Alumni News

November 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Career Corner | Political Science Alumni Tell of Different Paths to Success

Six Political Science alumni talk to students about “From College to Career: Using Your Political Science Degree in Public Affairs” on Oct. 27.

The panel, part of the Political Science Department’s Professionalism and Public Affairs series, features a panel of notable and distinguished alumni who work in public affairs and its intersection with business. The panelists discussed how they successfully transitioned from college into careers in public affairs and business and offered advice about how students can best prepare themselves now for their future careers.

Political Science alumni Steve Ellis, Marc Kantrowitz and Justin McCaulley

From left, Political Science alumni Steve Ellis, Marc Kantrowitz and Justin McCaulley

McCaulley Started with ‘A Job I Didn’t Love’

“When I got started in my career, I really wasn’t sure which direction I was headed. I think my major, political science, at the time was like pre-law. You were going to go to law school next, and I thought I was. When I got out into the real world, I had a job that I didn’t love…,” says Justin R. McCaulley.

McCaulley graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University in 2001 with a B.A. in Political Science.

“It was not long after that I started volunteering on political campaigns. That was really what I had envisioned my future holding—getting involved, becoming a political adviser, maybe someday running for office,” he says.

“Through that volunteer opportunity, I built a network … and transitioned those contacts that I had developed from countless hours of building yard signs, stuffing envelopes, doing grunt work into a reputation for being reliable and consistent and thoughtful and all the things that you would want in an employee, so eventually I flipped that reputation into a paying job. Not long after that, in my early 20s, I started a company and I was consulting … brokering relationships.”

Eventually he registered as a lobbyist. “The strength of my network was really the entry point into a career that I was sure was going to go down a path into law school…. Instead it was more focused … on politics, and that took me into being a consultant and having my name on my business card twice. I own my own firm now, and I actually have a couple of job openings posted on our LinkedIn page….And I would very much like to entertain some Bobcat candidates,” says McCaulley, who is president of McCaulley & Company, a consulting firm based in Cleveland that offers communication solutions to local governments, regulatory agencies, higher education, corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

‘I Had Professors Who Noticed Something in Me’

“I was so shy,” says Tracy Kelly ’09, ‘13M. Most people who know me would say that I am shy now, but I was like the girl in the group who never says anything—like that shy girl. I went to Ohio University Lancaster… I had some professors who noticed something in me. I don’t know how they did it because I wasn’t talking, but I showed up and I worked hard, and they started to encourage me to get involved in volunteer opportunities.”

Kelly earned a B.A. in History, a Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies, and an MPA 2013 in Public Administration from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University.

Kelly served as editor on student literary journal, an event called Celebrate Women, and started to get involved in those events. “It’s not like I became any less shy, I just stated to find things that mattered to me and ways to push myself. From there I applied for student trustee position” on the Ohio University Board of Trustees.

“And I really pushed myself there quite a bit, too. I was rather outspoken I think some would say, but I felt it was my responsibility…. I really came to enjoy working on behalf of other people and trying to connect people with resources. I served three terms as the president of the Graduate Student Senate, which was in some ways terrifying but in other ways great. And once again I saw that I wanted to work with people and for people in some service capacity,” Kelly says.

But she thought she was going to grad school for a master in English when an adviser said she wouldn’t write letter of recommendation for that program “unless I would meet with Dr. Burnier” about the master in public administration program. “She said you’re a great student but I don’t think that’s where your heart is…. Eventually I did end up in the MPA program and I think it provided a really great foundation for my life,” says Kelly, who is now Executive Director of the Fairfield Medical Center Foundation.

‘Hey I Kind of Like this Business Thing’

“I came here to the university and wanted to do political science, thinking of law school and eventually running for office. I really enjoyed all of my political science coursework,” says Kyle Triplett ‘12, who earned a B.A. 2012 in Political Science from the College of Arts & Sciences at OHIO.

“I went clear through my senior year, took the LSATs. I actually got into Akron to go to law school and I had one of those moments when I stepped back and said, ‘Do I really want to do this?’

“And the answer was no. I didn’t want to go to law school, and I didn’t want to practice law. I was thinking to myself, ‘What was I just doing for four years?’ But one thing I would say about the political science degree is it’s really pretty multi-disciplinary.

“A lot of times you tell somebody I’m a political science major, and they say, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ Don’t let anybody pigeon hole you through your degree. You can really do a lot with your degree. That became really relevant to me these past few years when I was working on my MBA coursework. I actually felt very well-prepared for the MBA….I felt that I had very writing and communication skills…which helped with the MBA.”

How did Triplett get into business?

“When I was a junior heading into my senior year, that summer I actually had a business internship. I would highly recommend that for everybody in this room—seeking an internship while you’re here because as you go out into the professional working world a lot of people look for relevant work experience. And don’t necessarily pigeonhole yourself into an internship that matches identically with what you want to do in the future. Take that time now to experience and try some things that maybe you wouldn’t have thought you’d do otherwise,” he says.

“For me that was a business internship with Olympic Steel. I got to see a little of what business means. I spent time in the sales department, purchasing, quality, procurement, basically all of the departments to kind of get a taste for it. And it was good for me in the sense that ‘hey I kind of like this business thing, I could see myself doing this.’

“You really learn a lot about yourself and your likes and dislikes through an internship. I really encourage you to do as many as you can while you’re here at the university to get experience, network, and find what you like.

Triplett, now a regional sales manager at Olympic Steel, also encouraged students to “meet those people who are the movers and shakers within the organization. Who are some peers closer to your age? Who are some fellow Bobcats? Who are some of the higher ups within the company? Talk with them and get to know them, and if you’re really interested in the company let them know that,” he says.

“I was very fortunate in that I came back for my senior year (living in Bromley Hall), and I had a letter in my mail, and it was an offer for a fulltime job after I graduated my senior year, so that’s an awesome feeling.”

‘Carried those Connections with Me’

Rob Dorans ’09 took a non-traditional route to law school.

“I took some time off between graduating from OU and actually enrolling in the University of Toledo’s College of Law. I think that was actually a great thing for me to do,” he says.

“How I ended up in the place I am now is based upon the connections I made before I got to law school. When I was as OU, I was very involved politically locally, got to work on some campaigns, some paid and some not paid, and that really set me up for the opportunity to work at the Ohio General Assembly before I went to law school, which is a great place to learn about public policy, both from a policy perspective and from a political perspective.

“And when I did go to law school, I carried those connections with me.”

Dorans graduated at the height of recession and was one of only two graduating from his law school with a fulltime job already lined up.

“The reason I ended up in that spot was that when I was at OU, I wasn’t just going to class. I wasn’t just doing the bare minimum. In fact, I was taking the public affairs Internship with Dr. Burton every single time I possibly could. He probably got tired of me coming into his office to say, ‘Hey sign this paper again.’

“But because of those connections, I had the ability to work on a successful state house campaign, which then led to a role in the Ohio General Assembly, which then led, when I was actually in law school, for someone who I had worked for, the speaker pro tem to say, ‘Hey, we need somebody to go help out with this campaign. Dorn’s in Toledo now in law school, let’s go get him.’

“Two years later, his law firm is looking for someone to staff a clerkship position at the state building trades, and it’s ‘let’s just go get that guy.’ My career has sort of followed that path ever since.”

His advice to current students: “When you’re here, don’t just think that your education ends at the classroom door. Athens is a wonderful place not only to have an education, but to have life education. And then, two, if you are serious about graduate school, but you don’t quite know what it’s going to look like afterward, do a year or two in the workforce to figure it out or maybe make additional connections.… For me, taking that time off to go out and do some campaign work and work in the legislature was a huge, huge benefit for me moving forward with my career.”

The panelists were:

  • Rob Dorans, B.A. 2009 in Political Science; Legal Counsel at ACT Ohio, representing 134 affiliate unions and 14 regional building trades councils
  • Steve Ellis, B.A. 1982 in Political Science, minor in Business; Senior Director e-commerce Sales at Luxottica
  • Judge R. Marc Kantrowitz, B.A. 1972 in History, M.A. 1974 in Political Science; retired Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court
  • Tracy M. Kelly, B.A. 2009 in History, Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies, MPA 2013 in Public Administration; Executive Director of the Fairfield Medical Center Foundation
  • Justin R. McCaulley, B.A. 2001 in Political Science; President of McCaulley & Company LLC
  • Kyle Triplett, B.A. 2012 in Political Science; Regional Sales Manager at Olympic Steel

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