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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 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.

The Graduate School of Political Management's social media monitoring research initiative, the PEORIA Project, released three new pieces on the impact twitter is having on politics and communications.

The first, published in the Washington Post, detailed rise and continued strength of the #MeToo movement. Researchers found that while #MeToo had been an activist hashtag on social media for some time, it exploded after the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment news. The reach and volume, in effect how many people saw the hashtag and how often they saw it, grew at least in part because well-known public figures were sharing their stories of harassment for the first time. Read more at the Washington Post.

Secondly, the PEORIA Project released its first quarterly report. Among the many findings, lead researcher Dr. Michael Cohen found that Congressional incumbents in close races should try their best to stay out of Twitter's glare. Two of the top mentions on political twitter in this category, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-CA) and Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), have already announced that they will not seek reelection to their seats in November. Read the full report on our website.

Lastly, the project also published its most recent ECHO report. In it, Cohen found that in the battle over who deserves blame over the government shutdown that started last week, Twitter found President Donald Trump more at fault than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Read the full report at US News.

As we get closer to the election, we expect to find more insights into the ways in which social media shapes and amplifies political messages, and the PEORIA Project will bring them to you. Be sure to subscribe to our PEORIA Project newsletter here.

Grassroots Professional Network

The Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) didn’t become the first and foremost school of applied politics, communications, and advocacy on its own. We have an extensive network of partners that team up with us for panel discussions, networking receptions, and other events. One of GSPM’s key partners over the last three years has been the Grassroots Professional Network (GPN).

Founded in 2015, the GPN started as a community for public affairs professionals to provide professional development and networking opportunities. From those humble beginnings, the organization quickly garnered hundreds of members. The group now offers a portfolio of online resources, industry assets, and networking events, all at no cost.

GSPM and GPN started their partnership three years ago in the fall of 2015 with a series of lunch and learn events featuring advocacy industry leaders, including alumni of the GSPM. From there, the relationship has grown exponentially. In 2017, the groups worked together to create The Agora Government Relations and Public Affairs Marketplace, which featured more than three dozen vendors and drew more than 800 attendees. Using that success as a guide, GSPM and GPN plan on expanding their relationship yet again in 2018, starting with the State of Advocacy Forum to be held on campus at GW on January 31.

“GPN would not be nearly as successful of a non-profit organization without the support, ideas, and innovation of the GSPM program and staff who have taken an interest in seeing GPN grow and succeed throughout the course of our partnership. I look forward to working with GSPM for many years to come,” said GPN Founder and Chairman Joshua Habursky.

In many instances, GSPM alumni have been at the forefront of these events, serving as facilitators and panelists. Both groups look forward to a continuing relationship that raises the profile of each organization, and continues to professionalize the field of grassroots advocacy.

The 2016 presidential election took nearly everyone by surprise, with political neophyte Donald Trump winning over Hillary Clinton, one of the most well-known political figures ever. A panel of GSPM adjunct faculty, who are also leading campaign strategists with several presidential campaigns on their resumes, weighed in on what happened and what comes next in the worlds of campaigning and political consulting.

The biggest change in the 2016 cycle was the explosion of content that campaigns needed to produce to stay competitive. “Politics has become very personal and the ways to consume content have too, and the more ways there are to consume content the more content there needs to be,” said Evan Tracey, Political Management Adjunct Professor and Senior Vice President at the political advertising firm National Media Research, Planning, and Placement.

Peter Fenn, a long-time media consultant, says the old model of big media buys are coming to an end. “I call paid media now ‘pay more get less’ media. We’re in a situation where fewer and fewer people are watching television commercials and it’s more about targeting and figuring out where undecided voters are and appealing to them personally,” he said. He noted that data analytics and consumer segmentation are going to drive campaign strategy to an ever-larger extent.

For another expert, the need to understand national dynamics was key. “You needed to be a master of the modern media environment to be a successful candidate,” said Adjunct Professor Suzanne Zurn, founder of the Three Lines Group. She lamented that part of that understanding was that in an increasingly polarized society, factual accuracy was less important than in the past.

That understanding of the media environment allowed Trump, who frequently eschewed conservative policy principles and campaign norms, to thrive. Mark Mellman, a Democratic strategist, noted that Trump was able to build a coalition by bringing together three strands of conservative thought: people’s aversion to government, change, and difference. A general political malaise helped the outsider candidate as well. “People didn’t think he would win, so he was a good protest vote,” said Mellman. Katie Packer, who ran a Republican SuperPAC opposed to the Trump campaign, noted that none of the other candidates were willing or able to stop the New Yorker’s momentum. “In campaigns, opponents don't just die people kill them, metaphorically of course,” she said.

In addition to offering a post-mortem of the past, the panelists also gave some advice to students just starting their political careers. “When you start in politics you should be knocking on doors" said Fenn. “And when you get older you should keep doing it. I love knocking on doors." He also cautioned against the caricature of the wealthy campaign consultant. “Don't go into political consulting to get rich. You can make money sure, but you gotta love it in order to succeed.”

GSPM students in our Strategic Public Relations Principles & Practices were treated to a visit and guest lecture from the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico Carmen Yulín Cruz earlier this week. She gave an update on relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria and shared her lessons on the importance of honesty in political communications.

From The GW Hatchet:

“You have to become not a politician, but a public servant,” she said. “We may not agree, but you need to know what I stand for. And if someone doesn’t like what I have to say, then I tell them to not vote for me in 2020.”

As the discussion shifted from her campaign and political career to the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Yulín Cruz spoke to the students about her firsthand experiences leading the city in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

“I’ve seen elderly people left in their homes to die. I’ve seen mothers cry because they cannot find their children medicine,” Yulìn Cruz said. “Now the world has to face our poverty and inequality and it cannot be covered up by piña coladas and palm trees.”

Read more at The GW Hatchet.

Current Student Taylor McCarty says GSPM is "the ultimate networking opportunity"

 

It’s not what you know it’s who you know. Your network is your net worth. These sayings are clichés for a reason, but like many clichés, they contain a grain of truth. How do you stand out in a crowded job market? How do you learn about job openings before anyone else?

The most effective way is to leverage your personal and professional networks. Your current and former coworkers, your friends, and the alumni of the schools you attended are the key to your job search. This is even more important when looking for career opportunities in competitive fields such as politics and advocacy.

We asked several of our alumni how they got into the world of politics, and why they look to GSPM for future hires. A key for Bret Caldwell, GSPM ’95 and Special Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, was a shared understanding. “What I’m looking for are people who can enter an organization and adapt quickly; have the skills to bring about organizational change if necessary; and the ability to become leaders within the organization,” said Caldwell.

While filling a recent vacancy, Caldwell interviewed another alum, Ash Latimer, GSPM ’15. “It was clear she was going to be a great add to the team and since we’ve both been through the program it’s very apparent we’re on the same wavelength on our approach to tackling complex issues,” he noted.

Latimer first found out about the opportunity from a mutual friend. “I got a text saying are you interested in working for the Teamster’s,” she said. “Within an hour he had connected me with Bret. We set up a meeting two days later, I met with assistant directors the next week, and I got the offer later that week.”

For Bill Meierling, GSPM ’08 and Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the school’s unique curriculum is an asset for any politico on a job hunt. “If you actually want to win the campaign, you go to GSPM,” he says. “Thinking about the types of classes offered you can really get a specialized education in various disciplines in politics. It’s the single best place to gain knowledge from practitioners.”

Meierling added that the longevity of the school is a key asset for anyone looking to work in Washington. “There are 5,000 alumni in the school, and about 2,000 in the DC area. There aren’t 2,000 corporate offices in DC so think about how many organizations where there is a GSPMer. Virtually every one.”

Taylor McCarty, a current student and Communications Strategist at DDC, echoed that sentiment. “I stay in touch with the students and several professors and it’s benefited me personally and professionally,” she said. “It’s a great way to find a mentor and make new friends. You never know who may lend a helping hand down the road.”

The ECHO is the newest component of our PEORIA Project social media monitoring and analysis research. With The ECHO, we're tracking the weekly ebb and flow of trending topics and individuals in politics.

This week our lead PEORIA Project researcher Prof. Michael Cohen found that Twitter was focused on the United States Capitol writing

The center of political discussion on Twitter moved to Capitol Hill this week as members passed a deal struck by the president and Democratic congressional leaders to extend the debt limit for three months and fund hurricane relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey (492,148 tweets) and ahead of Hurricane Irma (4,641,783 tweets). In the wake of the hurricanes, tweets about climate change were up 75 percent (721,677 tweets).

The shift in activity down Pennsylvania Avenue is reflected in the volume of tweets: President Donald Trump was down 47 percent while the tweets about the U.S. Senate (163 percent) and the House (229 percent) were both up by triple-digit percentages.

Check out the other insights at U.S News & World Report.

While President Donald Trump's inner circle of family members in key positions has many White House watchers nervous, GSPM Prof Matt Dallek notes that nepotism is nothing new at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He joined WBUR's Freak Out And Carry On hosts Ron Suskind and Heather Cox Richardson to discuss several key instances of presidential familial advisors.

Listen to the entire interview here.

 

Now that the Senate vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been postponed until after the July 4th Congressional recess, our Prof. Matt Dallek takes a look at why repealing legislation is so difficult.

He finds that this is the case in part because of a paradox "Americans distrust the federal government’s commitment to the public’s welfare, yet Americans in the main are also opposed to fundamentally reforming the government’s costliest social programs."

Read his full post on Yahoo News.

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