Bringing the CEO Into the Classroom

GSPM professor’s interview series becomes a learning tool for his students.

David Rehr, Tim Pawlenty
Former Minnesota governor and Financial Services Roundtable CEO Tim Pawlenty, right, fields questions from David Rehr, program director for GSPM's Advocacy in the Global Environment concentration.
February 25, 2015

By James Irwin

David Rehr was looking for a way to highlight a new program. Mark French was trying to re-launch a learning tool for current and future leaders of associations. So when they met for lunch over the summer, Dr. Rehr, program director for the Graduate School of Political Management’s Advocacy in the Global Environment concentration, and Mr. French, publisher of CEO Update, decided to work together.

CEO Update had previously conducted an interview series with association leaders. Mr. French wanted to bring it back with a host who understood the business world. Dr. Rehr, former CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, jumped at the opportunity.

“A lot of what we are teaching in GSPM—public relations, advocacy, lobbying, politics, campaigns—is all in the association sector,” Dr. Rehr said. “That makes for a good video series.”

The result has turned into Association Newsmakers, a series of educational interviews that launched in September and entered its second season in January. Part teaching tool for students, part shoptalk for industry pros, the videos—with Dr. Rehr as host—cover topics association leaders face, including advocacy, implementing strategic plans, governance and coalition building.

“We can all apply those lessons regardless of industry—that’s useful,” said American Beverage Association President and CEO Susan Neely, who appeared as a guest in late January. “People can take away two or three key insights they might not have had before without spending a huge amount of time to get that insight.”

Association Newsmakers is in its second season as a featured video series on CEO Update.

Dr. Rehr’s interviews are focused. Former Minnesota governor and Financial Services Roundtable CEO Tim Pawlenty fielded questions on qualities he looks for in employees. National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney covered tactics behind growing an industry. A future interview will include one of the top headhunters in Washington, D.C.

“That one will be all about how, as an individual, you can be noticed by headhunters to improve your career,” Dr. Rehr said. “All these people we’re interviewing are successful, and it’s a way to help viewers think about what they are doing and how you can take the idea and turn it into something you can use.”

The newsmaker interviews reinforce topics from courses in the Advocacy in the Global Environment program, said first-year GSPM student Michael Voyles.

“It’s almost like taking a fundamentals course online from an industry leader,” he said. “For instance, we’ve been stressing in class looking beyond your shareholders and looking at what we refer to as ‘shapeholders’ or people who influence the market that you might not be directly aware of.”

Ms. Neely, who has 20 years of experience in the association world, calls the 3-5 minute sessions “snack-sized learning.”

Dr. Rehr believes the short videos—in addition to being informative—are useful in the association world because they demonstrate emotion. The interviews, he said, put faces to job titles.

“People view CEOs as people at the top, big office, everyone kind of whispers—this makes them more real,” he said. “These are real people.”

Insight from industry leaders makes the conversations valuable, said GSPM student Valeria Rubello.

“The topics are particularly relevant for our area of study,” said Ms. Rubello, who worked at NATO in Brussels for four years. Her classes in the advocacy program have covered coalition building, ethical decision making and leadership, among other topics. She has found the interviews to be useful.

“I think it is inspiring to hear how professionals have put these concepts into practice in their everyday jobs,” she said.


GSPM Announces Additions to Faculty

July 25, 2014
David Rehr, Matt Dallek join school in full-time capacities; Dr. Rehr named director of new global advocacy program.

GW Political Management Goes Global

March 31, 2014
International advocacy program will include immersion residencies around the world.