Presidential Pollster Mark Penn Will Teach at GSPM This Fall

Polling expert will instruct special topics course open to GSPM students, political science undergraduates.

Mark Penn
Mark Penn, who served as a pollster to President Bill Clinton, will teach a special topics course open to GSPM students and political science undergraduates this fall. (File photo)
August 31, 2015

Mark Penn, a former pollster to President Bill Clinton, will serve as a professorial lecturer for the fall 2015 semester at the Graduate School of Political Management, the school announced Thursday.

Mr. Penn, who served as the White House pollster for six years during the Clinton administration, will teach “Interpreting and Strategizing with the Polls,” a special topics course open to GSPM students and political science undergraduates.

The class will focus on crafting and analyzing public opinion surveys and devising political strategies based on the results, GSPM said in a release.

“When we say we are the first and foremost school of applied politics, we mean it,” GSPM Director Mark Kennedy said. “This course is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have direct exposure to, and learn from, one of the legends of political opinion surveys. We are grateful to Mark and his team for this opportunity.”

A longtime supporter of GSPM, Mr. Penn has been a frequent guest speaker on campus and supplied the founding gift for the school’s Society of Presidential Pollsters, which examines the role of public opinion in shaping White House strategy by looking at the work of those who have polled for a sitting president. Mr. Penn also has donated his papers from his White House tenure to the society.

“I’m looking forward to bringing polling into the classroom at GW,” he said. “I believe more students need to understand the use and abuse of polls within public policy and campaigns.”

Mr. Penn has polled internationally for more than 25 world leaders. He is the author of the 2007 New York Times best seller “Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes” and is a visiting lecturer at Harvard University, where he teaches public opinion.

Two adjunct faculty members, Dritan Nesho and Cory Brown, will help facilitate the course.

Mr. Nesho is a former pollster and the head of Microsoft Pulse, an online voting and audience response system. Mr. Brown, M.P.S. ’12, is vice president of data and strategy at Cygnal, a national public relations and polling firm.

“As a GSPM graduate, I understand that the students here are already industry professionals. They come here to gain the edge necessary to perform at the highest level,” Mr. Brown said. “With this course, it is our objective to offer insights and resources to give students a head start on this constantly evolving field.”

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