Category Archives: Alum News

13 Politics Alums Pressing the Levers of Power

The 2016 Life After Politics event was held on Friday the 28th—thirteen department alums revealed their secrets to successful careers and the rocky roads they took to get there. The annual event includes a panel of five alums drawn from the myriad paths a degree in politics can take you—law (Stuart Pape – Head of FDA Practice, Polsinelli PC), the House (Kyle Matous – Chief of Staff, U.S. Representative Pete Sessions), the Senate (Ethan Thrasher – Legislative Correspondent, Senator Mark Warner), strategic communications (Vicki Ballagh – Director, The Incite Agency), NGOs and non-profits (Langdon Greenhalgh – Director & Co-Founder, Global Emergency Group).

The panel session was followed by Flash Mentoring, a rapid-fire Q&A about jobs, protocol, procedure, and networking  between alums and students. In addition to the panelists, other active alum mentors included Haley Anderson – Speech-Language Pathologist, Margaret Brennan – CBS News Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Mary Kate Cary – Speechwriter, Columnist, and Documentarian, Jennifer Clarke – Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Cameron Kilberg – Partner, Rubin & Rudman, David Mrazik – Managing Partner at Hamburger Law Firm & Managing Director at MarketCounsel, Gabriel Noronha – Staff Assistant, US Senate, Peter Page – Founder and President, SageWater, Inc.

The job titles and names of employers only partially indicate what happens post-graduation. Rich careers are forged over time and the mentor participants tell stories, both touching and hilarious, illustrating the different paths.

Langdon GreenhalghDuring his third year Langdon Greenhalgh had an internship at the Horizon Institute in Charlottesville, after graduation it turned into a job. A year later the Executive Director decided to move on and at (only!) 22 years old, Greenhalgh took his place. Shortly he moved to Washington to work at the international policy arm of the Red Cross. He enjoyed policy, but wanted to be on the front lines in providing humanitarian assistance. The organization was starting an International Response Team which he joined. He found himself flying in helicopters over mudslides in Venezuala, earthquakes in El Salvador and India, and conducting tsunami response in Indonesia. After several years he felt he had hit the ceiling at the Red Cross. He became a serial entrepreneur in the humanitarian aid world. He started his current business in 2008, the Global Emergency Group, and he is in the process of starting a related non-profit organization.

Department chair, David Leblang, has been known to sigh when mentioning law school as an option after graduation. But for many grads, the path naturally leads to this, and has so for years. Stuart Pape chose it (Govt 73, UVA Law 74) and went to work for the Chief Counsel's Office in the FDA for five years. He says government work is a very rewarding path—work/life balance, opportunity for rapid advancement, and salary equity for women and men.

Stuart PapeAlso, you don't have to be a lawyer to have a great career working for an Executive Branch agency. Great jobs in policy, as policy analysts, and in legislative affairs, with greater responsibility and intellectual stimulation much earlier in your career. He became the Senior Food Lawyer within three years of getting his law degree. Pape's professional career has been at the interception of FDA law and policy, and he attributes the policy work to his undergraduate degree from the department.

Kyle Matous and Ethan Thrasher are in what might be the closest thing to politics. Matous works in Representative Pete Sessions office (R-TX) and Thrasher works in Senator Warner's office (D-VA).

Kyle MatousLike Pape, Matous also took the law school approach. He is now Chief of Staff for Representative Pete Sessions. As a Republican this year, he has more than his fair share of questions about the election. He gingerly answered some and gingerly avoided others. His caution in answering is, no doubt, a result of working with a high visibility politician in the public eye.

When he arrived at UVA he knew he wanted to go into politics. But due to circumstances beyond his control (9/11) he only had three years to complete his studies at UVA. In his third year he had an internship with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. "They put us in the back room of some office building and just dumped mail on the table and we sorted it. We just put it in piles for eight weeks."

He worked at a Charlottesville start-up for a couple of years then entered law school at Pepperdine. He spent time as an attorney in human rights law in Uganda, working multi-billion dollar arbitration cases at WilmerHale and at the Institute for Justice in Arlington, but none of these areas were what he wanted to devote himself to.

So he returned to the place he said he'd never go again, the Hill. He started as a Staff Assistant for the House Rules Committee. He knew his boss would be leaving shortly, but he had to do something, so he took the risk of staying. Pete Sessions became the head of the Rules Committee in 2013 and in an unusual move kept Matous around. He quickly became a Policy Assistant, then a Special Assistant for a few months, somehow skipped ahead a few steps and became the Policy Director of the Rules Committee. After two years on the committee Representative Sessions brought him on as Chief of Staff. Age 31.

Ethan ThrasherUnlike Matous, Ethan Thrasher loved his internship. During his second year at UVA he got an internship at the Center for Politics where he fell in love with politics. Among other rewards, the internship provided him with the opportunity to work on the Kennedy Half Century book, and to adopt the Center's bi-partisan spin which let's him look at both sides.

His colleagues at the Center encouraged him to go for an internship on the Hill. He joined Senator Warner's office during his third year and happily found they allowed him to prepare briefings and memos—and to make him feel like he's part of the team. After graduation his thoughts were, "Consulting, all other types of jobs? Forget that, I'm going back to the Hill." For his first job out of school he returned to Warner's office and worked in scheduling and working the phones (a highlight he says, "You hear a lot of political conversations, you normally wouldn't hear...the stories!"). He was fortunate to have a job open up on the legislative side and now works on banking, housing, and transportation policy for the Senator.

He's back to writing memos and briefings, preparing the Senator for meetings, daily events, and travel. 

Vicki BallaghVicki Ballagh got her dream internship between her 3rd and 4th years at Meet The Press. "Fantastic, interesting people." But she realized, "I want to be the person with the answers, the people on the other side."

After graduating she started at Bully Pulpit Interactive doing media ad buying. She says, "I was a human Excel spreadsheet, targeting voters for political campaigns and corporate campaigns." While incredibly interesting and impactful, she knew she still wanted to be the person answering the questions.

Right time, right place. Two former Obama staffers were just coming off duties for the administration—Robert Gibbs (Director of Communications and later Press Secretary) and Ben LaBolt (National Press Secretary for President Obama’s re-election campaign) opened the Incite Agency which answers the strategic demands of campaigns needing a digital edge. Ballagh's experience in media, production, and politics led her to the agency; a colleague passed her resume to the agency who hired her.

Please join us next year for Life After Politics (sign up here to receive announcements and other Department of Politics news). We will have a new set of panelists and mentors covering the realm of politics and sharing what next.

 

Ezekiel Tan wins Singapore-China Premier Scholarship

Ezekiel Tan (UVA 2008 – Foreign Affairs and International Economics) has been awarded the 2016 Singapore-China Premier Scholarship (SCPS) to pursue a Master degree in International Relations at Peking University this Fall.

The SCPS is awarded by the Singapore-China Foundation. The SCPS is intended for Singapore government officials who would benefit from the exposure to the socio-political and economic developments of China, and obtain deeper insights into the current and future challenges of the country.

Ezekiel previously worked for the international relations divisions of the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Finance in Singapore.

Stuart Pape Visits Food Politics

Stuart Pape January 11, 2015 Food Politics J-TermStuart Pape (Government ’70, Law ’73) visited Paul Freedman’s Food Politics J-Term class. His presentation, The Politics of Food: Some Perspectives on the History and Character of U.S. Food Safety Regulation , covered all the hot food topics of the day: GMO salmon, Chipotle’s struggle with norovirus and E. coli, raw milk, and the existential question, “What is mayonnaise?”

Dr. Pape solicited input from the class with a series of questions to test students’ moral mettle and risk-tolerance: Who would eat genetically modified salmon? Who would return to Chipotle for a burrito in the wake of the E. coli breakout? What kind of mother would give her baby 7-Up instead of milk?

Dr. Pape is an attorney with Polsinelli in Washington, D.C , a law firm where he heads the food industry consultation. Previously, he worked as associate chief counsel for food in the Office of the Chief of Counsel at the FDA . He also served as executive assistant to FDA Commissioner Donald Kennedy.

Dr. Pape’s visit follows a class visit to Polyface farm, Joel Salatin’s circle of life/systems-approach to farming livestock and saving the world from itself.

Dale Lawton: Hard Questions in Hard Places

Dale LawtonWe all like to think our work is important—Dale Lawton’s work informs the President of the United States. Some days his intelligence analysis ends up in the book, the daily briefing book of the POTUS. He currently works at the State Department’s Office of Opinion Research (OPN) in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. The work of the analysts in this office is to provide context to the ocean of information collected by the intelligence community. Reports from OPN end up in several presidential briefings a month. Lawton’s work also is used by U.S. State Department policymakers.

Dr. Lawton (UVA PhD, Politics, ’04) visited the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and spoke to faculty and graduate students about his work in the Middle East, particularly gathering opinions and perceptions about ISIL. Earlier in the day he presented State Department 101 (sponsored by the Career Center) to undergraduates interested in internships and careers in the State Department.

As an analyst in OPN, Lawton works with about thirty colleagues conducting policy-relevant social science research across the world. His office conducts research in about 100 countries per year . He emphasizes that 90% of OPN’s reports are not classified, though all are for internal government use only. The office has a process to release the reports to the public through the National Archives, but as with many bureaucratic structures, there are problems fulfilling its mandate and the delivery of the reports is backlogged.

The UVa audience of faculty and graduate students was very interested in the data gathered by Lawton’s office. Dr. Lawton stressed OPN’s desire to balance requests to make the data accessible to the public with the need to be sensitive to situations around the world that might be complicated by the disclosure of the data. The UVa audience shared insights into the anonymization of data and how the researchers at the University’s new Data Science Institute are experts in cleansing data and their expertise would make UVa the ideal partner for this work.

Survey results he shared included questions about local leaders in the Middle East; responsibility for the rise of ISIL; and Arab views of the United States. He was previously posted in Ghana, Mongolia, Cuba, South Africa, and Iraq.

Life After Politics: A Near Life Experience

Life After Politics 2015Fifty students had their eyes opened when eight alums showed up to share what actually happens after you get a degree in politics. Professor Paul Freedman’s Life After Politics panel and speed mentoring activities showcased five post-degree alumni now in the worlds of journalism, law enforcement, non-profit advocacy, and the U.S. Senate staff.

Five panel members spoke about their efforts at life/work balance, though only Albert Kim, First Sergeant Arlington Police Department seems successful at this, including marathons and triathlons into his days. The two journalists Margaret Brennan and Katherine Faulders have chosen careers where politics are a major part of their coverage. They both emphasized how necessary it is to be available all the time, carrying several cellphones and other devices. Like the journalists who have to be hyper-responsive, Gabriel Noronha, Staff Assistant U.S. Senate also has a 24/7 workday. He recommends working on a presidential campaign, if you can find a place as an intern and don’t mind sleeping on the floor. Anna Scholl, Executive Director, ProgressVA & ProgressVA Education Fund, had a less stressful early career, but recommends just saying “Yes” to the menial work and smile as you do it—it will set you apart from those who don’t.

Speed mentoring works much like speed dating, except each alum migrates from a circle of students to a circle of students. At this level of interaction the students get close exposure to ask specific questions and get an immediate response at a personal level. Alumni gain by adding potential employees, associates, and peers to their networks, as well as giving back to the University on a fundamental level. In addition to the panel members, Haley Anderson, Speech and Language Pathology, Jennifer Clarke, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Cameron Kilberg, Attorney and Entrepreneur participated in speed mentoring.

Life After Politics was sponsored and hosted by the Career Center in conjunction with the Department of Politics. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for an announcement of next year’s event and other thought-provoking seminars.