Walk into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., and there's a good chance Erin Hannigan '07 will be there to greet you. As the associate director of public engagement, the Illinois native is welcoming citizens from across the United States to the White House as part of President Barack Obama's Champions of Change series.
"The program highlights citizens from across the country who represent President Obama's vision of out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world by doing extraordinary things in their communities," she said.
Hannigan's journey to the White House has been extraordinary itself. While triple majoring in public administration, political science and history at Ambrose, she worked on several political campaigns before interning in the office of then-Senator Obama. That led to an organizing job on his presidential campaign, and eventually her current position.
"Politics has been an avenue for me to help make change in my community and in my country," she said.
Now her office serves at the "front door" to the White House. Hannigan said that includes bringing in individuals every week who tell their stories of leadership and are honored for their contributions. Her biggest challenge, though, has little to do with her high-profile work or her well-known boss.
"Since graduating, I've been pretty blessed to have incredible jobs that have taken me across the country and afforded me the opportunity to work for President Obama, but I admit it is challenging at times to be so far from my family and friends back home in the Midwest," she said.
Still, Hannigan has met a wide spectrum of new people from diverse backgrounds, "which I think has been one of the best parts of the whole experience." What she has learned from those people, she said, will stay with her throughout her personal and professional life, much like the education she received at Ambrose.
"St. Ambrose prepared me to be more independent. Despite the close attention by the Ambrose faculty and staff, I was always given the freedom to create my own path," she said.
That's part of the advice she would give to current students.
"Get involved," she said. "It's important for students to be involved in some fashion, whether it's on campus or in their community. And I would strongly recommend that they consider working in public service after graduating."
As for her future, Hannigan admits that it will be hard to top working for the President of the United States. But she has no plans of slowing down.
"I hope to stay engaged in government and politics," she said. "Regardless of what career path I take, I want to be actively involved in my government and my community."