Local government has the potential to create influential change, panelists at the first Hoyas in Politics and Public Service Career Chat of the year said on Wednesday.
The panel, hosted by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, featured former Nebraska State Sen. Tanya Cook (MSB ’86), Vice Chair of the Arlington County Board Christian Dorsey (SFS ’93) and Managing Director of Georgetown Public Affairs David Catania (SFS ’90, LAW ’94). The event was moderated by Chris Murphy (LAW ’98), the vice president for government relations and community engagement at Georgetown.
The Hoyas in Politics and Public Service chats, dubbed HIPPSter Chat by GU Politics, began in 2015 when Dan Pfeiffer (COL ’98), former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, came to a chat.
While discussing their own experiences working in government, each panelist touched on the ability of state and local officials to impact the everyday lives of their communities.
“I was able to do things that I was very proud of; things like reforming our tax code, incentivizing tech businesses, medical marijuana, minimum wage increases, things you take for granted,” Catania said. “You were able to actually do things and see them.”
Dorsey emphasized the efficient nature of local government in its ability to enact change.
“I can tell you most assuredly that this is where you get things done,” Dorsey said. “When it comes to the daily gratification of a job done that improves people’s lives, I can’t imagine a better venue than local government.”
Dorsey also stressed how fulfilling state and local work can be and the massive potential for impactful societal change.
“I can honestly say that there is not a single day, no matter how frustrating or how challenging, where I can’t fundamentally explain to my children at home: here is how I made a positive contribution, and that to me is the world,” Dorsey said.
In addition to telling their own stories, the panelists, who are all Hoyas themselves, also took the time to give advice to current students.
“You’re going to exceed expectations and anticipate needs,” Catania said. “There’s no substitute for being the hardest worker in the office.”
HIPPSter Chats began in 2015, when the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service was first launched. The purpose of the program is to connect students with successful alumni working in a diverse range of fields in politics and public service, according to Jennie Fay, director of fellows and career programming at GU Politics.
Previous HIPPSter events have brought in speakers such as Boris Epshteyn (SFS ’04, LAW ’07), a Republican strategist who worked on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, as well as Speaker Paul Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks (SFS ’99). This year, GU Politics is looking to expand the program further and potentially host up to three events each semester.
Ultimately, HIPPSter Chats intend to be a resource for students interested in politics, according to Fay.
“The program hopes to accomplish a greater connection with the political and public service community, as well as help open students eyes to the many career paths they can take in those areas,” Fay wrote in an email to TheHoya.
Dorsey remembered her time as an undergraduate and emphasized how important events like these are to students.
“The reason I even accepted the invitation was because I thought back and ruminated about how useful this would’ve been when I was a Georgetown senior,” Dorsey said. “This is really what alumni networks should be about.”
Cook emphasized the large breadth of experience that alumni have to share with students, which makes the discussions meaningful.
“I think the value may really be on the alumni side, because they get to tell the students things that they weren’t able to learn in the classroom, things about how to value their elite education here,” Cook said.
Students at the event reiterated the significance of connecting with alumni and learning from their professional experiences.
“We students are getting ready to go into the professional world, we are getting ready to have our say,” Joshua Marín-Mora (SFS ’21) said in an interview with TheHoya. “I think it’s important to learn from people who have already been there and by learning this, we are a little bit more prepared for getting out and trying to have our own impact.”