Managing a political message

The Hatchet’s first encounter with alumna Megan Whittemore was a blur.

She said hello while rushing by to prepare for the week’s “pen and pad” meeting in the house majority leader’s office. As reporters trickled into the office at the U.S. Capitol building to have their questions answered, Whittemore was busy on her BlackBerry, e-mailing and making calls.

When the meeting began at 2 p.m., Whittemore stood close behind House Majority Leader and alumnus Eric Cantor, R-Va., observing and taking notes while he answered questions regarding the “No Cost Jobs Plan” he unveiled in December 2009.

The hectic schedule is a common occurrence for Whittemore, deputy press secretary to one of the highest-ranking members in the House, and is something she trained for when she was a graduate student at GW last year.

Whittemore earned a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Political Management in May 2010, and graduated from the School of Media and Public Affairs summa cum laude with Phi Beta Kappa honors two years before that.

She began working in Cantor’s office in March before earning her master’s degree in May 2010, just as the 111th Congress “was debating the highly contested health care legislation,” she said.

Whittemore, 25, said she discovered her passion for politics and storytelling during her time at the University, which will prove invaluable as her duties expand on Capitol Hill. Her boss, Cantor, recently became house majority leader, putting him in greater demand for reporters looking to quote members of Congress.

“As deputy press secretary I have the opportunity to play a central role on the majority leader’s communications team, managing national and regional media coverage, coordinating strategic initiatives and meeting the demands of daily communications and press operations,” Whittemore said.

Whittemore said she was always passionate about media and as she pursued that interest, she became simultaneously interested in politics, which attracted her to GW.

Whittemore said her time at GW was beneficial to landing a prestigious job on the Hill.

“My GW experience helped prepare me to be a more effective communicator [by] collaborating with other students who share similar interests, focus and commitment,” Whittemore said.

Being regularly challenged by a faculty comprised of leaders in the field of communications and campaign management taught her methods for approaching campaigns, crisis management, political messaging and reaching targeted audiences, she said, all essential parts of her career in politics.

Political management professor Nancy Bocksor had Whittemore as a student, and said she possessed skills unique and advantageous to the world of Washington. Bocksor said Whittemore’s dual passions – politics and ballet – helped her stand out.

“As a student in my fundraising class at GWU’s Graduate School of Political Management, her final project focused on recruiting more young people as donors to the Washingon Ballet,” Bocksor said. “Her approach was fresh – she even proposed an event called ‘Beer and Ballet’ as a creative way to attract donors.”

Though she’s no longer in school, Whittemore said GW’s influence goes beyond the Foggy Bottom Campus – citing the numerous GW alumni who serve and work in Congress.

“GW has such a strong influence across the country,” Whittemore said of alumni.

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