Tell us what you’ve been doing since graduating with your political science degree in 1992.
One of my goals from early on in my time at OU was to work in Congress. So, after graduation I packed up and moved to Washington where I was fortunate to secure a position on the staff of another OU alum, the late Rep. Mike Synar from Muskogee, and later on the staff of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. While not always easy, or glamorous (as I’ve often heard those outside the political arena say the career must be), it was a great experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.
After serving as the Tennessee Democratic Party Communications Director during the 1996 campaigns, I embarked on a private sector career in communications and public relations.
It seems like you’ve worked in several different areas ranging from politics, public relations to consulting. In your opinion, which has been the most interesting and why?
They are very similar in a lot of ways. If you break it down, it’s all about educating your audience, whether you are talking about a jobs bill to local Chamber of Commerce members or you are working with members of the media on your client’s latest health program. While I’ve practiced different types of PR over the years, most of my career has been in the issues management and public policy spectrums, so that “political” element has always been a part of me.
Did your degree help propel you into the success you’ve achieved during your career?
Certainly my time on the Hill provided the most direct connection to my degree. But as all of our fellow majors know, a Political Science degree is comprised of other coursework. I had a History minor and took additional coursework in areas such as Sociology and Communications. Together, it helped hone the critical thinking skills I’ve found valuable. Outside of a career in, say, engineering or mathematics where two plus two always equals four, life isn’t quite as black and white. There are nuances, and they shift, and you have to be able to shift with it. The Liberal Arts base of OU’s Political Science degrees, I think, is a valuable tool.
Would you recommend students continue their education to receive a master’s in political science or public policy? Why or why not?
It really depends on what you’d like to do both professionally or personally. If you are looking to become a specialist in a particular area, then it could be quite useful, and it is becoming more commonplace. That said, nothing beats real-world experience. Many of my friends and colleagues have begun their careers and then gone back after a few years (or more) to obtain advanced degrees.
Are you a part of OU Washington D.C. alumni network? If so, could you tell me more about your involvement? If not, would you recommend that our students join after graduating?
Joining the alumni network is a great way to network – and that’s very necessary in today’s job market. There are a lot of successful OU alums here in DC in various industries that have built extensive networks over the years. You never know who they can connect you to. I was lucky when I first moved to D.C. all those years ago, that I had two good friends of mine come with me, but if you’re moving to D.C. – or any city – where you don’t know a lot of people, it also provides a social network for you. And the event coordinators always know where the OU/Texas game is going to be shown!
What advice do you have for current students who wish to pursue careers in politics, policy or the like?
Choose a path and dive in. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it’s worthwhile. Also remember that even if you don’t end up working on the Hill, or for a think tank, or a city planner’s office, there are plenty of ways to stay involved in the political process.