Staying Connected


by Siân White

Walsh ALR Lead image

SUMMARY: Maureen Walsh (‘91, History and Art History), an environmental lobbyist with SMART Group Policy and President of the CAL Alumni Board (for a second term), speaks to her career success and how she stays engaged as an alum.

Maureen Walsh (‘91, History and Art History), an environmental lobbyist with SMART Policy Group and President of the CAL Alumni Board (for a second term), offers succinct advice for JMU students preparing for their professional lives: “Be nimble. Fail fast and pivot.” Current students should take note: Walsh has been where they are now and has found remarkable professional success.  

Walsh reflects fondly on her academic and extracurricular experiences at JMU. As “a liberal arts person,” she studied widely in the humanities and social sciences disciplines, following interests in archaeology, politics, and media to classes in anthropology, economics and communications. While working at WMRA, she helped create WXJM, JMU’s student-run radio station. She chose majors in History and Art History and a minor in Italian because of particularly inspiring faculty and because the storytelling and deep research aspects excited her. Following her talents and interests earned her good grades and equipped her with skills — in critical thinking, persuasion, writing, reading and research — to pursue a wide range of career paths.  

“The idea that there’s a clear connection between particular majors and monetary outcomes is a fallacy,” Walsh says. 

The excitement and skills she developed at JMU gave her “lots of levers” in professional life. Though she graduated into a difficult economic market, by fall she was interning with a Member of Congress from Virginia. Walsh has spent her career in government and government relations in D.C., apart from a few years working in Colorado for political campaigns and a technology company, and a pause to pursue her law degree at Georgetown, primarily for credentialing purposes. 

She uses the skills she gained at JMU every day. Lobbying Congress on behalf of a client requires persuasive writing and argumentation supported by substantial evidence. Hard work is essential; in interns, Walsh values creativity and the willingness to do what needs to be done. Throughout her career, she has worked for causes she values, serving clients in education, healthcare and the environment, including sustainability, green tech, energy transition and climate technology. “It has been important to be able to work toward the good,” Walsh says, “to do something I believe in.” 

Staying connected to JMU is another way that Walsh lives her values. During her first term as alumni board President in 2012, she lobbied JMU to develop a mechanism for donating online and helped establish the Liberal Arts Legacy Fund — which supports faculty research and creative productivity — to honor the valuable faculty-student engagement she experienced as an undergraduate. This past year, Walsh helped create the Chris Arndt Society, a means for past board members to stay connected, named for the former Associate Dean and history professor who helped found the original board. When the Society launches in March, Arndt, Walsh and current and former board members will gather on JMU’s campus to celebrate what they started and to look forward to what’s next. 

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Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Last Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2024

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