Our Graduates Have ‘Gone Forth to Serve’
From Portsmouth, NH, to Washington, Via Keene State: Dave Wenhold '90, Co-founder and President, Miller/Wenhold Capitol StrategiesDave Wenhold can point to a few pivotal events that led him to a successful career as a Washington DC lobbyist. First, he caught the political bug at the age of 6 when he watched School House Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill” video on TV. “No kidding,” he says. When it came to making a decision about colleges, he opted for Keene State over the others, including American University in DC, that had admitted him. “I grew up in New Hampshire, so going to Washington right out of the gate wouldn’t have fit my learning style,” he says. He specifically remembers one class that regularly featured Chinese food or pizza and 20 students debating constitutional law – the kind of experience that can’t be duplicated at a big university. Then, in his junior year, KSC helped him line up an internship with Senator Warren Rudman. “That really got me completely hooked on politics and the ethical side of lobbying,” he says.
Three years after graduation, he returned to campus for a reunion, and one of his former political science professors asked him, “What are you doing hanging around local politics? Go to Washington and you’ll be a success.” Within six months he was in the nation’s capital, where he bartended until landing a job at a grass-roots lobbying firm. That led to work as the top lobbyist for a professional association, after which he founded his own firm. Wenhold has served as president of the American League of Lobbyists, a role in which he won a high profile fight with the Obama Administration on a First Amendment issue regarding the right to petition the government. He’s been honored to help Keene State with some of its legislative initiatives, and he’s been granted the President’s Call to Service Award for his work founding an annual clothing drive to supply business attire to people trying to re-enter the workforce.
His advice to political science students? “Take every opportunity that comes along. I recommend taking advantage of all the placement resources, internships, anything you can do to get involved, because when you get down to Washington, it really is a very competitive atmosphere down here. It’s a lot of type A personalities all vying to be the best at what they do.” Wenhold adds that he’s very happy to talk with any Keene State students who are interested in the field of politics.
‘I Want to Teach at a Place Like Keene State’: Christina Ladam ’09, PhD Candidate, University of Colorado, BoulderWhen Christina Ladam ’09 was a senior at Keene State, the Political Science Department hosted Tamara Draut, a speaker from Demos, a New York City public policy nonprofit that works to reduce political and economic inequality. “I went up to her and said, ‘I’d like to do what you do,’” Ladam remembers. That led her to a post-graduation internship at Demos, which she followed up with a master’s of public administration program at the University of New Hampshire. After she earned her MPA, she returned to Demos for a stint as executive assistant, but knew she really wanted to be doing policy research. Now, she’s starting a PhD program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where her focus is civic engagement. “I want to teach at a place like Keene State,” she says, “a small liberal arts school.”
Ladam, who grew up in Keene, transferred to Keene State after a year and a half at the University of South Carolina. She didn’t plan on majoring in political science, but she took an intro course because a friend was enrolled and then kept coming back for more. “The classes were what I loved about it,” she says. “They were small, and the professors were really engaging, and were there outside of class. I developed strong relationships with them.” The summer before her senior year, she worked with the Keene Planning Commission, helping to get the community involved in visioning for the future. “It was my first experience in trying to do that kind of work,” she says, “and it’s what I’ve been focused on since.”
The thing that made the biggest impression on her in her political science studies? “The respectful conversations,” she says. “I never felt disrespected or felt that any other students felt disrespected for their views, because doing political science can be really personal. People tend to get heated in political conversations. But the professors were really so perfect at making sure everyone had a chance to share their views in a way that they felt comfortable. That’s very valuable, and it’s not something that you get everywhere. I’ve been to a lot of schools, and the professors at Keene State stand out.”