Painting of a cardinal in front of the capitol and Jefferson memorial

By Steve Neumann
CatholicU, Fall 2022

As the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States, Catholic University has been dedicated to advancing the dialogue between faith and reason for over 135 years. It recognizes that its distinctive character, and the success of its mission, ultimately depends on both the intellectual and moral qualities of its graduates. Catholic University alumni are professionally competent, and also prepared to contribute to the moral fabric of any organization or community they belong to.

The University’s presence in the nation’s capital makes it ideally situated to produce students who are not only challenged in the classroom but are able to apply what they learn through internships, campus activities, and general immersion in the political and cultural life of Washington, D.C.

While many Cardinals who have been steeped in this setting have gone on to establish themselves with professional competence and principled character throughout the nation, a significant contingent have dedicated themselves to public service in and around the nation’s capital.

Hannah Chauvin in front of the US Capitol

Hannah Chauvin, M.A. 2017

Cardinals Fledged

One of those alumni is Hannah Chauvin, M.A. 2017, a professional staff member on the Senate Appropriations Committee since 2019. Chauvin began her career in the Capitol as an intern in the Office of Senator Patrick Leahy from her home state of Vermont in 2016.

“I work for the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies subcommittee, and I love it,” Chauvin said. “It’s very bipartisan, because I think everyone agrees that farmers are important — with no farms, there’s no food. And that is kind of a haven in a world that is becoming increasingly politicized.”

Chauvin has an affinity for the agriculture committee because she grew up surrounded by small family farms in rural Vermont. And, raised Catholic, Chauvin started attending Catholic schools in fourth grade.

“When it came to Catholic high school, it was the range of courses I would have access to starting in freshman year, including religion and philosophy, that appealed to me,” Chauvin said. “It really felt like a very well-rounded approach."

Chauvin was introduced to Catholic University while completing her undergraduate degree in American government and politics at Stonehill College. While there, the chair of the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Peter Ubertaccio, B.A. 1994, worked with politics professor John White at Catholic University to create a program that allowed seniors at Stonehill to spend the fall of their senior year on the Stonehill campus while completing their master’s at Catholic University during the spring semester. 

In January of 2016, Chauvin did just that: she moved to Washington, D.C., began her master’s in international and public affairs at Catholic University, and started interning full-time in Senator Leahy’s office.

“Catholic jumpstarted my career, and I wouldn’t be in D.C. without it,” Chauvin said. “I loved it for the same reasons I had chosen Catholic high school, which was that it’s rooted in both faith and reason, and walking the line between those two in public service.”

Jacqui Kappler inside the US Capitol

Jacqui Kappler, J.D. 2012

Another alumna walking that line in the Capitol is Jacqui Kappler, J.D. 2012, oversight counsel on the House Judiciary Committee. Kappler, who received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Albright College in 2008, began her career on the Hill as deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia in 2018 before moving to the House Judiciary Committee in 2021. 

“When you’re working for a personal office, it’s very member-driven,” Kappler said. “What does the member want and how do we get that done for them? But when you’re working for a committee, there’s also the question of how to get the best outcome for society in general.”

One of the courses that had a particularly meaningful impact on Kappler while completing her J.D. at the Columbus School of Law was Social Justice and the Law, taught by law professor Robert Destro.

“I admit being skeptical, because the whole point of the law is not to be influenced by religion — it’s supposed to exist on its own,” Kappler said. “Instead, I thought it was fascinating because, though I remember disagreeing with the professor on the application, I really appreciated the spirit of the issue, because the law doesn’t actually exist in a sterile bubble.” 

Additionally, Kappler says her time at Catholic University in general helped her think about how the law and the people are intertwined at all times.

“We were encouraged to think about the law’s effect on people, and this social justice element was an undercurrent to my entire experience at Catholic,” Kappler added. “And I think that has made me not just a better lawyer, but a more thoughtful lawyer, especially as I think about policy.”

Mary Kate Cunningham in downtown D.C.

Mary Kate Cunningham, B.A. 2009

Mary Kate Cunningham, B.A. 2009, is another alumna with an affinity for public service, and how policy affects both individuals and society.

As senior vice president of public policy for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Cunningham leads the government relations team as the chief advocate for ASAE’s 45,000 members before Congress and other relevant policy stakeholders.

“The lessons I learned about equity and justice at Catholic really helped motivate me in my advocacy life,” Cunningham said. 

Cunningham comes by her moral commitments honestly. Both her parents were involved in public service, with her mother running the Women’s and Children’s Division of the Arizona Department of Health Services, and her father working as an environmental lawyer and federal prosecutor. Cunningham felt she was almost destined to pursue a career in public service, and she knew Catholic University would provide a great foundation.

In addition to its emphasis on service, another reason Cunningham chose Catholic University is its proximity to the Hill, because it enabled her to intern there starting in her sophomore year.

“That’s the only reason I was able to graduate from Catholic on a Saturday and start a full-time job on that Monday,” Cunningham said. “Those internships were the most important thing in my career.”

When Cunningham left the Hill, she went to work for a think tank, but soon realized that kind of work wasn’t for her. 

“I really wanted to work with people and try to get legislation passed, so I moved over to ASAE,” she said. “I was actually hired by another Catholic alum, Robert Hay, B.A. 2004, M.A. 2005, and that was 10 years ago now.”

The two biggest policy issues Cunningham is working on right now at ASAE are centered on workforce development and the need for pandemic risk insurance. 

“For workforce development, associations are the largest provider of post-secondary education for all areas of the workforce,” Cunningham said. “We have one bill to expand 529 savings accounts to enable them to be used for certifications — and that’s a bipartisan bill that we’re really hoping to get passed soon.”

For pandemic risk insurance, Cunningham and ASAE are looking to create a program modeled after the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program that’s backed by the federal government for claims and that can be deployed in the next pandemic. 

“I have the best job in D.C.,” Cunningham said. “I love advocating for associations, because they’re unique organizations that can serve a specific need, and they’re uniquely positioned to drive change.”

Thaddeaus Green

Thaddeaus Green, M.A. 2016

Though Thaddeaus Green, M.A. 2016, doesn’t currently work on Capitol Hill, he’s certainly no stranger to it. Now the development officer for the Housing Authority of Prince George’s County, previously he worked as the Walter Reed Development Manager for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Green got his start in government work through a bit of serendipity. When he finished his undergraduate degree at Lamar University in 2011, he taught journalism for a year, but didn’t really like being in a classroom, even though he liked working with students. But when he came to Washington, D.C., from Texas in 2012 to visit a friend of his from high school, Caitlin McMullen, B.A. 2011, everything fell into place.

“I came to Catholic in 2012 and applied for an admissions counselor job,” Green said. “From there, I worked my way up to senior counselor and then to associate dean of undergraduate admissions.”

Green is proud of his work at Catholic University during that time. In 2015, his office took in the largest class that the University had seen since 2010, a significant accomplishment. 

Also during that time, Green happened to audit a class called Politics and Planning, taught by School of Architecture and Planning professor Howard Ways.

“That was the class that made me decide that I wanted to be a planner,” Green said. “It was a really unique opportunity because while I was learning about creating equitable, walkable communities in the classroom, I was also seeing the outcomes while traveling and recruiting for the University.”

That experience inspired Green to get his Master of City and Regional Planning, which he completed in 2016. In another instance of serendipity, Green was introduced to Ryan Hand, M.C.R.P. 2010, another Catholic University alumnus, who was a community planner in the District of Columbia Office of Planning at the time.

Hand convinced Green to apply for the Capital City Fellows Program, a mayoral initiative to attract recent graduates of master’s degree programs in public administration, public policy, urban planning, and related fields to work for the city of Washington, D.C. The fellowship was an 18-month rotation program between three different District agencies for six months each. 

Green’s first rotation was with the Department of Transportation.

“I loved it,” Green said. “My second rotation was in the Department of General Services; and in both of those roles, I was still in the Office of the Director, which was really cool to be at a high level so young.”

After his stint in the Department of General Services, Green went on to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

“I would not have gotten into the Mayoral fellowship program had it not been for my attending Catholic,” Green said, “and the fact that my professors were very adamant about us understanding the city in which we were learning.”

As important as those experiences were for Green, it was the University’s Politics and Planning class that inspired him the most, because it represented the intersection of the things he was passionate about and the things that he was actually good at. 

“You have this unique set of skills,” Green said. “You can interpret data, you can read a map, you can understand designs, but can you make an informed decision about what’s going to do the least amount of harm and the most good?” 

“That’s what drives me,” Green said. “Even when I’m not necessarily the decision maker on things, I can inform the decision makers to keep in mind what’s going to do the least amount of harm and the most amount of good.”

John Falcicchio

John Falcicchio, B.A. 2001

During his Capital City Fellowship, Green met and worked with Catholic University alumnus John Falcicchio, B.A. 2001, the deputy mayor for planning and development in the Executive Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser in Washington, D.C. 

Falcicchio has been drawn to politics ever since his first class trip to D.C. from his hometown of Jersey City, N.J. It also helped that, growing up, his father was politically active, always involved with various local political campaigns. Falcicchio says he and his brothers would frequently knock on doors and do literature drops with their father. 

“I guess you could also say I’m part of the ‘West Wing’ generation — I saw it on TV and was swept away by it,” Falcicchio said. “And I was always in Catholic school, where service is a big component of what we do. I went to a Jesuit high school in Jersey City where we were taught to be ‘men for others.’” 

During his time at Catholic University, Falcicchio took advantage of its location in the nation’s capital to do an internship every semester, even as just a volunteer. He worked in a congressperson’s office, a polling firm, a think tank, and a lobbying group.

“I used my time at Catholic to get an understanding of the different aspects of politics and government,” Falcicchio said. “I always went to the Career Center to look through what was available, and I know at least two of those internships were because a Catholic student had done it before me and said, ‘Hey, you should give this a shot.’”

Falcicchio says he loves his job in the mayor’s office because of his fascination with urban politics, thanks in part to growing up a stone’s throw from Manhattan. Falcicchio also credits politics professor John Kromkowski for introducing him to Catholic thinkers like Geno Baroni, who is known for creating mixed-use communities that are now a model for how Falcicchio’s department seeks to deliver affordable housing, as well as vibrant neighborhoods in the District.

“His courses really did shape where I took my career,” Falcicchio said. “I think it drew me to local urban politics because you can see the impact you’re making. It is an opportunity to help people in real ways and actually see those outcomes.”

Because of his seminal experiences at Catholic University, Falcicchio feels it’s important to stay connected, whether that means coming back to speak to students in classrooms,
or serving as a go-between when Mayor Bowser met with former President Garvey on various issues.

Additionally, Falcicchio says that while universities are major employers in the District, they’re also a pipeline of young people for employers in the District — a boon during extreme times like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We feel like people come to Washington to change the world for the better, and Catholic University really helps us keep the economy going,” Falcicchio said.