Putting Ideals into Action
A few years ago, Neil Tambe (A.B. ’09) was going to business school and working as a consultant when he attended an event his friend was throwing in Detroit. Another LSA alum, Mike Duggan (A.B. ’80), was there, seeking support for his bid for mayor. Over the course of the evening, as Duggan spoke and interacted with partygoers, Tambe was struck by how eloquently the future mayor spoke of the city’s challenges—and of his concrete plans to help it move forward.
Tambe was so excited that later that summer, when he found himself staring down another stint in the private sector, he decided to take a risk.
“I figured, why not spend my summer doing the coolest thing I could think of?” he says. “That led me to an internship in the mayor’s office.”
He loved his work and decided to stay on after the internship ended, part-time at first as he finished up his M.B.A., and then full-time after graduation as the city’s director of transformational projects. Three years later, Tambe’s title is about to change (he’s not yet sure what it will be), but his focus hasn’t: improving public safety.
Tambe works with the Detroit Police Department, using data and technology to help make the city safer. One project, Ceasefire Detroit, connects gang members on parole or probation with community members, mentors, and social workers who help them transition back into society and, hopefully, improve their lives. He’s also working to improve public safety software used by the city’s firemen, police, and other emergency workers to better coordinate and allocate resources. These are disparate responsibilities, but mastering how to handle competing interests was something he learned while getting his degree in Organizational Studies.
Tambe has always cared about the city and his community, but since he began his current job, his admiration for both has grown even more.
“I’ve come to learn that communities of thoughtful people, working together to make their neighborhoods better—even on things like keeping the lawns mowed or working on a block club project—is more impactful than I could have ever imagined,” says Tambe.
Tambe also enjoys being able to see the changes he’s working for every day with his own eyes.
“Before working for the city government, I used to spend much more time worried about national or international issues—and don’t get me wrong, those issues have an important role in our society,” he says. “Now, though, I get especially inspired and fired up about local issues that shape the vast majority of our day-to-day lives.”
To the Letter
Asra Najam (A.B. ’13) was just one year out of college when she got an internship that changed her life—working alongside Vice President Joe Biden’s speechwriters. Six months after that gig ended, she was hired by the White House as a member of Barack Obama’s Office of Presidential Correspondence, where she used her writing skills to help facilitate a dialogue between the president and the public.
“My team helped the president respond to the incoming mail he received,” says Najam. “My role in particular was to work on messages he sent to organizations, highlighting how their work is important to the nation as a whole.”
Najam was born in Pakistan and immigrated with her family to the United States as a young child. She cherished her role connecting the White House with people across America.
“We live in a time when it is easier than it has ever been to engage public officials,” says Najam. “Our office demonstrated this every day as we processed thousands of letters from constituents all over the country—responding to people who voiced their concerns and directing their plights to other agencies and public officials.”
Several months ago, Najam was delighted to help pick letter writers to attend the White House’s Eid event, a Muslim holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan.
“A few were just teenagers, and seeing the excitement in their eyes and the way their faces lit up when they realized their letters had been read by the White House, and even the president, was one of the most meaningful moments of my life,” says Najam.
“Writing for the president has been a life-changing experience,” she says. “I want to continue writing for people who are striving to make a positive difference in our world.”
Next Gen GOP
Heather Sexton Pfitzenmaier (A.B. ’07) believes that there are great things on the horizon for conservatives. That’s because as vice president of America's Future Foundation (AFF), a network of young “liberty-minded” leaders, she is leading the charge to develop the next generation of conservative thinkers.
At the AFF, which brings together young people to network and advocate for conservative policies, Pfitzenmaier is working to promote a culture of free enterprise, personal responsibility, and limited government. Her job entails everything from helping chapter leaders to speaking at national conferences, developing marketing materials, and engaging the public on social media.
“I like that I don’t have a ‘normal’ day,” says Pfitzenmaier. “I enjoy that every day I am interacting with other individuals passionate about liberty who want to make our country a better place, and I am fortune to participate in our growth and strategy, planning for our vision and future.”
After graduating from U-M, Pfitzenmaier packed her bags for Washington, D.C., where she nabbed a job at the Heritage Foundation running their internship program. In 2012, at the age of 28, Forbesnamed her one of its 30 Under 30 in law and policy. That same year, she also won the Young Buckley award for up-and-coming young conservatives. During her time at Heritage, Pfitzenmaier also established a women’s mentorship lunch as a platform to discuss challenges in the workplace and to help further careers for young conservative women.
“As someone who benefited from strong, passionate female leaders as I started my career, mentoring other women is a priority of mine,” she says.
Today, Pfitzenmaier is thrilled to be able to continue to further the mission of the AFF while working with young conservatives.
“Whether it’s the state of the healthcare system or the national debt or foreign affairs, the decisions made today will affect our kids, our grandkids, and us,” says Pfitzenmaier. “Young people need to engage in the policy process and discuss the challenges we face as a nation.”