Category Archives: Alum News

Life After Politics 2019: Global Edition

What can you do with a degree in Politics? What is life like after graduation?

Life After Politics is our annual event featuring alumni mentors, panel participants, and networking opportunities. Presented by the Department of Politics and The Career Center, this year’s Life After Politics: Global Edition invited four politics alumni to share their experiences working in various fields, as well as offer insider advice on how to navigate the “life after politics,” demonstrating the great diversity of career choices a politics major can lead to.

In this year’s Life After Politics: Global Edition, the panelists also shared their personal stories and anecdotes from working in various locations and organizations around the world. Many of them mentioned the global perspectives they gained while studying at UVA (and abroad), which proved to be influential throughout their careers.

Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director, House Of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs

Jason Steinbaum serves as Democratic Staff Director of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Previously, he was Staff Director for the majority and minority of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere from 2006-2012. He has also served as Washington Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In the early 1990’s, Mr. Steinbaum worked for Senator Donald Riegle (D-MI), having served as his Legislative Assistant for foreign affairs and defense.

During his career in Congress, Mr. Steinbaum wrote the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 and the law providing normal trade relations with Albania, has been a leader on policy toward the Balkans, and has monitored elections in numerous countries.

Megan O’Donnell, Assistant Director, Gender Program and Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Global Development

Megan O’Donnell is the Assistant Director of the Center for Global Development’s gender program and a Senior Policy Analyst. She works on issues related to women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion, gender data and measurement, and development effectiveness. Prior to CGD, O’Donnell worked at the ONE Campaign, an international advocacy organization focused on sub Saharan Africa, where she led the development of ONE’s gender and inclusive growth-focused policy recommendations to donors and country governments. Before joining ONE, she coordinated CGD’s gender research program and has also worked with the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Center for Research on Women, CARE USA, Banyan Global, and the Middle East Institute. She has a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford and a bachelor’s degree in Politics and French from the University of Virginia.

Jerry Rubin, Senior Counsel at Williams Kastner & Gibbs

Jerry Rubin is currently senior counsel at the Seattle law firm of Williams Kastner & Gibbs. Jerry’s law practice concentrates in the area of labor and employment law. Jerry began his legal career as a Federal Government Trial Attorney. Over the past 40 years, he has represented private and public corporations and governmental entities throughout the United States and Asia. Jerry holds a B.A. in Political Science from UVA (1966). His daughter Julia graduated from UVA in 2010.

Christian Yarnell, Brookings Legislative Fellow, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs

Christian Yarnell is currently a Brookings Legislative Fellow at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, focusing on Europe and Russia. When not on loan to the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chris is a career State Department official, most recently serving as the deputy director of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs’ Office of Policy and Regional Affairs, which covers political-military, arms control, and nonproliferation issues in Europe. He has served overseas at our U.S. Embassies in Lithuania, Ukraine, and Bulgaria working on a broad range of political and economic matters. Chris has an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in foreign affairs from UVA (2002). He is, however, married to a Hokie.

Professor Womack in Vietnam

Navigating under Hegemonic Rivalry in AsiaProfessor Brantly Womack is on a multi-country visit in Asia. His first stop was in Taiwan where he participated in a workshop at the Institute of Political Science of Taiwan's Academia Sinica with Department of Politics adjuncts Harry Harding, and Shirley Lin.

In Hanoi he  met with U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink (M.A. University of Virginia) and gave a talk on Asymmetry and International Relationships at Vietnam Social Science University, and talks on China and the Re-centering of Asia at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, the China Institute of the Vietnam Academy of Social Science, and the Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics.

Brantly Womack

Harry Harding

Harry Harding

Syaru Shirley Lin

Abigail Post Joins Anderson University

Abigal PostAbigail Post joins Anderson University in Indiana as an Assistant Professor of International Relations/National Security in the Department of History & Political Science. Her dissertation was title The Language of Signaling: National Rhetoric in International Bargaining, and her research included laboratory and survey methods. Her committee included John M. Owen (co-chair), Todd Sechser (co-chair), and Nicholas Winter.

 

Kenny Lowande: from UVA to UMich

Kenneth LowandeStarting Fall 2018, Kenny Lowande will be an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy (by Courtesy) at the University of Michigan.

Kenny earned his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016, and has been a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. He studies American political institutions, policymaking, and the executive branch. The University of Michigan political science program is ranked 4th by the U.S. News and World Report.

Kenny spent four years in the program—advised by Jeff Jenkins (Chair), Craig Volden, Rachel Potter, and David Lewis (Vanderbilt). He first met Lewis during the American Politics Speaker Series at UVA. UVA’s Quantitative Collaborative funded portions of his dissertation and supported other research coauthored with Andrew Clarke. His first published paper grew out of a graduate seminar with Sidney Milkis.

A galvanizing moment of awareness occurred during his stint as Editorial Assistant at the Journal of Politics (2015–2016), while at UVA. “Famous” professors’ papers were routinely being rejected. Authors whose previous work was nonpareil, whose reputations were golden, were regularly being denied, and still they submitted. To Kenny this indicated persistence was key, as was listening to the advice of reviewers and maintaining a leathery hide.

He developed tough skin during the series of steps that led to Michigan. The doctoral program at UVA and multiple postdocs exposed him to different academic cultures, varying research pressures, and a broader range of scholars than one might see going straight from Ph.D. to faculty.

Kenny is a first-generation college student from Burbank, CA. When asked for advice for those who follow, he said…

“Being on the market is a full time job. Expect to spend most of Summer and Fall, preparing for, applying to, and getting a job. The periods between feedback are difficult.”

“There are a lot of talented, accomplished people on the market. It often takes time to find the right ‘fit.’”

“Be a good citizen. Read others’ work, share your data, go to talks, and review manuscripts (quickly).”

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.” Not exactly what she was looking for. 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.

 

  • 2016 Life After Politics Panel
  • Flash Mentoring
  • Margaret Brennan
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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.