Samantha Gilbert’s fascination with politics began at a young age. “During my first trip to Disney World at 8 years old, I remember crying my eyes out because the Hall of Presidents was closed,” Samantha said with a laugh. Her interest grew as she matured into adulthood. Samantha knew she officially caught the bug when she moved across the country – from New York to Montana – to work on a congressional campaign just four short days after her freshman year of college.
She’s proud to have gotten involved in public service in many forms: at nonprofits and on campaigns, from political consulting to Capitol Hill, which she believes gives her a unique perspective. Currently, the Barnard College alum is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the George Washington University.
Samantha was recently promoted to the position of Junior Associate at Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, a political opinion research firm. She analyzes phone bank data to gauge the public’s always-moving opinions on issues important to her clients. Armed with this skill set and her graduate degree, Samantha’s long-term goal is to advocate on behalf of vulnerable food insecure populations. “I hope to serve as admirably for the general public’s welfare as Bryce Harlow served,” Samantha said.
Meredith White never imagined she would be fundraising for a living. The Missouri native attended the University of Delaware as an English major, and switched after taking her first Political Science course. “My parents were always engaged in local politics – they voted, had yard signs, knew the mayor, and discussed politics at home, yet that class opened my eyes to politics as a career possibility,” Meredith said.
Throughout her undergraduate years she interned on political campaigns around the country, and after graduation Meredith took a fellowship in D.C., and then a full time job as Staff Assistant for Senator Claire McCaskill. During her time in McCaskill’s office, she was encouraged to pursue fundraising, and Meredith moved on to Flanagan Fulkerson & Company where she learned the ropes of candidate and political action campaign (PAC) fundraising. She later worked lobbying and fundraising for Smith Free Group, and now works as a Political Affairs Director at UBS. Meredith has hit her stride – since joining UBS the company’s PAC receipts have increased by 40%.
Meredith is pursuing an Executive MBA at Georgetown University. “Business and policy have a natural and often untapped connection. In keeping with the legacy of Mr. Bryce Harlow, getting an MBA will help me bridge the gap,” Meredith said, “I hope to live up to his standards for the lobbying profession.”
Illinois native Beth Ann Saracco credits her mother with giving her a passion for faith-based international advocacy. “Growing up, my mother instilled in me a strong sense of service,” Beth Ann said. This strengthened throughout the years, and as an undergraduate at the University of Dayton she majored in political science and international relations. After graduation, Beth worked for Tennessee Representative John Tanner then secured a position with Arizona Representative Ed Pastor as his foreign relations and appropriations Legislative Assistant.
After four years on the Hill, Beth Ann took a job at Bread for the World working on international food security issues, and today she serves as a Policy Advisor with World Vision. Her most fulfilling achievement to date was her work helping to pass the Global Food Security Act. “The Act was so personal for me. Through my work travels I’ve seen firsthand how the law impacts vulnerable communities around the world,” Beth Ann stated.
Beth Ann is pursuing an MBA from Georgetown University because she sees public and private partnerships as a tool to solving problems like poverty and hunger. She looks to Bryce Harlow’s career as a source of inspiration. “Mr. Harlow knew how to speak to different audiences, but he was also authentic, and remained true to his mission and values. I hope to bring that level of integrity to my professional and academic pursuits,” Beth Ann said.
For Erika Briceno, foreign policy was an integral part of her life from a young age. “I learned from my family that it was important to be in engaged — as a citizen of this country and of the globe,” Erika said, a sentiment that led her to start her high school’s first Model United Nations club. As an undergraduate at Southern Methodist University, Erika majored in International Relations and Political Science.
An internship with Edelman opened the path toward combining communications and foreign policy, and after working in Edelman’s DC office for a time, Erika came full circle by securing a position at the United Nations Foundation as a Communications and Digital Manager. “This position is a great opportunity to meld my long term goal with my interests in advocacy and communications,” Erika said. Now pursuing a Master’s degree in Political Management from the George Washington University, Erika sees an opportunity to continue Bryce Harlow’s legacy through her work at the United Nations Foundation. “In today’s political environment, I am committed to bridging political divides through messaging, in the spirit of Bryce Harlow and his career,” Erika said.
Jessica Brady toured the U.S. Capitol and fell in love with Washington at an early age, while accompanying her father on work trips from North Dakota. Jessica carried this interest forward as an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, serving as an intern at the Stimson Center and with U.S. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. The latter turned into a position on Nelson’s staff, and Jessica eventually served as a Deputy Legislative Assistant focused on foreign policy. She then worked at the State Department supporting the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Combining her commitment to advocacy and passion for international development, Jessica currently works at Save the Children where she sees the impact of policy firsthand. “International Affairs makes up just one percent of the federal budget, and it’s clear this funding makes a huge difference in the lives of people across the world,” Jessica said. As she pursues a Master of Public Policy at George Washington University, Jessica looks to Mr. Bryce Harlow as an exemplar in the profession of advocacy. “Mr. Harlow earned the admiration of his colleagues because he was an honest broker and valuable source of information. The Fellowship and the legacy of Bryce Harlow provide me with a clear model, helping me be a better, more effective global advocate,” Jessica said.
The Bryce Harlow Foundation recently announced Senator Lamar Alexander and The Honorable Dave McCurdy as the honorees for its upcoming Annual Awards Dinner to be held on April 25th. BHF 2017 Award Winners Announced
Nick DeSarno caught the political bug when he was 8 years old, reading about politics in the newspaper as part of his third grade journalism club. Fast forward a few decades and Nick, a graduate of the University of Mary Washington, already has experience with every level of government – working for his mayor, state assemblyman and senator, and Congressman, Tim Johnson.
Following Congressman Johnson’s retirement, Nick secured a position with the American Dental Association (ADA), where he directed the association’s digital advocacy campaigns to increase members’ political engagement. “I love being able to distill complex issues so people outside of the beltway are able to understand why they should care about this issue,” Nick said. He carried these skills to the Public Affairs Council where he leads the intersection of digital communications and advocacy. Nick is pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree from George Mason University and is grateful to be a part of the Foundation’s fellowship program. “Bryce Harlow demonstrated the importance of ethical corporate political involvement, and I believe it is my responsibility to uphold those ideals,” Nick said.
At 30 years old, Washington, D.C. native Christian Ficara is already living his dream: he’s run a successful political campaign, for Brian Hopkins’ 2nd alderman seat in Chicago. This is exactly where Christian wanted to be after graduating from Ohio State with a degree in International Relations. “I was nearing graduation and had to decide if I wanted to go back home or cut my teeth on local Chicago politics,” Christian recalled. His first stints in Chicago were with a political consulting firm, and working on several Illinois state campaigns. He met Brian Hopkins during a fund-raiser and eventually agreed to run his campaign for alderman. Christian now serves as the Alderman’s Director of Public Affairs. “I love government and politics, and while my work in Chicago has put me in the intense trenches of local politics, I see myself transitioning to the federal level and advancing progressive issues,” Christian said. He is pursuing a graduate degree in Public Affairs and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University through an online and interactive program. “This degree will make me a better advocate and learn skills critically important to be an effective lobbyist,” Christian said. “Bryce Harlow set an ethical standard to guide our profession. I am committed to meeting that standard by working with the utmost integrity and honesty,”
At its recent board meeting, the Bryce Harlow Foundation announced the appointment of six new board members and new elected officers. Join us in welcoming them and read all about it here: 2017 BHF new officers and board
The Bryce Harlow Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2017-18 Bryce Harlow Fellowship, a prestigious award including scholarship funds and mentoring. We encourage you to please help spread the word, or to apply if you are working full time, going to graduate school part time and are interested in the field of lobbying and government advocacy. For complete information, including a link to the on-line application, please visit our website.