Interviewed by Sophia Gourley ’19
SG: What have you done since leaving Trinity?
DR: My favorite takeaway from Trinity is a distinct memory of arriving on campus and all of the freshmen gathering on the main quad, and President Borden Painter saying, “Look around. Some of you will see future friends, future partners, maybe even future spouses.” And I chuckled to myself, there’s no way that’s going to happen. Well, sure enough, one of the young women in the crowd was Abigail Runyan ’07. We would later get married. We met doing musical theater. The first time we worked together, we were cast as romantic opposites. It wasn’t until after graduation, in the fall of 2007, that we started dating. We got married in 2011 and we now have a three-year-old and a five-year-old. It’s a neat story of life imitating art.
I was really interested in government politics before I arrived on campus. I had been civically engaged in one way or another since I was a little kid. Trinity fostered that zeal and passion for history and government politics in a number of ways, and put me on a trajectory and equipped me with the skills to do it professionally. I have been a campaign manager or campaign aide for local government races—mayors, state representatives for state senate. I ran for office in 2008 to be the Democratic nominee for the Massachusetts House of Representatives in my hometown. It was a great experience, and while I don’t think I would do it again, it was a phenomenal experience.
I was the director of government relations for the National Association of Social Workers. In my most recent position, I was at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where I got my master’s in public policy degree. I ran its first levels of two in various communities of practice for local government officials, one for gubernatorial chiefs of staff, another for county executives for large and innovative counties. And then the third for the chiefs of staff from four mayors for the biggest 45 cities in the country. We ran events and wrote papers on best practices to make sure they had all the tools they needed to succeed.
I just started a new job in November. I’m the director of strategic partnerships for FUSE Corporation. We’re a non-profit that places executives/long-term professionals with distinct skill sets into city halls across the country where there’s a mismatch, where a particular a department head or a county executive or a mayor wants to run who doesn’t have the right talent. We help them find the talent.
SG: It sounds like a great role! Is there anything that you learned at Trinity that you think was applicable in working towards your career?
DR: Absolutely. I’ll start with Jack Chatfield, a cherished history professor on campus. I loved every one of his classes and took every class of his that I could. He taught a class on Vietnam and a number of classes on colonial history and the Revolutionary War. His passion and the level of detail to which he approached American history, particularly around the Constitutional Convention of 1787, was unparalleled in any other academic experience that I’ve had. He also approached it with a joy that was infectious. My classmates felt the same way. While I had a passion for government before college, it was exploded at Trinity. Whenever I see a colonial history book, I think of Jack Chatfield, and I do my best to read it.
Then there was Diana Evans, who taught a class in how the federal government works. We did experiential exercises where we would pretend to try to pass bills through committee. We would take on a role of a particular member of Congress or a senator, negotiating various points. We’d hold committee hearings and hold votes and try to convince our classmates to pass amendments. It was invaluable.
And finally, I had Professor George Gallo, who, while we don’t, let’s say, share the same party affiliation, his classes were structured around raw politics and campaigns. That was also very infectious. I got into government to improve the lives of people living in our communities, but there’s also an element of politics that doesn’t make it exciting.
SG: What is your proudest career accomplishment since graduating from Trinity?
DR: It was a collaborative effort, but I was working for the National Association of Social Workers in Massachusetts. There was a crisis, a couple of kids died in foster care, I believe in 2014. There was a huge legislative effort the following spring to overhaul how social workers are trained and how continuing education credits are administered to ensure the highest possible level of training. We worked closely with the union and other government partners. For me personally, it was very gratifying to work with a number of people who helped see that bill passed. It was an important issue that had a very tangible impact. It was then my job to pull out best practices for other cities to replicate. It was immensely gratifying to see it being adopted in other cities, affecting millions of people.
It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed my work in government politics and Trinity was a big part of it. It was a great place to go to school.
A friend of mine, Nate Johnson ’07, became an accomplished brewer and runs the Prohibition Pig Brewery in northern Vermont. He was a major inspiration that got me into home brewing beer, so I do it as a hobby on the side.