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Collin Walsh, '08, and his wife, Amika

Congratulations to Collin Walsh, ’08, who was awarded a highly prestigious Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship for 2020. Designed to prepare outstanding young people for Foreign Service careers, the fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University. We recently caught up with Walsh, who had just completed a course at the Foreign Service Institute. Here’s what we learned.

The award: Each Pickering Fellow receives $75,000 to complete a master’s degree; two internships with the State Department (one in the U.S., the other overseas); and mentoring and other professional development.

A standout: Only 3.5 of applicants were successful with the program receiving 844 applications for 30 spots. “My emotions were a mix of elation and peacefulness, as if years of dedication realized their purpose in that instant,” says Walsh of receiving the acceptance letter.

At Southern: As a student-athlete majoring in political science, he served as a White House intern and vice-president of the Pre-Law Society. An NCAA All-American athlete, he was captain of the cross country, and indoor and outdoor track and field teams — and graduated magna cum laude. “Collin’s academic talent is unparalleled,” notes Patricia Olney, professor of political science.

His early career: Shortly after graduating Southern, Walsh enrolled at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he studied abroad in India. (He’s proficient in Bengali.) Building on a commitment to public service, he next became a police officer in Milford, Conn., and taught law courses at the Connecticut Police Academy. His tenure with the U.S. Department of State began with an appointment to the Foreign Service as a Diplomatic Security Special Agent.

Challenging times: “Three days after achieving my career dream of being appointed a Special Agent in the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service, I became suddenly and unexpectedly paralyzed with a disease I did not know I had,” says Walsh. The disease: a severe form of Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.)

Fighting spirit: Told he’d unlikely walk again, Walsh began extensive medical treatment in the U.S. and India. “I was aimless and hopeless until my wife [Amika] shook me back to reality and taught me what it meant to believe and to fight. And those two things we did — all day long, every day — until I was back on my feet,” says Walsh.

On Nov. 11, 2017, Walsh participated in the James Barber/Wilton Wright SCSU Alumni Track and Field Meet, completing the 55 meters as the Southern community cheered on.

Returning to campus: On Nov. 11, 2017, he participated in the James Barber/Wilton Wright SCSU Alumni Track and Field Meet, completing the 55 meters as the Southern community cheered on. Walsh now serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, where his work spans the fields of national security, intelligence, and counterterrorism.

What’s next: Supported by the Pickering Fellowship, he’s pursuing a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

On Southern:  He gives special thanks to Patricia Olney, professor of political science, and Jack Maloney, Southern’s former long-time cross country, indoor/outdoor track and field head coach.

“Professor Olney’s student-focused enthusiasm convinced me to pursue political science as a major and to dedicate my life to public service. From that point, there was no looking back,” says Walsh.

“Coach Maloney welcomed me into the SCSU athletic family and steadfastly supported both my athletic ambitions and personal development from my first practice. . . . I owe an immeasurable portion of my success to “Coach.”

On sharing his diagnosis: “I believe in the power of story. Anyone with a disability understands the impact of stigma, but I am here to change the conversation: the community of the disabled is powerful,” says Walsh.

Future plans: “It is difficult to imagine literally where I will be in five to ten years, because, by definition, I will be ‘worldwide available.’ However, I can say with certainty that I will be working hard every day in support of our foreign policy objectives,” says Walsh.

Colin Walsh, wedding
“With each step I take, however, I know that it will be better than the last, so I invite the struggle to come. That level of perseverance is attributable entirely to my wife, Amika, for her uncompromising faith and her unwavering support,” says Walsh. The couple is pictured during their wedding.

 

 

 

 

At a time when the U.S. is deeply divided politically and ideologically, Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, is committed to students — democrats and republicans.

The office of Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, houses numerous mementos.

Americans are divided on everything — except division. That’s the not-so-stunning conclusion of an NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll in which 80 percent of respondents described the U.S. as divided.

Helping to bridge this political and ideological rift, Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, is a unifying force on campus — serving as adviser to the College Republicans and the College Democrats.

“I never thought I had to be partisan,” says Wharton of his students-first approach. Wharton is a member of the Republican Party, but was raised with an acceptance of opposing viewpoints by parents, who are members of different political parties. “They actually agree on 80 to 90 percent of things. But they are sticking [with their parties], and it was never problematic or disrespectful,” says Wharton.

The College Democrats and College Republicans work well together. The two student organizations held on-campus viewing parties during the 2016 presidential election. (Inspired, in part, by Wharton’s dual advisory roles, the vibrant gatherings received significant attention from the media.) In 2018, 20-plus students — members of both parties — joined faculty at the gubernatorial debates at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven. More joint events are promised for the 2020 election.

When it comes to political action, Wharton describes himself as “a behind the scenes kind of guy,” drawn to planning fund raisers and networking. “My students would rather do the door knocking, the phone banking, the social media. They’d rather follow the research, get the data,” he says.

Adept at wearing multiple hats, Wharton is also the internship adviser for the department. Many students complete multiple internships, up to 15 credits, working in federal and state congressional offices, law firms, nonprofit organizations, city offices, think tanks, and more.

“Most are much better students because of it,” says Wharton, who finds their commitment inspiring and heartening. “Do you know how many students love to do campaign work? It boggles my mind,” he says.

Wharton was raised in West Hartford but was born in New York City — and his parents came from Boston and Chicago. “As a child, I grew attached to these cities we visited. I think that’s why I studied local politics,” says Wharton, shown participating in Southern’s 2019 undergraduate commencement exercises.

Following, Wharton shares more on his commitment to urban planning, politics, and students.

A born educator: “One could argue it’s in the DNA. Both sides of the family have been educators,” says Wharton. His parents met in the doctoral program at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. His grandmothers were teachers. Both grandfathers were lawyers; his paternal grandfather an ambassador as well. “There was always this interest in politics, law, and education,” he says.

A career change: Wharton left a position working with the New Jersey State Legislature to pursue a career in education. “The classroom drew me back in every time,” he says.

In the class: “I like to spark debate and discussion. . . . I want students to be intrigued, curious, and provoked.”

Always civic minded: Wharton serves on the City Planning Commission of New Haven.

Thinking local: “What I try to convey to [students] is that you can make a difference in your community at the local or state level. It takes them a while to get their heads around that. But when they recognize it, the potential is there,” says Wharton.

Why he choose Southern: “I was struck by the fact that it was a teaching university. . . . I liked the small classroom sizes at Southern. And I like the regional universities dynamic. They take teaching so seriously, which I think is critical. They do faculty development workshops, analyze teaching methods, and focus on pedagogy concerns.”

Four treasured office mementos:
1) campaign signs — “A great opener with students when discussing the ins and outs of campaign work,” he says.
2) a first-place banner from a National Collegiate Club Golf Association tournament (2017), signed by the participating students. Wharton also is adviser of Southern’s golf team, which competes in the Metro region.
3) several awards for exceptional work as an adviser
4) a “Distinguished Alumnus Award” from Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity (March 2019)

Research focus: Wharton and Theresa Marchant-Shapiro, associate professor of political science, are working with university librarians to accession the archival papers of several former New Haven mayors. The collection was established through the generosity of attorney Neil Thomas Proto, ’67, and is housed in Buley Library.

In the News: Wharton is a monthly state/local politics analyst on WNPR’s Where We Live and The Wheelhouse.

Southern Alumni Magazine cover, Fall 2019, featuring Peter Marra, '85

Read more stories in the Fall ’19 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.