Director Lara Brown celebrates 30 years of the Graduate School of Political Management with plans to enhance the image of political and public affairs.
By B.L. Wilson
More than one-third of the 4,000 alumni of the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management live and work in Washington, D.C. So, it’s fitting that the reception kicking off its 30th year was held with a view of the U.S. Capitol dome as a backdrop.
As GSPM Alumni Association President Ed Elfmann pointed out, “We’re in the room. We’re part of the conversation,” with the program continuing to be a resource for alumni as they move into their professional careers.
Before celebrations got underway, Lara Brown, the new director and associate professor in the political management program, took a moment to acknowledge faculty, students and alumni in Texas and Florida who have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
For the several hundred faculty members, students and alumni gathered on the Capitol View Hotel rooftop, Dr. Brown provided a brief review of GSPM’s beginnings, which was chartered by New York lawyer Neil Fabricant in 1986 as a freestanding graduate school, not to train politicians, but to study what they do.
It was founding Dean Christopher Arterton who created the graduate school that was donated to GW in 1995. The program now also offers degrees in strategic public relations and a Spanish language online program that has trained elected officials across Latin America.
“We are widespread. We’re on three campuses,” Dr. Brown said. “We have graduates and students all over the world working in politics to make things different and change the current political climate.”
A highlight of the evening was the recognition of GSPM’s 2017 Alumni Achievement Award winners, who were honored for making their marks in political and public affairs.
Elizabeth “Liz” Reicherts, who graduated in 2000, was chosen for her leadership as the head of U.S. government affairs for Siemens, the electrical and technological company. Ms. Reicherts oversees the company’s strategy on U.S. policy and international affairs.
The U.S. Capitol dome served as a backdrop for the 30th anniversary reception of GW's Graduate School of Political Management. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
Lindsey Schuh Cortes, from the class of 2007, was singled out for her work as the CEO of BlueLabs, a data and analytics strategy consulting firm. She was acknowledged for cultivating a strong, diverse and motivated team of data and tech pioneers while managing the company’s finances, operations and legal works.
Barrett Karr, a 2000 GSPM graduate, received a citation for serving as chief of staff for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Ms. Karr supervises the congressman’s office and advises him on the legislative agenda, political strategy and schedule. Ms. Karr has more than 20 years experience in both Congress and the White House, where she served as the deputy assistant for legislative affairs to President George W. Bush.
In expressing gratitude for the encouragement and support of the university, Ms. Karr said GW taught her the value of critical thinking and asking many questions in order to make informed decisions.
“I think it is that kind of leadership that gives us the best policy outcomes . . .and turns policy professionals into honest brokers,” she said. “I think honest brokers are the way we get the best public policy.”
Jamie Gahun, who stopped by the reception after he workday as chief of staff for John Colbertson (R-Tex.) was promoted to her current position while she was in the GSPM program. She said the value of the program was not just in the job she landed.
“It’s about the people you meet, the skills you learn that you can apply right away to the job that you’re doing,” Ms. Gahun said. “My professors were hands on everyday in the business. I work with them still today, and they are all great assets, a great network.”
Dr. Brown plans to invigorate those networks and connect alums to each other this semester through social media, raffles, pop-up clubs and participation in GW’s Colonial Weekend. The next semester will be devoted to the larger mission of humanizing and demystifying the image of people who serve in politics.
“Most of Americans see political professionals as not engaged in public service, but we need to change that,” Dr. Brown said. “We need to help show them why we stay late at the office, give up time with out families and do not at least in our early years make the kinds of salaries that we should.”
As the gathering of politicos resumed networking, she said, “It is because at the end of the day we care profoundly about the country, the world and the things that happen to all of humanity.”