AU alumni named to positions in the Biden administration

SPA alumna Shuwanza Goff was the first Black woman to serve as floor director in the House

AU alumni named to positions in the Biden administration
AU Alum and Press Secretary to the First Lady Michael LaRosa with First Lady Jill Biden.

Multiple American University alumni began their positions in the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris following the historic inauguration on Jan. 20.

Michael LaRosa, who earned a master’s in political science and government from the School of Public Affairs, serves as the press secretary to First Lady Jill Biden. Most recently, LaRosa worked as the chief spokesperson and traveling press secretary to Jill Biden during the 2020 campaign. 

LaRosa attended AU immediately after completing his undergraduate degree at Seton Hall University. LaRosa spent his days on Capitol Hill working full time as an executive assistant to former Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., and his nights taking graduate classes. 

“In my second year of graduate school, I took a class called Voting Behavior. It had a profound impact on how I processed why people vote and what factors they consider before making up their minds,” LaRosa said. “It developed my understanding of voters, how they reason, and the importance of the media and campaigns on voter attitudes which ultimately affect how they vote.”

LaRosa said his classes had a substantial impact on his career. He and his favorite professor, Masaki Hidaka, who taught The Presidency, are still in touch today. 

“He has the right combination of being responsive, responsible, generous, loyal and smart. And I think that's what you need in his role,” Hidaka said. “You have to believe in the person you work for, and so I know that he believes in Dr. Biden, and that is going to make him even better at his job.”

After receiving his master’s degree from SPA, LaRosa worked as a producer for “Hardball with Chris Matthews” for six years and then went on to work for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as deputy director for the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. 

Shuwanza Goff, who earned a master’s from SPA, is also familiar with working in the House. 

Goff serves as the White House deputy director of legislative affairs and liaison to the House. Goff spent most of the past 12 years working in various capacities for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. 

Goff broke racial barriers in 2019 as the first Black woman to serve as floor director. 

Goff’s work in the House has earned her the reputation of a highly experienced and talented individual who has become an expert on the legislative process, Hoyer said in a press release on Nov. 23. Pelosi also released a statement following Goff’s nomination. 

“Over twelve years of working for Leader Hoyer, Shuwanza has distinguished herself as effective and experienced and has earned the bipartisan respect of Members and staff across the aisle and across the Capitol,” Pelosi said.“In the White House, she will continue to be an effective force, as she coordinates and strengthens the work of the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to deliver For The People.”

Thomas Winslow, who earned a bachelor’s from the School of Communication, is Biden’s senior adviser to the deputy chief of staff. Winslow worked as the chief of staff to the campaign manager during Biden’s campaign.

Melanie Nakagawa, who earned a law degree from the Washington College of Law, is Biden’s senior director for climate and energy. Before joining the Biden administration, Nakagawa, who also earned a master’s from the School of International Service, worked for Princeville Global as the head of climate initiative. 

Prior to Princeville Global, she served as a strategic adviser for then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s Policy Planning Staff. 

Following Nakagawa’s appointment, Kerry congratulated her on Twitter.

“Thrilled to see Melanie Nakagawa joining the NSC on climate,” he tweeted “She's seen and done so much on this issue, from the Senate and to the State Department, and will be a terrific team member addressing the climate crisis.”,

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