Government Grads

April 19, 2009 by David D'Arcangelo '96, Ashley Boyd '08  
Filed under After College, Degrees at Work

The first in a series about graduates across the decades from highlighted degree programs. This year’s focus is the Government Department. A commitment to civic engagement connects all Government Department students, alumni, and faculty. We spoke with four graduates to see where their government degrees and dedication to public service have taken them over the years.

With his office situated just steps from the Massachusetts State House, Professor John Berg has an interesting perspective on the civic interaction that Suffolk shares with its Beacon Hill neighbor. “We try to encourage enthusiasm for public service and politics,” he says. As chairman of Suffolk University’s Government Department, he has seen decades of students progress through their studies and into a life of public service.


A passion for politics led Alayna Van Tassel BA’01 to the State House, where she interned while attending Suffolk and worked full time after graduating for State Representative David Linsky, State Senator Henri Rauschenbach, and State Senator Jim Marzilli. “The idea of getting involved and working to make a difference in the community was instilled in me at a young age. I pursued a career in public service because I am passionate about, and committed to, progressive social change. Whether it’s improving access to homecare services for seniors, working for women’s access to reproductive health services, or ensuring that marriage equality remains legal in Massachusetts, I know that the work I’m doing is going to impact someone’s life for the better.”


Arthur Bernard BA’80 recalls becoming a Senate page in 1977 and credits that experience with “really opening me up to a whole career of possibilities.” Now, as a senior adviser for Governor Deval Patrick, he has devoted his career to public service. Other prominent positions include serving as chief of staff for Senate President Robert Traviglini and vice chancellor for the University of Massachusetts Boston. He thanks his professors in the Government Department—John Berg, Judy Dushku and Judy Elmusa—for leaving a big impression upon him through their teaching. “Suffolk was the right place to be because it gave me a chance to grow,” he says, “and the Government Department let me feel as if I could do anything and was always there to connect me back to the school.”


After five years of manual labor directly out of high school, Bob Gibbons BS’78 followed his own path to Suffolk University. Professor John Berg recommended him for his first government job as a legislative aide to Thomas Brownell in 1979. He continued to work as vice president at a private lobbying practice, “a job that provided me with a new perspective on challenges facing the private sector,” he says. He currently works as a senior vice president at Massachusetts Hospital Association, overseeing state and federal relations for all hospitals in Massachusetts. His late entrance to Suffolk University and adaptation to a new career are obstacles he believes no one can be prepared for in life, but “at the end of every challenge, there lies an opportunity.”


As a government student in the early 60s, the Honorable Thomas Brownell BS’63, JD’66 never imagined becoming a judge. Working at Purity Supreme supermarket to pay his way through college, he immersed himself in the world of politics and government. First he became a lawyer, then a legislator and later a part-time professor at Suffolk University. Now in his current career as 1st Justice of Plymouth District Court, he is able to reflect on the importance of his education. “Continuing education is essential; people must never stop learning because the only constant in life is change.” Retirement lies in the future for Judge Brownell, yet he hopes to stay active with a community service job or more teaching. “My father always said, ‘If you help one person a day, then you have done a lot.’”

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