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SPA Alumni Contribute to Seminar Series for First-Year Students

A Q&A with SPA Alumni who gave back to students this fall

The AU Alumni Association, in partnership with the provost’s office, invited 30 select alumni, including five SPA graduates, to be guest lecturers for first-year students in Fall 2020. These volunteers contributed to the Complex Problems Seminars, which help freshmen address real-world problems and consider questions with intellectual flexibility and perspective.

“It’s been such a wonderful opportunity to have so many alumni experts volunteer their time to speak with first-year students in the Complex Problems program,” said Richard Duncan, program manager for the University College. “Especially during these challenging times, the alumni are offering students a real chance to connect to AU.”

Series contributors offered field-specific career advice, served as guest lecturers, or sat on panels. SPA participants included:

  • Peter Brusoe (SPA/PhD ’12) (Department of Government)
  • Rob Johnson (SPA/BS ’81)
  • Amy Jones (SPA/BA ’99) (WCL/JC ’03), Political Science and Justice
  • Brad Korten (SPA/BA ’13), Political Science and International Studies
  • Michael Worley (SPA/BA ’12), Political Science

Amy Jones, Peter Brusoe, and Michael Worley shared their experiences with us below.

Amy JonesAmy Jones (SPA/BA ’99) (WCL/JC ’03), Political Science and Justice
Director for Education and Human Services Policy, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce

Q: So Amy, what are you focusing on these days?
It’s been a whirlwind the last several months, balancing working from home while raising a six-year-old who just started kindergarten. When the pandemic hit, the committee went into high gear to figure out what everyone needed to continue educating students, at all levels of education, across the country. We passed several pieces of legislation to help provide additional financial support to schools and colleges, including providing meals to students and ensuring students had access to materials and technology to participate in distance learning.

Q: To which Complex Problems course did you contribute?
I was a guest on an education panel in the University College/Complex Problems series . . . [and] on a panel about working for Congress, titled ‘Congressional Ins and Outs.’

Q: What was the topic or subject matter?
The first panel was about the state of education in the country and how we go about thinking and making policy that impacts all levels of education.
On the second panel, I discussed what it was like working in Congress and, in particular, working for a committee in the House of Representatives.

Q: How would you describe your experience?
Both experiences were great – as they always are when I speak to AU students. The students always ask great questions and I love hearing what is on their mind and what is of interest to them.

Q: What did you like most about your experience?
AU’s students continually blow me away with their passion and accomplishments, so I love hearing what they are up to!

Q: What prompted you to participate?
AU helped shape the professional I am today, so I love staying connected and giving back to the students. When I was looking for my first job, I cold-called and emailed AU alumni who were working on the Hill, regardless of their party affiliation. Each person took the time to chat with me and then connected me with some of their contacts. The power of the alumni at AU is one of the many things that makes the university so great. I like to think participating in these sorts of panels or speaking to classes is my way of giving back. Additionally, I love what I do, both in terms of working on the Hill and working in education policy so if I can share that interest and get some younger people excited about either of those things, then that is always time well spent for me.

Q: Is there anything more you would like to share with your fellow alumni?
Being in college in the middle of a pandemic is not easy. Students are struggling to find internships or other on-the-job learning experiences, so I’d recommend alumni reach out to AU to see how they can help – whether it be having a conversation with a student interested in their field, serving on a panel, participating in the Virtual Conversations with Alumni, or the multitude of other ways that are available to engage with the university.

Peter BrosoePeter Brusoe (SPA/PhD ’12) (Department of Government)
Campaign Finance and Lobbying Global Data Analyst at Bloomberg LP

Q: So, Peter, what are you focusing on these days?
I am working for Bloomberg as a campaign finance and lobbying data analyst. Loving the great opportunity to take data and information and make it actionable for our clients. This past year I have caught up on all of those great books I wanted to read but never had time, from The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V, to Quiet and many, many back issues of the APSR.

Q: For what course were you a guest speaker?
 Complex Problems: Campaign Finance Coffee talk.

Q: What was the topic or subject matter?
Campaign Finance and the 2020 election, and what a second-term Trump administration or a first-term Biden administration would look like.

Q: How would you describe your experience?  
It was great! Prof. Duncan and Sam Murray (one of our current SPA grad students) gave me a great idea of the topics and issues students were engaged in. The students I talked to asked insightful and nuanced questions on everything from small donor finance to the role of SuperPACs and the fate of campaign finance reform.

Q: What did you like most about your experience?
The questions from the students! Some schools have bonfires, or pep rallies as their university traditions; critical thinking skills are [the equivalent at] AU.

Q: What prompted you to participate?  
When I was a student at American University, we would frequently have Alumni come in and share their experiences with us and they would tell us "AU gave me so much; we want to give back." Now, more than ever, it is time for us as Eagles to come and support the Eagles of Today!

Michael WorleyMichael Worley (SPA/BA ’12), Political Science
Political Consultant and President of MDW Communications

Q: Thanks, Michael, for joining us while you are on travel in South Florida. What are you focusing on these days?
The 2020 campaign cycle was our biggest and most successful, with over 40 political campaigns. I am President of MDW Communications, and we are a full-service marketing agency specializing in digital and direct mail for political campaigns, non-profits, and corporate public affairs advocacy. Ironically, I started the business while I was a junior at AU in 2011.

I am also focusing on being a father, as my wife and I had our first child in February 2020, just before COVID came to the U.S. This year has been a whirlwind!

Q: What was the topic or subject matter you discussed as guest lecturer?
I spoke to approximately 10-12 students via virtual Zoom chat about working in political campaigns and my experience in political communications.

Q: How would you describe your experience?  
It was extremely fulfilling and enjoyable. I love being able to connect with current AU students . . . who are passionate about working in politics. We talked about their aspirations, my experiences, and the pitfalls along the way that they don’t teach you in the classroom.

Q: What did you like most about your experience?
I liked the questions the students had; good, pointed questions that were very refreshing to discuss.

Q: What prompted you to participate?  
I am a member of the AU Alumni Board; an invitation was made to participate and I accepted.

Q: Is there anything beyond these questions you would like to share with your fellow alumni?
Hire AU students. Give them jobs. Give them opportunities. There are so many students who are scared about the future because things have changed so dramatically and so quickly.

Graduating from the AU School of Public Affair is more about the family and network you join. Now is the time to help these students and there are so many ways to do so.