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Hey everyone! I’m Josh Kim and I am the President of the GSPM Student Association. The Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) is an extraordinary program. In fact, there is no other graduate program like GSPM. You may have heard the saying, “Only at GSPM.” It’s a common hashtag on GSPM social media pages. However, “Only at GSPM” transcends hashtags. It captures the essence of our remarkable graduate program. On a regular basis, I am often left saying or thinking, “Only at GSPM.” 

This summer, I am taking two classes including “Running for Office” with The Honorable Connie Mack IV. Every “Running for Office” class exemplifies the “Only at GSPM” experience. “Only at GSPM” do you get a hands-on experience of how to run for office with a former United States congressman. Learning from Congressman Connie Mack IV has been an invaluable experience. He has incredible knowledge and equips his students with the tools they need to succeed if they run for public office. “Running for Office” is not just for students seeking to run for public office. We have many bright and talented students that will be successful politicians in the future. However, this class is also beneficial for a wide range of future careers including campaign management and political consulting. I don’t see myself running for office in the future, but I am grateful to have garnered critical tools that will help me succeed in my professional endeavors. In the “Running for Office” class, Professor Mack has brought in terrific guest speakers including Jo Anne Barnhart, Tony Fabrizio, and Larry Weitzner. Jo Anne Barnhart served as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Tony Fabrizio was a pollster for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Larry Weitzner’s firm created television advertisements for President Trump’s 2016 campaign. At GSPM, you get to hear from the best of the best. What is even more remarkable is that each of these guest speakers have been nice enough to stay in touch with students from the class after their respective visits. Congressman Mack exemplifies the outstanding devotion professors at GSPM give their students. Despite his busy professional schedule, Professor Mack makes time to meet with students outside of class. He wants to see his students succeed and offers wonderful guidance and insight. Professor Mack has an innate ability to pinpoint a student’s strengths and weaknesses and offer feedback that ultimately leads to a student’s exponential growth and development. 

It’s amazing how accessible professors are to their students at GSPM. If you reach out to one of your professors at GSPM about meeting outside of class, I can assure you that they’ll be more than happy to do so. Sometimes, professors even reach out to students about meeting outside of class. I’ve had professors reach out to me to provide professional guidance and insight. At GSPM, you have a team of professors that will guide you to professional success. 

GSPM is the world’s first and foremost school of applied politics, communications, and advocacy. To top it all off, it’s in the heart of the nation’s capital. Some of our classes take place less than a block away from The White House. You won’t find any other graduate program like that. As a prospective graduate student, you may have looked at other graduate programs. You may even think these other programs are like GSPM. However, that is not the case. At GSPM, your classes will be taught by practitioners in the field who specialize in the subject matter of the course. You have small class sizes and will develop strong professional and personal relationships with your professors and classmates. 

I really appreciate how each class at GSPM is a unique experience. My other class this summer is “Digital Content Creation.” For one of my class projects, a classmate and I filmed a video at the Lincoln Memorial. (By the way, how awesome is it that all these incredible monuments and museums are just a quick walk from GW’s Foggy Bottom campus?) Unique experiences are not the exception at GSPM, they are the norm. While, I was walking around the monuments with my classmate, we met someone I cited in a paper for one of my previous classes at GSPM. It was yet another “Only at GSPM” moment. I’ve had so many “Only at GSPM” moments that, as cheesy as it sounds, I could honestly write a book about it. However, this is supposed to be a blog post, and not a novel (by the way I’ve never written a blog before, so my apologies if this reads more like a term paper than a blog). 

While, I expected to learn a great deal from my professors at GSPM, I never imagined I would learn so much from fellow students in the program. As someone who moved to Washington, D.C. last fall to start the GSPM program, it was a bit daunting to be in a new city and no prior experience working in the nation’s capital. If you’re a prospective GSPM student and have never lived in D.C. or are interested in starting the program right after undergrad, you have no reason to worry. GSPM is an amazing community and you’ll meet so many great people. GSPM has provided me great friends and classmates. During my time at GSPM, I have been really blessed to have a phenomenal mentor. This mentor has been a classmate and fantastic friend. He’s unbelievably accomplished, but his humility is even more remarkable. He’s been a great role model for me and has always been there for me. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to meet a student like this at GSPM. He’s shown me the ropes and has taught me a great deal. He’s helped me with class presentations, given me great advice, and has inspired me to keep believing in myself. “Only at GSPM” will you have classmates that will become extraordinary mentors to you. 

Another great part of my experience at GSPM has been the GSPM Student Association Executive Board. This past spring, GSPM Student Association Executive Board elections were held. I had many friends at GSPM that encouraged me to run, but I wasn’t sure that I should do it. Luckily my friends and classmates at GSPM were incredibly supportive and I was compelled to give back to a program that has provided me so much. Running for GSPM Student Association President was an experience I will always be grateful for. It allowed me to branch out and meet with students in the other GSPM programs. It made me feel even closer to the program, which I didn’t think was possible, and it allowed me to showcase my zealous passion for the program. I was deeply humbled to be elected to the GSPM Student Association Executive Board. I am extremely excited to work with the new executive board. So far, we’ve been doing weekly conference calls and are preparing for a great school year. 

GSPM has been more than classroom and extracurricular experiences. It’s also about the moments in between classes. After class, I am often grabbing food with classmates. We always have great conversations and we often talk about how awesome class was earlier that evening. To me, that’s a part of the GSPM experience as well. It’s going to baseball game with friends from GSPM on a Friday. It’s going to The Palm because you and your classmates aced your class presentations the night before and chicken parmigiana sounds like a nice reward. It’s walking around the monuments with your friends from GSPM late at night to talk about your hopes and dreams. Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, new to D.C. or have worked in D.C. for years, you’re going to meet amazing people at GSPM and share unforgettable experiences with them. 

As I am writing this blog post, I cannot help but feel tremendous gratitude for the experiences I’ve had at GSPM. When I began my journey at GSPM last fall, I never imagined I would be where I am today. Enrolling in GSPM is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. The lessons you’ll learn, the people you’ll meet, and the experience you’ll have will make an indelible impression on your life. You can tailor this degree to fit your professional needs. You don’t have to be managing a campaign or working as a legislative aide to make use of a degree from GSPM. The versatility of a degree from GSPM can be beneficial for a variety of professional careers. 

I am going to miss GSPM when I graduate from the program. However, I will always be grateful for the experiences and relationships I’ve made at GSPM. The people I have met at GSPM will always be important to me. I am also confident that GSPM has prepared me for a successful career. With my journey at GSPM nearly over, I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for my classmates and me.

Joshua Kim is a student in GSPM's Political Management master's program and is the president of the GSPM Student Association.

Check out a review of GSPM Strategic Public Relations Program Director Larry Parnell and GSPM Prof. Janis Teruggi Page's new book, Introduction to Strategic Public Relations:  Digital, Global, and Socially Responsible Communication.

In their often-cited article from the first edition of the International Journal of Strategic Communication journal, Hallahan, Holtzhausen, van Ruler, Verčič, and Sriramesh (2007) define strategic public relations as “the purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission” (p. 3). Like Hallahan et al.’s, hundreds of scholarly articles as well as books and textbooks have been written on the subject, analyzing it from a variety of perspectives, including internationally. Page and Parnell’s book, SAGE Publications first foray into the topic, does manage to stand out from the crowd, by offering interesting, current information with a hands-on approach.

Page and Parnell, who both teach at George Washington University (GWU), carry with them years of professional experience in the field, and are still partners in PR consulting firms, bring their know-how and background to a book that is openly meant for an introduction public relations class. Backed by renowned scholars in the field, such as Donald K. Wright and Don W. Stacks, the book is loyal to its subtitle, as it devotes quite a few of its hundreds of pages to discussing how globalization and also technology, including social media, have changed public relations. More than anything, though, the book includes the overarching theme of the “social responsibility” public relations professionals have.

Read the full review here.

Recent GSPM Strategic Public Relations graduate Amber Garnett wrote about how to manage a career while attending graduate school. It's a useful lesson on how to juggle one's time, energy, and passion and how a graduate degree can help take PR professionals to the next level.

"When I began working at Stratacomm as an intern in August 2016, I also began my journey in pursuing my master’s degree from George Washington University. Now almost two years later, I am an assistant account executive and completing my master’s in strategic public relations. Communications is not a field that necessarily requires an advanced degree, but I found more than a few ways furthering my education is beneficial to my day-to-day work."

Read the full article on the Stratacomm blog.

Efforts to explain the world of Washington lobbyists continue, with decidedly mixed results.

For those who try to follow the government relations profession, rather than participate in it, part of the difficulty is simply understanding the different tactics lobbyists and their clients employ and how they fit together.

Observers seem surprised, for example, that the number of registered lobbyists has declined at the same time that the profession’s earnings have increased, as Politico reports.  These earnings have increased, of course, just as President Trump has said he will “drain the swamp.”

Swamp dwellers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), the source of the statistics cited by Politico, would seem to include just about anyone who makes a living by exercising their First Amendment right to petition their government — much as journalists at Politico and think tankers at CRP exercise their First Amendment rights.

Lobbyists brought in a total of more than $3.2 billion during Trump’s first year in office, Politicoreports. “Many of K Street’s top firms saw revenue rise by double-digit percentages compared with 2016, driven by intense lobbying on Republicans’ failed push to repeal Obamacare and their successful effort to revamp the tax code,” according to Politico.

‘Boom Times’ Under Obama

But these earnings aren’t as robust as those of the “boom times of President Obama’s first years in office,” when the stimulus bill, Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act were either passed or being hotly debated. Lobbying revenues, for example, jumped to “nearly $4 billion in 2009, adjusted for inflation,” Politico reports.

Lobbyists identified with both the Republican and Democratic parties agree: Trump’s “talk of draining the swamp and curbing the influence of K Street hadn’t hurt their businesses in 2017. Instead, they saw the continuation of a decade-long trend. The industry in Washington saw the number of registered lobbyists decline to 11,472 in 2017 from about 14,000 in 2009.”

One of the reasons for this decline, floated by Politico, is that businesses are turning “to grass-roots influenced campaigns and social media efforts that do not require them to register with the federal government.”

Expanding Toolkit

Grassroots efforts are clearly a growing tactic in the advocacy profession’s ever-expanding toolkit. So, for that matter, is public relations, which is the subject of a study promoted by PR Underground. The number of communications jobs in the nation’s capital has increased 325 percent since 2000, which represents “a major shift in the business of public policy influence in Washington,” according to this research.

In 1999, there were more than twice as many lobbyists as PR professionals in Washington, but now the opposite is true. Just since the financial crisis of 2008, new job creation in the PR business has shot up 65 percent.

Straight to the Public

“Companies and trade associations are going straight to the public through big TV campaigns and online campaigns, versus just focusing on influencing legislators through lobbying firms,” says Brian Scully, PR Underground’s CEO. Because legislators also watch TV, “you get more bang for your buck. You get the public and the legislators instead of just going to the legislators.”

That’s an oversimplification, clearly, and the report is far from conclusive. “Proximity to D.C. has helped Maryland secure the second spot, with a 257 percent increase in PR jobs,” according to the study, although Virginia doesn’t even make the top 10.

The trend bears watching, though. In early 2015, citing statistics from the Center for Public Integrity, Time reported that when Washington’s biggest trade associations “want to wield influence, they often put far more of their money into advertising and public relations.

It’s more evidence that advocacy campaigns are employing a broader range of tactics — lobbying, advertising, grassroots, social media — and it’s more complex than some might think. We’ll keep you posted on other seismic, or mild, shifts in how we advocate.

About the Public Affairs Council
Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs professionals worldwide. The Council’s mission is to advance the field of public affairs and to provide its 700 member companies and associations with the executive education and expertise they need to succeed while maintaining the highest ethical standards. Learn more about the Council at pac.org.

Victor Reyes
GSPM online Political Management student Victor Reyes, who works as a lobbyist for The Roosevelt Group in Springfield, Illinois.

Our online Political Management student Victor Reyes had his capstone project profiled in Crain's Chicago Business Friday:

"Winning the Latino vote may well be the key to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's re-election, but he'll have change some things to actually reel in such support, starting with forming a "personal relationship" with Latino voters.

That's the advice for Chicago's CEO as he prepares to announce for a third term, and comes not in the form of a confidential memo from a high-priced outside consultant but a master's thesis written by Victor Reyes, who served as political consiglieri and chief lobbyist to Mayor Richard M. Daley during his tenure. Among his former duties was heading the Daley-allied Hispanic Democratic Organization.

'To win re-election in 2019, Emanuel must establish a supportive coalition that includes a large number of Latinos,' writes Reyes, who's now a lobbyist here and in Springfield but is getting a master's degree in political management from George Washington University in Washington, D.C."

Read the full piece at Crain's Chicago Business. 

Dixon McReynolds III

Dixon McReynolds III did more than choose a life of service; he was born into it. His father was a member of the Army and his grandmother was a minister who Dixon said, “Always preached to me to do something for others. I should always be able to extend myself to others and be of service.”

His first mission was to take care of his brother, who was born with spina bifida. “He wasn’t supposed to live past age two but he ended up living to the age of 21,” Dixon said. “It got really difficult for him to get around and it got to the point where he was bed ridden. It was my job to get up at night and help him get settled. That started me on my path to caregiving and public service.”

From there, Dixon joined the Air Force as a personal affairs supervisor focusing on casualty assistance. “I notified families of death. It was very intense, but I came to find out that it was a very important job. Not only did you notify the family that a loved one was gone but you also case managed them for a year. You could see them at their worst time… and help them start the healing process,” he said. After 21 years in the military, Dixon went in search of the next way to give back.

Returning to his home base in Seattle, Washington, Dixon began working with the local homeless population and became a program manager for the Washington State Department of Veteran’s Affairs, running five programs for homeless vets.

From there, he looked for ways to get more involved in politics. “I think I’ve always been politically aware. Coming to GW was a breath of fresh air for me because I got to meet a lot of people that felt like I did,” he said. “After orientation I came to the conclusion that I made the right decision.” During his time at GSPM, Dixon worked for Washington Sen. Patty Murray (D) and the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee. His résumé–and a GW connection–helped land him the job. “I went to the interview and the lady who interviewed me said ‘When can you start?’ and I said ‘That’s it?’ and she said ‘I gotta be honest with you and I’m also a GW grad. I saw your resume and it was impressive,” he recalled.

Later, that same contact suggested he apply for a Presidential Management Fellowship, which he did. After a grueling interview process, he was selected to serve as a fellow in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Now Dixon is pursuing a Ph.D. in Human Services and Social Work focusing on military families at Walden University and is hoping to impact the next generation of political leaders and public servants.

The following post is courtesy of The Graduate School of Political Management's thought leadership initiative with the Public Affairs Council. 

For Adama Iwu, the breaking point came at a work-related event outside the State Capitol in Sacramento early last year.

At the gathering, Iwu, the Western states’ government affairs manager for Visa, was groped by a man, an industry peer, in the presence of professional colleagues — and the men in the room did nothing to stop the assault.

They said they figured she knew the man. Even if she had met him before, Iwu says, “that doesn’t mean when I spent three minutes pushing him off me that I didn’t want someone to step in and say, ‘She said, ‘no,’ stop.” What she found especially galling was that the group had just finished talking about the Harvey Weinstein case and what men can do to prevent sexual harassment.

Having had enough, Iwu organized more than 150 other women who signed an open letter taking a firm stand against sexual harassment by members of the California Legislature and demanding protection and accountability. They also created a website where other women can post their support.

“Each of us,” the letter read, “has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces.” The signatories included political consultants, past and present lawmakers, Republican and Democratic officials and other lobbyists.

Since the Weinstein story broke, two California legislators have resigned their offices, and 18 others from around the country have resigned, announced their retirement or faced some form of reprimand. Six members of Congress have been forced out of office after having been accused of sexual harassment. And Iwu ended up on Time’s Dec. 18 “Person of the Year” cover.

“Charges of harassment came cascading through statehouses across the country, leading to investigations, resignations of powerful men and anguish over hostile workplaces for women that for years went unacknowledged,” The New York Times reported in December. “Amid this reckoning, one group of victims has stood apart: political lobbyists.”

Female lobbyists are “especially vulnerable in legislatures and in Congress because, unlike government employees, they often have no avenue to report complaints and receive due process. Lobbyists who have been harassed are essentially powerless in their workplaces, all-dependent on access to mostly male lawmakers for meetings and influence to advance legislation and earn their living.”

On Capitol Hill, staffers may be getting some protection if a bill that passed the House on Feb 6 can get through the Senate in some form. The Hill reports that the bill would “streamline the process available to Capitol Hill staffers to report harassment, provide additional resources for people filing complaints and establish transparency requirements for taxpayer-funded settlements to resolve cases.” It would also require the members of Congress accused of harassment, rather than tax payers, to pay for settling these cases.

But what’s not clear is if lobbyists and other non-government employees will be protected.

Protecting Themselves

Female lobbyists who have been harassed or who learned about it from colleagues are  figuring out how to protect themselves, though they cannot accomplish this alone. “We whisper and exchange information about who is ‘safe’ and who you have to watch out for,” Iwu says. “But we’re not content with that. Much more needs to be done.”

Jean Cantrell, head of government relations for Philips Lighting, says some of her peers rely on “work-arounds,” in which a female lobbyist always brings another woman when she meets with a legislator at a hotel restaurant, for example. But this “buddy system” means any such assignment requires two lobbyists when it should call for only one. If the lobbyists are billing by the hour, the meeting costs twice what it ordinarily would.

Also, such tactics put the responsibility on the victim, which isn’t quite fair. “It isn’t the female lobbyist’s behavior that is the problem,” says Elizabeth Bartz, president and CEO of State and Federal Communications, Inc., of Akron, Ohio. “It’s the male legislator’s.” Virtually all of the harassers are men preying on women. “We hear war stories from our members,” says Beth Loudy, executive director of the State Government Affairs Council in Alexandria, Va., “This is about power in the workplace and extends far beyond statehouses. That just happens to be our members’ workplace.”

Relentless Pressure

“The lobbyist’s bread-and-butter is her relationship to powerful men,” says Christopher Metzler, the former senior associate dean for human resources at Georgetown University. Metzler, who has investigated hundreds of sexual harassment cases, says elected officials “have outsized egos to begin with, so the only thing that will bring about real change is relentless pressure. That can involve leaking information to the press, as risky as that can be. Realistically speaking, there are few legal protections in a situation like this — no way to lodge a formal complaint.”

Even so, more and more often, women in this business are no longer willing to change their behavior when they believe they are doing nothing wrong. “I wouldn’t dare tell a young woman entering into this profession how to be safe — how to dress or talk or any of that,” Iwu says. “But what I would tell her is that you no longer have to cope with harassment the way women have done forever, which is internalize it and eat yourself alive with shame, asking what you wore or did that ‘invited’ this treatment. Those days are gone.”

Unfortunately, the culture and the law that governs sexual harassment have yet to catch up. “As others have pointed out, the difficulty for lobbyists is that the harasser is not an employee of the same company, where company policies and procedures can be followed and you can complain to the company’s human resources department,” says Evan Gibbs, an employment lawyer with Troutman Sanders in Atlanta. “It is comparable to the Weinstein situation in that the women he harassed were not employees of his company but other people in the film industry who looked to him to help them with their careers. They needed the relationship to succeed.”

A possible legal response — but one very few lobbyists would be willing to make — is to sue their own employer.  “Not many people know this, but Title VII, which is the federal law covering sexual harassment and gender discrimination, prohibits employers from allowing their employees to be harassed by a third party,” Gibbs says. “Ultimately, [the employer] is responsible whether the person committing the harassment is an employee or not. If you work for a restaurant, the owner of the restaurant is required by law to protect their wait staff from harassment by a customer. The same holds true for lobbyists and elected officials.”

Risking Relationships

Plus, some lobbyists have experienced harassment from clients, which can also make the situation challenging. In such cases, they might complain to the client’s HR department, but they do so at great risk to their relationships with the client’s company. And there’s no guarantee they will derive any satisfaction from such a complaint.

In one respect, going to an HR department to complain can actually make matters worse, Metzler says. “Sexual harassment is too often seen as something set apart from the general culture of a company. Too often, HR departments still see their job as protecting the company by making the problem go away. What they don’t realize is that by failing to protect the victim, the HR department can open up the company to massive liability.”

Another problem, Metzler says, is that even when a company decides to turn a complaint over to its outside counsel to investigate, “the outside counsel almost always sees everything from the company’s point of view, which creates a conflict in itself. The way to investigate a complaint properly is to turn it over to a law firm that isn’t already working for the company.”

Going Public

It is a rare lobbyist, of course, who wants to jeopardize her career — which depends on maintaining relationships with lawmakers — by going public with her accusations, much less sue her own employer. She can go to the press, “which eats this stuff up,” says Bartz. In their letter, Iwu and her colleagues managed to generate great media coverage for their position without naming names of legislators.

As a result of their letter, the California State Legislature has begun hearings on the issue, and the Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response, described by Iwu as “dormant for years” is meeting regularly again. Meanwhile, a growing number of states have taken action too, passing or stiffening sexual-harassment rules, investigating claims and punishing lawmakers who prey on lobbyists. In Oregon and Washington, the action was a response to letters like Iwu’s signed by some 300 women.

In Illinois, where more than 160 women signed a letter of their own, lawmakers are now required to attend a sexual harassment seminar. The legislative state inspector has also been empowered to investigate 27 ethics complaints against lawmakers.

That’s certainly progress. But the reaction in Illinois provides proof that much educational work remains to be done. That’s because the Illinois legislature has also taken a position that critics say is misguided — because it is designed primarily to prevent harassment by lobbyists, not harassment of them, Senate Bill 402 establishes a $5,000 fine for violations and requires lobbyists to take a sexual harassment training course within 30 days of their registration or renewal; they also have to have a written sexual harassment policy of their own, or their company’s.

“I don’t get it,” Bartz says. “Lobbyists have never been the problem.”

About the Public Affairs Council
Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs professionals worldwide. The Council’s mission is to advance the field of public affairs and to provide its 700 member companies and associations with the executive education and expertise they need to succeed while maintaining the highest ethical standards. Learn more about the Council at pac.org.

The Graduate School of Political Management is always looking for the latest and greatest tools, techniques, and strategies for success in the fields of politics, communications, and advocacy. One key source of information is our Board of Advisors, senior leaders in their fields that have taken the time to provide strategic guidance and insights to our school and its students.

We asked our Blue Co-Chair Robert Hoopes, President of VOX Global and General Manager of FleishmanHillard's DC office, and Red Co-Chair Leigh Ann Pusey, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Eli Lilly and Company.

They told us that the opportunity to work to improve political discourse, as well as engaging with the next generation of political leaders has been an inspiration to them.

One of our superstar alums, Dan Sena, Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was recently profiled by Roll Call's Nathan Gonzalez, another one of our superstar alums.

Sena is the first Latino to direct a campaign committee, and has been working on campaigns since his days as a student.

Read the entire profile at Roll Call.

The following post is from GSPM Adjunct Professor Chris Bender

We’ve reached a seminal moment in how advocacy is done.

Following the awful events at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a garrison of outraged and determined students have used their phones and personal passion to do what scores of elected officials, professional activists, interest groups and community organizations couldn’t: Force cultural change on guns – and in less than three weeks’ time.

These students don’t have a paid campaign manager. There’s no donor strategy. No one is canvassing or thinking about microtargeting. They are doing something simpler and more organic: Speaking from the heart, using Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter to connect with millions of people who share their sadness and frustration, shifting the conversation and creating an imperative for change.

Read the full post on the Public Affairs Council website.