The White House is not just another landmark for four Hokie alumni
When not out on assignment, Virginia Tech alumni Trent Bauserman, Andy Kinn, Adam Strickler, and Peter Velz begin their work day entering security gates that surround one of the most recognizable addresses in the world — 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. From there they head to their respective offices in the White House.
In the West Wing, Peter Velz, special projects director, works closely with the White House press corps. He coordinates with press whenever President Barack Obama is on camera; arranges one-on-one media interviews; helps photo crews set up shoots; and funnels questions from reporters through the appropriate policy channels.
“Basically, wherever President Obama goes, the press goes and it is my job to provide as much guidance as possible so that everything goes smoothly,” said Velz, who served as editor of the Collegiate Times while he was a student at Virginia Tech.
Velz came to the White House as an intern in the communications department within a year after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2011.
Logistics are key in his current position and, he said, they often bring challenges. For example, last fall Velz handled requests from some 800 media outlets wanting to cover Pope Francis’ visit with Obama at the White House.
Travel is also a big part of his job.
“I have been fortunate to travel with the president on more than 50 domestic and international trips as the embedded staffer with the traveling press pool, including in the presidential motorcade and on Air Force One,” Velz said.
On these trips, he often crosses paths with fellow Virginia Tech alum Adam Strickler, advisor to the national security advisor. Strickler actually found his way to the White House via another Hokie connection, Tommy Joyce (now working in the private sector), who he met at freshman orientation.
Since joining the National Security Council in 2007, Strickler said he has traveled to about 30 countries; Cuba may be one of the most memorable.
“Being part of such an historic event was an experience I will never forget,” he said.
Strickler graduated from Virginia Tech in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in finance.
“Among the most important things I learned as a student are the abilities to collaborate and face challenges using analytical thinking,” he said.
These skills serve Strickler well as he works with colleagues across all areas of the government while overseeing a demanding schedule and planning trips.
“I love the sense of service I get from my job, knowing that what I do makes an impact,” he said.
Andy Kinn, special assistant to the Asian Affairs Directorate, graduated from Virginia Tech in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in public and urban affairs and a concentration in global development.
Kinn joined the National Security Council in 2007. In his various roles at the council, he has helped manage presidential records and, as a staff officer, has traveled in direct support of the president to 14 countries and numerous summits.
He has been in his current position since 2014, supporting the Asian Affairs Directorate in its engagements with regional embassies and other government agencies.
“Being exposed to foreign policy at such a high level and knowing that my work is playing a part in formulating policy is very rewarding,” said Kinn.
Trent Bauserman set his sights on a public service career early on. Since graduating from Virginia Tech in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he has held a number of positions, including legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher and U.S. Sen. Jim Webb.
Prior to his current position, he was energy policy advisor to U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Since January of this year, Bauserman has served as special assistant to the president and house legislative affairs liaison, working on energy and environmental issues. Research, briefings with the president, face-to-face meetings with Congress, staff phone calls and — like Velz and Strickler — lots of travel are all part of his day-to-day responsibilities.
“I find working in the government fascinating, exciting, and rewarding,” said Bauserman.
“A very memorable moment for me was being present when President Obama signed energy-efficiency legislation I had worked on when I was the policy advisor to Senator Shaheen,” said Bauserman.
Bauserman also went with Obama to Flint, Michigan, for a first-hand look at how residents have endured their city's public health crisis.
“I felt a connection to Virginia Tech during that trip because of the important work that Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards is doing there,” he said.
Velz’s first trip to Blacksburg after graduation was as a member of First Lady Michelle Obama’s advance team for her 2012 commencement address to Virginia Tech undergraduates.
“I was there as she rehearsed the speech and it was as if two worlds were converging. It was hard to believe I was back on campus in a professional capacity with the first lady of the United States,” Velz said.