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Alumni Connections

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Andrew Cutillo 2013

Title: Former White House Staffer

What prompted you to pursue your current field?

I cut my teeth on politics and community-building as a high school intern for the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama in my hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Something clicked, and I knew I wanted to pursue a public interest career. Through a slew of internships and classes during my time at UR, I was able to narrow my interests to community and economic development (particular shout out to Professor Gerald Gamm!). 

How did the University of Rochester prepare you for your occupation?

Rochester's culture especially encourages creative leadership opportunities. Lessons learned from leading clubs, assistant teaching, and collaborating with the administration have helped shape how I've led projects, managed interns, and interacted with coworkers. Intellectually, the flexible curriculum allowed me to develop a wide set of skills, which I've called upon in various combinations from job to job. For example, thanks to study abroad and language classes (shout out to Professor Beth Jorgensen!), I was able to read letters in Spanish while working in the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. Spanish wasn't my primary focus, but it complemented my background in political science and made me a multifaceted staffer.

Do you have any specific advice for current Rochester students?

If there's one habit that's helped me the most, it's this: before every new period in my life (a new semester, a new internship, a new job), I write down exactly what I want out of that experience--and of equal importance, what I don't want. There are too many ways to find value in any endeavor, so I make a point to choose what I focus on and what I'm willing to leave out. Do I want to get to know my fellow interns well, or spend more time seeking out a mentor? Do I want to spend long hours at that new job to prove myself, or do I want to explore the new city I've just moved to? I'll remain open to changing course throughout, but recognizing the trade-offs upfront has helped me stay focused on why I chose that experience in the first place.