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Lt. Col. Steven Coffee
Lt. Col. Steven Coffee says his GSPM degree has helped him better engage with senior civilian and military leaders.

A prevailing thought in the officer corps of the United States Air Force is that one needs a master’s degree to get beyond a certain rank. Practically any master’s will do.

For Lt Col. Steven Coffee, the Legislative Affairs program at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) met that requirement and so much more. “I wanted to get something that would be useful to me in the military and when I transition back to civilian life. A friend from undergrad and fellow GSPM alum 06’, Anthony Coley, told me about the program and it sounded like a perfect fit given my undergrad degree in political science,” Coffee said.

Initially he thought that his degree would help him to pursue a run for office or a career in government relations after leaving the military, but Coffee was soon using the skills he learned at GSPM while in the armed forces. “Immediately after graduating in 2008 I served as a Force Structure Analyst at the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and was immersed in understanding the balance of Congressional and budgetary oversight with military requirements; and later served as a legislative analyst for SOCOM in 2010. I still use the critical thinking skills that are taught there, especially the importance of looking at issues in a comprehensive and holistic manner,” he said. Coffee added that class work in political rhetoric helped him manage communications and engage with Hill staffers, senior civilian, and military leaders.

He had another chance to use his GSPM skills during a stretch as a Social Aide in the White Houses of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, coordinating the planning and execution of social events for the president and first lady. “I was able to observe the theory of politics taught in the classroom in reality,” said Coffee. “It was great to learn how to engage and work within the political process and contribute to the conversation.”

Lt Col. Coffee currently serves as a Joint Manpower Analyst (J1 Human Capital Division), Directorate of Manpower and Personnel at the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role, he serves as the chief human capital and requirements expert for the nine geographical four-star combatant commanders. “The personnel staff works to validate the requirements of combatant commanders. We’re the gatekeepers of validating manpower and personnel efficiency requirements and requests from four star generals through the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Coffee said.

Now nine years removed from the program, Coffee shared some advice for current and prospective students in the lead-up to Colonials Weekend, the university’s homecoming celebration. He was set to receive the GW IMPACT Award, which is given by the George Washington Black Alumni Association (GWBAA), and is “the highest form of recognition bestowed on distinguished Black alumni by the GWBAA Executive Committee,” to those who have cultivated a history of commitment to the university. “You need to let the program go through you. Don’t just go through the program. Get involved in the discussions,” he said. “Where else can you learn politics right across from the Capitol with people who work there and tell you the reality? This program is special. Immerse yourself in it.”

Colonials Weekend is a time to reconnect and celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni. The Graduate School of Political Management is proud to honor two alumni who are receiving awards this weekend. Their dedication to public service is an inspiration to us and we look forward to witnessing their future accomplishments.

Mindy Finn, Political Management 2010, winner of the GW Recent Alumni Achievement Award

Finn is an experienced digital politics operative, working in national campaigns, party headquarters, and in the private sector.

Finn established the first new media division at the Republican National Committee in 2005 after leading similar efforts for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, and went on to become a senior digital strategist for the 2008 Mitt Romney presidential campaign.

She later founded Empowered Women, a non-profit working to give “voice to a bold new generation of American women (and) identify emerging leaders and provide the resources to promote them into civic life.”

Sensing a need for a conservative alternative to the Donald Trump campaign for president in 2016, Finn became independent candidate Evan McMullin’s running mate. They continue their work to “lead Americans in the promotion of liberty, equality, and truth in America” through Stand Up Republic, a political non-profit.

The Recent Alumni Achievement Award is one of the highest forms of recognition given annually by the university and the George Washington Alumni Association to a graduate, and seeks to honor those that have achieved notable accomplishments in their field.

Lt. Col. Steven Coffee, USAF, Legislative Affairs 2008, winner of the GW IMPACT Award

Lt. Col. Coffee is the Manpower Analyst (J1 Human Capital Division) at the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he serves as the chief human capitol expert for the heads of the armed forces.

Coffee previously served as a Force Support, Squadron Commander, providing assistance and training to more than 1,100 active duty and reserve Air Force members. He has served in the White Houses of George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the White House Military Social Aide, which assists in the planning and executions of official events for the president and first lady.

Coffee is receiving the GW IMPACT Award, which is given by the George Washington Black Alumni Association (GWBAA), and is “the highest form of recognition bestowed on distinguished Black alumni by the GWBAA Executive Committee” to those who have cultivated a history of commitment to the university.

Additionally, GSPM grad Erin Houchin, currently serving as an Indiana State Senator for the 47th District, will participate in the Sunday Political Discourse, which will provide insights on the latest developments in politics and governance.

We hope to see you all this weekend and if you can’t make it please take a moment to update your contact information with us. For a complete listing of Colonials Weekend activities click here.


A host of changes to politics over the last two decades, from redistricting and gerrymandering to modifications of campaign finance laws, have decreased incentives to govern effectively said  one current member and three former members of Congress at an event Wednesday at the George Washington University.

Those changes and their consequences have given rise to a series of never-ending purity tests, says former Rep. Al Wynn (D-Md.). “I came into politics with the understanding that you compromise to get things done….,” Mr. Wynn said. “As a result of redistricting, you end up with inter-party fights, and I view it as a fight between ideological members and pragmatic centrist candidates.”

Mr. Wynn added that SuperPACs and other outside groups made the changes worse with outsized spending and advertising campaigns that seek to nationalize every race, rather than focusing on local issues.

Mr. Wynn was among four panelists at the event co-hosted by GW’s Graduate School of Political Management and the U.S. Association of Former Member of Congress. Also on the panel were former Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), B.S. ‘63, former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)  and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).

Read more at GW Today.

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