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Shaping Policy and Navigating Politics

“Like most college graduates, I dreamed of becoming a lobbyist,” jokes Douglas Lathrop, PhD ’01. Jokes aside, his work as Vice President of the Office of Governmental Affairs for New York Life, has been rewarding and stimulating.

“I know what the mass media/Hollywood caricature of a lobbyist looks like,” he says. “And yes, there are some of them that live up to that image, right down to the Gucci shoes.  But most of us are worker bees who possess a certain skill set or policy background.  I view much of what I do today as an extension of my earlier work on the Hill -- providing information and needed advice to people who can't be experts in everything.”   

Lathrop’s journey to New York Life began after graduation from UMass with a PhD in Political Science. He moved to Washington DC hoping to work for Congress, but instead landed a job with a trade association that represented conservative state legislators. “I somehow convinced the executive director that I could be the new tax policy director despite the fact that I had no professional experience,” he recalls. From there, he moved into a position with Washington congresswoman Jennifer Dunn and then to one as Connecticut Representative Nancy Johnson’s Legislative Director.

Although his service as Johnson’s Legislative Director stands out as the best job he ever had, he eventually needed to move on. “The pressures of the Hill combined with a growing family drove me to seek opportunities in the private sector,” he says.  

There, he gained a new appreciation for all the hard work he put into his dissertation.  “Working on a dissertation is a solitary and humbling experience that instills in you a powerful sense of your limitations,” he says. “It also girds you for criticism and hones skills that you will use your entire career. For instance, the hours and hours I spent drafting, editing, and revising my dissertation improved my writing and gave me confidence.  .”

Reflecting on his public and private work, Lathrop offers a single piece of advice to students: “be judicious about who you work for.” He encourages students interested in a DC-career to “find a boss who inspires you, who challenges you, and most importantly who you respect.”

Indeed, having the “right” boss makes all the difference. Lathrop attributes part of his own success to those bosses who imparted valuable lessons and encouraged his intellectual curiosity. Then, of course, there’s also his professional launching-pad, UMass. “I know that I would not be where I am today without UMass,” he says. 

 

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  • Alumni News