when you get the job- hear first-hand from a true leader and inspiration on his path to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? From a young college student who marched in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King to a Presidential Cabinet member, he has a remarkable American story of overcoming obstacles.

The Important Role of the Executive Branch

February 12, 2020 | 5:30-7PM | Kerwin Hall 311

Our country was founded on the belief that the creation of three equal branches of government, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branch would enable our representative democracy to function effectively through a checks and balances system. Our focus will be the Executive branch, it’s constitutional role, how does it function on a day to day basis and the interaction and sometimes friction between the White House and the Executive branch departments and agencies.

Guest Lecturer: The Honorable Brian Montgomery: Acting Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and serving Assistant Secretary of Housing also known as the commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration. He also served as Assistant Secretary of Housing/Federal Housing Commissioner from 2005-7/2009. Also he served as acting HUD Secretary in January 2009 during the Obama Administration.

How Departments in the Executive interact with Congress

February 26, 2020 | 5:30-7PM | Kerwin Hall 301

Learn firsthand the relationship and interaction between Congress and the Executive branch departments and agencies. How do the departments and agencies work with Congress to effect policy and provide resources to Congressional districts? What role does Congress have with oversight of executive branch departments and agencies?

Guest Lecturer: The Honorable Ro Khanna: Congressman Ro Khanna represents California’s 17th Congressional District

Public and Affordable Housing and Homeownership: A Policy Case Study

March 4, 2020 | 5:30-7PM | Kerwin Hall 311

We are going to take a path to West Dallas in Dallas, TX, to get a first-hand account of what is possible and a successful case study in transforming a neighborhood and empowering its residents. The conversation will help us discuss how do the various sectors come together for effective public policy. It can be done, and we will talk about a real-life example of good public policy and partnership.

Guest Lecturer: Mr. Troy Broussard: President and chief executive officer for Dallas Housing Authority since 2015.

What role does the media and other outside forces play in shaping policy and regulation?

Postponed due to the changing context and information about COVID-19.

The media and the role it should play in shaping policy and impacting government regulation has long been debated. A free press historically and currently is considered an important gatekeeper of our democracy. Let’s discuss and debate the role of the media, not only as an informer of news and events but the huge impact our media plays in advocating and sparking public opinion to create change.

Guest Lecturer: TBA

Alphonso Jackson is chief executive of A.R. Jackson Advisors, LLC. Jackson has decades of experience in housing and community development.

In 2012, he served as Vice Chairman of Consumer & Community Banking at JP Morgan Chase in New York City. Prior to his role at JP Morgan Chase, he served as the distinguished university professor and Director of the Center for Public Policy and Leadership at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.

Alphonso Jackson was appointed the 13th Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in March 2004. Nominated by President George W. Bush, he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate due to his strong background in housing and community development and expertise in finance and management.

Prior to his appointment as Secretary, Jackson served as the Deputy Secretary of HUD, managing the daily operations of the $36 billion agency. Before his government service, Jackson was president and COO of American Electric Power, a $13 billion utility company in Texas. Prior to his tenure at AEP, he was president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Dallas, which ranked among the best-managed large-city housing agencies during his tenure.

Jackson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a Master’s in education administration from Truman State University. He also received a Juris Doctor degree from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, MO.

Cody Keenan headshot

Cody KeenanChief Speechwriter for President Barack Obama

Seminar Series

Discipline or Disruption?: Communication in the New Media Age
In a rapidly changing media environment, where attention spans are short, everybody has a megaphone, and truth is a subjective concept, what makes for effective political debate and communication? How do politicians and public servants break through the noise and make a thoughtful policy argument? Do prepared speeches matter anymore? In this seminar series I will merge what I've learned in my 18-year career spent in Congress, campaigns, and the White House - along with the curriculum I've created as a speechwriting professor and consultant - with the experiences of a new generation that gathers its news, disseminates its opinions, and mobilizes for change in entirely new and different ways to see if we can find the answers.

Seminar Schedule

Lend Me Your Ears: Speechwriting Master Class

February 10, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

What makes a good speech, and how do you write one? In this seminar, I’ll squeeze nine college-level speechwriting classes into just a couple hours. From planning and researching a speech to writing and editing one, we’ll examine the tricks of the trade that go into persuasive, memorable, compelling speeches - and why speeches still matter.

Guest Lecturer: Terry Szuplat (AU SPA ’95), Senior Director of Speechwriting, White House National Security Council; Director of Speechwriting, Secretary of Defense

Break on Through: The Modern Political Media Environment

February 17, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

How has the political media environment changed since the days of three nightly newscasts and the morning paper? How has it changed in just the past four years? In this seminar, we’ll examine how successful political campaigns have navigated changing media environments, and how others have been caught flatfooted.

Guest Lecturer: TBA

The Power to Persuade

March 23, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Online

When polarization has shrunk the universe of persuadable voters, and social media allows voters to choose their own news, how do you convince people to follow a course of action, particularly when it’s an unpopular one? In this seminar, we’ll examine strategies and tactics to combat misinformation and make your case.

Guest Lecturers (via video): Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for President Obama; Sarada Peri, Former Senior Speechwriter for President Obama and founder of Peri Communications

Communicating in the COVID World

April 23, 2020 | 5-6:00PM | Online

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens of nations around the world are grasping for facts and comfort from their political leaders. Trapped in their homes and without the distraction of sports, social interaction, live entertainment, the world has gone fully online.

This seminar will explore how political and government leaders have communicated in this environment; the tools employed, the tone they carried and the way viewers continue to react in the never ending social media ecosystem.

Without live audiences, speeches feel and look different, and without in-person contact, interviews often come across as impersonal. However, the intimacy of video calls from personal spaces has brought us closer to many of our leaders.

Underlying this rapidly evolving intersection of mediums is a desire for information and clarity like few times in history. By dissecting the cases and current available tools, the seminar will close by anticipating how to best reach increasingly nervous audiences now, and in the post-covid world.


Postponed due to the changing context and information about COVID-19.

What’s a politician’s role during a crisis? What responsibilities and opportunities does he or she have? In this seminar, we’ll examine how elected officials are expected to respond to different kinds of crises, and the special role that speeches play in both the national healing process and in reputation management.

Guest Lecturer: Jay Carney, Former Press Secretary for President Obama

Cover Me

Postponed due to the changing context and information about COVID-19.

In today’s media environment, how do you get covered? Do you have to be outrageous or “go viral?” Can nuanced, complicated arguments make a bigger dent than a six-second sound bite?

Guest Lecturer: TBA

Cody Keenan has been a speechwriter for President Barack Obama for more than a decade, rising from a campaign intern in Chicago to Director of Speechwriting at the White House. Through times of challenge and change, Cody helped President Obama craft remarks on every topic for every audience – from tiny backyards in Iowa to the biggest stadiums in the country; from a sermon in Selma to his farewell address. A graduate of Northwestern University and Harvard University, Cody's passion for public service was sharpened as a young aide to the legendary Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Today, Cody serves as Barack Obama’s post-presidential speechwriter and collaborator on his upcoming book, teaches at Northwestern University, and sits on the board of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Katherine Miller

Katherine MillerVice President of Impact, The James Beard Foundation

Seminar Series

What’s for Dinner?: The Evolution of Food Policy and Advocacy
Food is the single subject that touches every human on the planet. Food is tied to our physical and mental health, the economic strength of local communities, and the protection of our natural resources. Without food, we die (literally).

Food is also a subject fraught with conflict. Governments can weaponize policies designed to support the most vulnerable by restricting their access to a basic necessity. Communities can find themselves poisoned by the food pumped into them by major corporations. Neighbors can stigmatize each other's choices. Food production can set off fights about access to natural resources. Food sustains us but it can also tear us apart.

Tackling the system that grows, harvests, markets and distributes our food and addressing the policies that both contribute to our overall health and safety yet have a stranglehold on local economies should be a national priority, but it isn't. With climate change at a tipping point, wages stagnant across a tight labor market and debates raging about GMOs, aquaculture, regenerative soil (and so much more), the time to focus on food policy is now.

Food studies - especially the intersectionality of politics, policy, economics, business, and racial justice – is an emergent field of study. Few universities are equipped to introduce their students to this truly interdisciplinary field. American has the programs and faculty to help the food justice and activist community take their work to the next level. It is also a place, given it’s proximity to political power, that is poised to open up the conversation around food to beyond what is just delicious.

Seminar Schedule

Politics on the Plate

January 30, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Mary Graydon Center 200

Coffee shops are funneling donations to the ACLU; bodega owners rallied against President Trump’s stance on immigration; celebrity chefs are piping up; restaurants across the country are carving out a code of conduct that prizes dignity, decency, and a livable wage. Join a discussion with chefs, policymakers and journalists about how the restaurant and food industry is elevating food system issues into policy and political debates.

Guest Lecturer: Chef Tom Colicchio (founder of Crafted Hospitality, founder of Food Policy Action and Top Chef Producer), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Catherine Boudreau, food and agriculture reporter at Politico Pro.

Setting the Table for Change

February 6, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

Join Andrew Zimmern, a four-time James Beard award-winning TV personality and Pamela Hess, the Executive Director of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, for a discussion about how to bring about a sustainable, equitable and accessible food system. James Beard award winning journalist Allison Aubrey, the Food & Health Correspondent for NPR News, will lead Zimmern and Hess in a conversation their work with veterans and farmers, and a variety of solutions focused on the power of food to change lives.

Guest Lecturer: Chef Andrew Zimmern, Arcadia Executive Director Pamela Hess and NPR's Alison Aubrey

The Fight for Fair Wage

March 5, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

Cities and states around the country are considering raising the minimum wage “the right way” for tipped wage workers, which includes restaurant servers and bartenders. The issue is polarizing. On one hand, chefs and restaurant owners say they can’t afford to eliminate what they call the “tip credit”. On the other hand, advocates argue that tipped workers are subject to sexual harassment and racial discrimination in order to earn their income. Join us for a discussion about the national organizing efforts to raise the federal wage.

Guest Lecturer: TBA

The Power of Chefs & Community to Change the World

March 26, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Online

Join James Beard Award winner Kwame Onwuachi, chef at Kith/Kin and author of the best-selling memoir “Notes From a Young Black Chef,” and DC’s Best Chef and chef-owner of Centrolina (called one of America’s power restaurants) Amy Brandwein for a discussion about how they and other chefs are pushing restaurant industry to dramatically change their operations to support healthier communities, people, and the planet.

Guest Lecturer: Chefs Kwame Onwuachi, Amy Brandwein, and Christine Cikowski.

The True Cost of Food

April 9, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Online

More and more chefs are hosting community meetings, meeting with their congressional representatives, and attending town halls to highlight the food system issues that are most important to them, their customers, and their communities. Using their voice on political and policy issues is important but it can also result in backlash, and in limited cases, chefs being targeted by trolls and protestors. Join three of America’s leading chefs and activists for a discussion about why it’s important to speak up and how they navigate today’s heated political climate.

Guest Lecturers: Devita Davison, Executive Director of Detroit Food Lab, and Rosanna Marie Neil of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and National Family Farm Coalition

Katherine Miller is an award-winning communications executive, campaign strategist and social media expert. She is the Founding Executive Director of the Chef Action Network (CAN), a nonprofit organization giving back to the chefs who cook from their souls, donate their time and talent, and help us better understand the many complex issues related to food. Miller is also the Vice President of Impact at the James Beard Foundation where she oversees the Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change along with program areas designed to influence positive changes in public policy and industry practices.

Susan Molinari

Susan MolinariStrategist, Former Vice President of Google Public Affairs and Former Member of Congress

Seminar Series

What does policy making look like when disruption is the status quo?
Policy making is a process that is influenced by every sector it touches: from the private sector, the public sector, non-profits, journalism and academia. This seminar series will investigate how this happens in the modern era, under a Trump Presidency. Bringing together experts in various issue areas to investigate what influences the process, how do various stakeholders make their voices heard and how do news outlets, social media platforms and others communicate what is happening to our citizenry. Whether you are an issue advocate, looking to enter a career that tackles these issues in various ways, or a concerned citizen join us for a conversation on the future of the policy making process and how we can influence the results.

Seminar Schedule

How the Sausage really gets made: An Introduction to how the Public Policy Process Works

February 4, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

During Susan’s Molinari’s February 4 session, we will be joined by Joel Benenson, former pollster for Secretary Clinton, just one day after the Iowa Caucus. Joel will provide insight on the ins and outs of polling. When it comes to moving legislation and championing a cause, it is crucial to identify your supporters, opponents, along with those whose hearts and minds can change. Sometimes you will target the media and other influencers, and other times you will go the route of grassroots.

Guest Lecturer: Joel Benenson, founder and CEO of the Benenson Strategy Group, is one of the leading political and corporate strategists in the world. Benenson led the award-winning research and polling programs for President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and is the only Democratic pollster in history to have played a leading role in three winning presidential campaigns. Throughout his career as a pollster and strategist, he has been a trusted advisor to heads of state, political leaders, Fortune 100 companies and their CEOs, and leaders of major advocacy and nonprofit institutions.

So You Think You Want to Campaign?: Exploring Successful Strategies for Office and Life

February 25, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

Sine fellow Susan Molinari will discuss the elements necessary for a successful campaign, whether it’s a campaign for office, to pass legislation, to promote your company’s reputation or to get the job you want. She will be joined by Sine Director Amy Dacey. Amy will add her perspective on these subjects and why relationships, regardless of political party, are the most important ingredients in your life.

Guest Lecturer: Amy K. Dacey, Executive Director of the Sine Institute of Policy & Politics

It Really Can Happen: When Right, Left, and Center comes Together for Good Policy

Postponed due to the changing context and information about COVID-19.

At Susan’s March 31 session, we will hear from Malika Saada Saar, who is a human rights lawyer and now works for YouTube and Mark Holden, who is a senior executive at Koch. They will describe how the right and the left came together to help push for prison reform. This unlikely coalition ranging from the ACLU to the Heritage Foundation, passed one of the significant pieces of legislation passed in 2019.

Guest Lecturer: Malika Saada Saar, Human Rights Lawyer and Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights and Mark Holden, Senior Executive at Koch

Strategies for Amplifying your Life

April 14, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Online

On April 14, Susan will be joined by LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund and the BVM Capacity Building Institute. Brown is a catalyst for change and her national and global efforts have been known to organize, inspire and catapult people into action -- not just lip service -- enabling them to build power and wealth for themselves and their community. She will talk to us about activism and breaking through the noise for your cause.

Guest Lecturer: LaTosha Brown is an award-winning organizer, philanthropic consultant, political strategist and jazz singer with over twenty years of experience working in the non-profit and philanthropy sectors on a wide variety of issues related to political empowerment, social justice, economic development, leadership development, wealth creation and civil rights. She is the cofounder of Black Voters Matter Fund.

From Crisis to Consensus: The Study of Healing Traumatic Stress

Postponed due to the changing context and information about COVID-19.

Bob Roth, the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation has agreed to speak at our final class on April 7. Bob Is working on bringing Transcendental Meditation to high trauma schools (most recently in Anacostia) and to veterans with PTSD. He will discuss how we are trying to bring this effort and the impact of tm on brain waves to Washington. He will also spend time describing exactly Transcendental Meditation works.

Guest Lecturer: Bob Roth, the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation

Susan Molinari has a wide-ranging background resulting from her multi- disciplined service in the Leadership of the United States Congress, as Vice President of Google’s Public Affairs for the Americas, as leader of multiple offices for international public affairs and lobbying giant Omnicom, and as a respected media communicator on multiple networks, including among others CBS, Fox, PBS and CNN.

Susan is presently a member of New York City based Protiviti Consulting’s Advisory Board, Washington DC based APCO Worldwide International Advisory Board, and member of the boards of Harvard University Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School, the Trilateral Commission, American Action Network and the David Lynch Foundation.

Having been elected from a New York City-based district five times to Congress, Susan was quickly elevated by House Republicans who twice elected her as one of just eight Members to serve in the Leadership of the first GOP Majority in 40 years.

In Congress, she developed a strong record of bipartisanship and effectiveness on issues ranging from transportation and the budget, to child abuse and human rights.

As Google’s Vice President for the United States, Mexico, Latin America and Canada, she managed teams that monitored and interacted with both Democratic and Republican U.S. Administrations, federal departments and agencies, both sides of the political aisle and both sides of the U.S. Capitol, as well as state and foreign capitals.

In addition to her work with Omnicom and in the media, Susan has worked with corporate America as member of the Board of Protective Life, on the Toyota North America Diversity Board, as chair of the corporate social responsibility Century Council, and at the global law firm Bracewell and Giuliani.

Janet Rodriguez

Janet RodriguezWhite House Correspondent Univision (AU Alum)

Seminar Series

Policy, Politics and the Presidential Campaign Trail - A front row seat to the 2020 Election
2020 will be one of the most important years in this country as we navigate the national election year with primaries, conventions, nominations and debates that will shape the future of the country. Do you want a front row seat to what is happening? Join Janet Rodriguez as she helps us understand how we got here, shares current updates from the road as the election and policy debate shapes. She will also direct the lens to a key discussion on the role of media in the entire process.

Seminar Schedule

How We Got Here: Exploring the issue environment in 2020

January 28, 2020 | 7:15-8:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

The current national political discourse has been stewing and brewing for many years in local communities across the nation. We explore the case of Arizona under SB1070 and Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the foreshadowing of today’s political landscape.

Guest Lecturers (via Skype): Daniel Gonzalez, The AZ Republic/USA Today Network He has covered immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border and minority communities for The Arizona Republic since 2000. He has reported extensively along the border, and from the interior of Mexico. He has also reported from Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Belfast, Northern Ireland. He has received numerous local and national journalism awards. He was a lead reporter and writer for The Wall, a multi-media series awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. He was also co-lead writer for the Arizona Republic’s “Pipeline of Children” series awarded the 2014 Hillman Prize and the 2014 Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism from the University of Oregon. Gonzalez is a two-time Arizona Virg Hill Journalist of the year: In 2014 for his coverage of the child migrant crisis and in 2010 for his coverage of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, known as Senate Bill 1070; and for a series exploring the rise of global migration reported from Berlin, Rome and southern Spain. In 2014, he was a finalist for the American Society of News Editors Award for Distinguished Writing on Diversity. In October 2014, he spoke at the United Nations for the inaugural World Cities Day. Gonzalez previously worked for newspapers in New York, Massachusetts and Illinois. He has taught newswriting and ethics and diversity courses at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He has a journalism degree from the University of Iowa and studied Spanish literature at the graduate level at Syracuse University. He is married with three children.

Gebe Martinez:, Founder of GM Networking, a strategic communications firm that intersects politics, policy and media. As political and policy analyst, strategic communications advisor and former political journalist. Gebe Martinez brings to the communications profession an extensive background on Capitol Hill and at policy and political planning tables in Washington, D.C., and work with local and national news media. Texas native, Ms. Martinez’s background includes 33 years as a journalist for news organizations such as Los Angeles Times, Politico and Congressional Quarterly. She also served as a news analyst on public affairs programs for networks including PBS, NPR, BBC television and radio.

On the Ground: the life of an political embed

February 18, 2020 | 7:15-8:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

Young journalists aspiring a career in covering politics spend a year or more on the ground with a candidate, living out of a suitcase and hoping to make it to election day.

Guest Lecturer: Fin Gómez is a White House Producer for CBS News. He has covered three presidential campaign cycles from the campaign trail. In 2016, he was named one of the most influential in news by Mediaite for his work covering the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Formerly based in Miami for Fox, Fin traveled extensively across Latin America covering various stories including the Narco wars in Mexico, the Venezuelan crisis, and violent crime in Brazilian favelas. He is a proud member of the National Association of Hispanic journalists, and the first Latino journalist to serve on the WHCA Board in its 105-year history.

Where are we now? Life after Super Tuesday

March 19, 2020 | 7:15-8:30PM | Online

Recap from Super Tuesday and the current election cycle as it stands at the time.

Guest Lecturer: Ed O'Keefe is a CBS News political correspondent based in Washington, D.C., covering the 2020 presidential campaign for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. In the early months of the campaign, he has interviewed several Democratic contenders, including Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Republican William Weld. Since joining CBS News in April 2018, O'Keefe has contributed to coverage of the 2018 midterm elections, the contentious confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the funerals of former president George H.W. Bush and former Arizona Senator John McCain, the record-long federal government shutdown and the blackface scandal and sexual misconduct allegations that rocked Virginia state government in early 2019.

Subjects that Matter: How to reach communities and engage people in 2020?

Postponed due to the changing context and information about COVID-19.

Covering politics for minority and international audiences, how policies affect audience’s engagement and participation in an election cycle.

Guest Lecturer: Phillip Crowther – AP International Multi-lingual TV and radio journalist. Interviewer, on-air correspondent, writer, editor, and
producer. Anchor and field reporter with experience in hostile environments from Benghazi, Libya to Ferguson, Missouri. Clients include Euronews, Voice of America, France 24, i24 News, CGTN America, Cheddar, RTL Belgium, RTS Switzerland, RTL Germany, CNEWS etc.

Contributor to BBC (World News America), CNN (The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer), MSNBC (All In with Chris Hayes, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell), and SIRIUS XM (POTUS).

Career Conversations with Communication Experts: It’s not a Ladder it’s a Jungle Gym

Postponed due to the changing context and information about COVID-19.

Are you interested in a career in communication?, or ready for the next step in your career?. Join us in conversation to help answer your questions and share insights. During this seminar we will bring together some of the experts in various career paths in the communication field to share their experiences and advice. Hear directly from individuals who have navigated their own career choices. Janet Rodriguez an American University Alum will lead the conversation with guests and students and faculty in this unique event. Come and learn from the best, become empowered with best practices and meet interesting people as they share their stories and answer your questions.

Guest Lecturers: TBA


Janet Rodriguez is a seven time regional and national Emmy Award winning journalist currently serving as White House Correspondent for Univision Network; covering newsworthy events involving the President of the United States and the White House for Noticiero Univision and its digital platforms.

Prior to joining the Univision team, Rodriguez spent 10 years as a local and national reporter for Telemundo - serving assignments in Washington DC, Phoenix, Arizona and most recently, in Chicago, Illinois as the network’s Midwest correspondent. Rodriguez has traveled extensively on-assignment following the biggest national stories, including the riots in Ferguson, the migrant crisis at the Texas border, and Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. Additionally, Rodriguez was embedded in the Ted Cruz presidential campaign providing national coverage on matters impacting the Latino community.

While in Phoenix, Rodriguez spent five years as the lead political reporter for KTAZ-Telemundo Arizona. Additionally, she anchored the station’s weekly political show Enfoque Arizona where she focused on Southwest border issues and immigration policy.

A graduate of American University’s School of Communication, Rodriguez began her broadcast career as a local reporter in Washington, D.C. where she currently resides.

John Tass-Parker headshot

John Tass-ParkerHead of Politics and Government at Instagram

Seminar Series

All politics is digital
We all know the old maxim, all politics is local. So, what does it mean for politics when you carry the entire world around in your pocket?

This seminar series will explore what it takes to change the world, one post at a time, as the world keeps changing around you.

Whether it’s off the shelf social media tools, innovative brand techniques, or smartphone empowered organizing, technological and cultural disruptions are reshaping the way the people interact with each other, impacting politics in every corner of the world.

This means our public figures, from old school candidates to internet celebrities, must now operate within a democratic process that’s under constant pressure from the rapid and ongoing evolution of software, hardware, and cultural norms.

A ‘new politics’ is blurring the lines between politics and policy, between candidate and voter, between news and newsmaker--and forcing us to ask hard questions about our foundational systems of governance.

In a world where every community is just a tap away, all politics is digital.

Seminar Schedule

The New Politics: Campaigning and Developing Policy in a Digitized World

January 29, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

The core of this seminar is the question, “how does a practitioner succeed in the age of constant digital evolution”. From the design of campaign infrastructure, the development of issue or policy campaigns, and the tactics employed to take advantage of opposition weakness, this seminar series will map the multifarious structures, moments and places that come together to create the modern digital political ecosystem. With that foundation, we’ll investigate how strategy can be simplified into ‘content’ and ‘distribution’ to shape public opinion online.

Guest Lecturer: Crystal Patterson, Government & Politics Outreach Manager with Facebook

Enemy of democracy: Foreign or Domestic

February 12, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

Conversation about elections increasingly depict sinister forces interrupting the democratic processes. Throughout history, the most frequently identified culprits have ranged from foreign actors and high net-worth donors to the ideological bias of media organizations. But what exactly are those forces in 2020? Who is responsible? How can we mitigate their impact or remove them from our democratic system?

Developing even partial answers to these questions demands that we grapple with the historical and contemporary interaction of media, the state and technology, to identify potentially similar phenomena - from the rise of yellow journalism in the late 1800s to the various styles of propaganda, employed by governments past and present.

Along with exploring a range of historical case examples that illustrate the complex relationship between democratic process and mass communication, this seminar will investigate in greater detail the developing set of tools and tactics available to foreign, domestic, state and non-state actors to affect elections. With a more developed understanding of these pressing issues, the seminar will analyze current policy responses and evaluate opportunities for greater intervention by industry, regulators and government.

Going Global: Campaigns Abroad

March 4, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Kerwin Hall 301

Imagine a world where campaign season only lasts six weeks. What happens if candidates have a cap on advertising? Maybe a campaign is not able to buy ads at all?

Every year, billions of dollars are spent on elections and issue-driven campaigns in the United States. This has spawned a vast industry of political professionals with technical and vocational expertise that are regularly called upon to help likeminded political parties, candidates and movements in countries around the world. But while there is an increasing set of global political trends, the rules, cultures and domestic forces of countries abroad create vastly different digital environments in which their politics plays out.

In this seminar we will compare the digital politics of democracies outside the United States, and attempt to identify the political, policy and structural forces that shape their democratic deliberative processes in ways that, with a commitment to the ‘integrity’ of the political process, many may either want to endorse, or work against.

Do you even go here? Influencers, corporates and NGOs in digital spaces

April 1, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Online

The digital evolution triggered a shift in volume and specificity of societal, community and cultural influencers. While influencers were always part of the political and policy process, and like today many were not ideologically non-partisan in their pre-digital forms, the modern digital political landscape enabled new forms of ‘influence’ by people and organizations who stand outside of the traditional process of candidate, voter and fourth estate.

It must be made clear that influencers are not a monolithic group. But yet these people, movements, organizations and brands do share similarities. In digital spaces, they they grow, maintain and choose when and why to mobilize their influence to shape public conversation using the very tools that everyday people use to get information, pursue interests and stay in touch. Given that this series will wholeheartedly accept Marshall McCluhan’s famous dictum that ‘the medium is the message’, a key element of how influencers (as well as traditional political actors) interact with the political discourse is the structure and design of online spaces themselves.

Words and image: Branding for 2020

April 15, 2020 | 5-6:30PM | Online

Visit any bar in striking distance of Madison avenue during an election year and you’re likely to find any number of ad-men and ad-women asking the very valid question, “why are political and issue ads so bad?” And while the power of targeting in digital platforms has honed the ability for the political marketer to get the right message to the right person in the right format, there’s still an evident lack of creativity in political branding that is preventing us from being inspired by our candidates. This seminar will bridge the world of political branding with the world of corporate advertising to assess why some candidates connect online while others stall. Does the robotic perfection of politicians of the past still have a place in an evolving digital landscape that demands and rewards authenticity? Or is the political ecosystem just waiting for more digital natives to age into political life and reshape the entire way we think about brand in politics.

Guest Lecturers: Amanda Litman, Executive Director, Run for Something; Katie Harbath, Director Public Policy, Facebook

Communicating in the COVID World

April 23, 2020 | 5-6:00PM | Online

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens of nations around the world are grasping for facts and comfort from their political leaders. Trapped in their homes and without the distraction of sports, social interaction, live entertainment, the world has gone fully online.

This seminar will explore how political and government leaders have communicated in this environment; the tools employed, the tone they carried and the way viewers continue to react in the never ending social media ecosystem.

Without live audiences, speeches feel and look different, and without in-person contact, interviews often come across as impersonal. However, the intimacy of video calls from personal spaces has brought us closer to many of our leaders.

Underlying this rapidly evolving intersection of mediums is a desire for information and clarity like few times in history. By dissecting the cases and current available tools, the seminar will close by anticipating how to best reach increasingly nervous audiences now, and in the post-covid world.

As head of Politics and Government at Instagram, John Tass-Parker works at the nexus of social networks, politics and media. With an idiosyncratic background in photography and film production, John has led Instagram to drive civic engagement and engage elected officials, governments and public figures around the globe. In advance of the US 2020 Election, he led the creation of Instagram’s election strategy team which works with product groups to protect the integrity of elections globally. He's been recognized by Forbes as one of their 30 under 30, and received an RTDNA Edward R Murrow Award for Instagram’s partnership with CNN during the 2016 US Presidential Election.
Before joining Facebook and Instagram in 2014, he served as the Digital Communications Adviser to Australian Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Prior to politics he worked in the film and television industry, and was a commercial photographer. He's a proud member of the Fred Hollows Foundation's US Advisory Council, an organization that focuses on treating and preventing blindness. John is a graduate of the University of Melbourne where he received two Bachelor degrees in Arts and Commerce.

Sine Institute Distinguished Lecturers:

Joe Hockey headshot

Ambassador Joe Hockey

Seminar Schedule

Discussing the Global Coronavirus Pandemic with Joe Hockey, Former Australian Ambassador to the US

April 20, 2020 | 4-5:00PM | Online

The world is simultaneously dealing with the worst health and economic crises of the past century. Countries are issuing curfews, closing their borders and injecting capital to help health systems under siege. Will country-specific stimuli help those the most in need? Is there a “correct” approach? And, what does our future hold? What will the global ecosystem look like when we come up for breath?

Be a part of this discussion that covers the globe and its varied responses as we try to understand these complexities from inside our homes.

The Honorable Joe Hockey is Australia’s Ambassador to the United States of America.

Mr. Hockey has had a long and distinguished career in public service. He first entered Parliament in 1996 as the Member for North Sydney and spent more than seventeen years on the front bench.

Mr. Hockey served as a Minister in several different portfolios, including Financial Services, Small Business and Tourism, Human Services and Employment, and Workplace Relations.

In 2013 Mr. Hockey was appointed Treasurer of the Commonwealth and was responsible for all economic policy including fiscal policy. He served as Chair of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in 2014 and a member of the leadership troika in 2015.

Previously Mr. Hockey served as a banking and finance lawyer with a major Australian law firm. He graduated from the University of Sydney with Bachelor's degrees in Arts and Law.

Dina Powell headshot

Dina Powell
Management Committee of Goldman Sachs and Former US Deputy National Security Advisor

Dina serves on the Management Committee of Goldman Sachs and is responsible for helping to build and enhance the firm's relationships with sovereign clients around the world.

She rejoined Goldman Sachs in 2018 as a partner in the Investment Banking Division after serving as the US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy from 2017 to 2018.

Dina initially joined the firm in 2007 and from 2007 to 2017 led the Impact Investing Business and the Environmental Markets Group, which deployed more than $5 billion in market-based loans and equity to drive sustainable economic development and revitalize under-served communities.

During this same period, she was also president of The Goldman Sachs Foundation, overseeing two major initiatives to drive economic growth and opportunity — 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses — that successfully provided business education and capital to women and small businesses, respectively.