Daniel DeBrakeleer, SPA /MA '19, says he likes how the AU School of Public Affairs (SPA) encourages students to get real-world work experience.
After interning at HealthHIV, a national nonprofit advocacy organization, the 23-year-old was hired as a full-time communications manager. Today, he's an intern on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee minority communications team.
“As long as I’m deeply involved with a cause I’m passionate about and using my skills to advance it -- whether that’s advocacy for a nonprofit or a political campaign -- I’ll be happy,” says DeBrakeleer.
He has also worked as an intern at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation, and as a graduate assistant at the SPA Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.
DeBrakeleer, who graduates in May 2019, is taking a full load of classes, where he’s learned to create a marketing plan and target materials to specific audiences - tools he’s used on the job. It’s also been helpful to better understand strategic communications and how to craft effective messages.
“I’ve really enjoyed the program so far. It’s been more in-depth than I expected and a lot the learning occurs in the classroom through discussion,” says DeBrakeleer, a native of Lansdale, Pennsylvania. It’s been valuable to have political communications classes in both SPA and the School of Communication with guest speakers working in Washington -- the hub of so much activity in the field, he adds.
Juggling school and work, DeBrakeleer says his professors are understanding and consider work to be part of the learning process. Part of the reason he choose AU was because so many faculty members come from successful careers in the field.
“It makes it easy to collaborate with them because they have so much real world experience to share,” says DeBrakeleer, who was a communications studies major with minors in political science and Spanish as an undergraduate. “Everyone in my program has been nothing but supportive, willing to give each other a hand up. You hear how graduate school is competitive, but it is a collaborative community.”