Feature Story

From Campus to the Campaign Trail

Master of Public Administration student Malcolm Yates speaking with an individual
Malcolm Yates, director of engagement and constituent outreach for Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, is pursuing a master of public administration at Widener.

These days, Malcolm Yates is focused on making sure that every resident of the Fifth Congressional District will be counted. 

Spearheading the 2020 census for the district is no easy task, but an important one as it determines federal funding allocations.

“This is a big priority for me,” said Yates. “We need to ensure a complete count.”

The census work is just one of his many responsibilities as director of engagement and constituent outreach for Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, who represents all of Delaware County.

“This is about helping people,” said Yates. “It doesn’t matter if they’re white, black, Democrat, or Republican. You see instantly what you do can affect the people around you.”

Yates has long been involved in politics, but mostly in a volunteer capacity. When he decided to make it a fulltime career, he turned to Widener’s master of public administration program to gain a better understanding of the field from an academic and historical perspective. 

“Widener has given me a good background and foundation of what to expect, the history, current events, how to proceed moving forward,” said Yates ’20, who brings his field experience into classroom discussions.

Yates is one of numerous Widener students and alumni who work in government and politics, at either the local, state, or federal levels. Some work behind the scenes; others have sought and achieved elected office themselves. 

Their roles and political persuasions vary, but all attribute their success to a strong academic foundation, leadership opportunities, faculty mentorship, and connections forged on campus.

Behind the Scenes of WhiteHouse.gov

Raised inside the Beltway, David Almacy ’92 felt it “was my calling to work in public service to try and make a difference in the world.” At Widener, the management major gained the confidence and experiences to make it happen.

It was the small-class settings, accessible professors, ability to get involved in activities, including student government, WDNR radio station, The Dome newspaper, theater that brought me out of my shell, and serving as president of my fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. Had I not gone to Widener, I might not be the person I am today. — David Almacy '92

And that person is a former White House staffer. From 2005 to 2007, Almacy served as White House internet and e-communications director in the George W. Bush Administration. He ran WhiteHouse.gov, determining which content appeared on the site. 

Almacy also served as spokesman for web-based reporters and bloggers, developed videos, and worked with cabinet members on online features. 

Though no longer working on Pennsylvania Avenue, Almacy keeps a foot in the political realm. His communications firm assists with both American and international clients, and he worked as an advisor for Ohio Gov. John Kasich's 2016 presidential campaign. 

Almacy also serves on Widener’s Communication Studies Advisory Board, and returns to campus to speak with students and offer advice, including to those interested in politics. “The future of our country depends on recruiting good people who want to serve,” he said.

A Family Business

Hunter Tower ’14 has deep political roots. 

His family has been involved in the business for 140 years. An ancestor served as an ambassador in the William McKinley Administration, his cousin was a Texas senator, and his father helped run state and federal campaigns.

As a teen, Tower worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and was a student representative to the Republican National Convention.

So it came as no surprise that Tower would study political science at Widener, where professors, including Gordon Henderson and Wesley Leckrone, taught him the fundamentals of thought, critical thinking, and constitutional law. 

“And all of our opinions were respected,” said Tower. “I didn’t have to change my stance, but it got me thinking about the other side.”

Today, Tower serves as executive director of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County, helping campaigns with fundraising, communications, and more. And he’s continuing the family tradition by running for supervisor in Kennett Township, Chester County.

Tower credits extracurricular activities at Widener with helping to jumpstart his career. He served as president of his fraternity, Theta Chi, and joined the College Republicans. It was a connection within the latter organization that led to his first job as a field director for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.

The Power of Connections

Steve Barron ’99 can pinpoint the exact moment his political career began, and it was thanks to a Widener connection. 

The government and politics major landed an internship with then-Senator Joe Biden following a class visit to Biden’s Washington, D.C. office, and a recommendation from a professor. 

Barron worked on Biden’s reelection campaign and other races. After graduation, he went on to earn his juris doctorate from Widener Delaware Law School, and in 2007, was elected controller of Northampton County, Pennsylvania.  

Today, Barron serves as Northampton’s director of fiscal affairs, responsible for the county’s $442 million budget. 

“I love being a public servant,” he said. “People come in and need government intervention, sometimes they’re at the lowest point in their life. If I can give them the services they need, it’s a great feeling.”

Through his involvement in his fraternity, student government, and other activities at Widener, Barron learned to be a leader.

“I was always a follower, not a leader,” he recalled. “Then I started to be a leader and I realized people respect me.”

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