KSU ’06 grad joins Obama administration

Liana Evrard

Alum works for Dept. of Defense

Photo submitted by Steve Dunwoody

Credit: DKS Editors

Steve Dunwoody was not always interested in politics and government.

“I thought it was a bad class, bad subject,” Dunwoody, 27, said of a government class he took in high school. It took a movie to change his mind.

“I watched ‘Air Force One,'” Dunwoody said.

“When I saw that, I knew I wanted to be where these people are. I wanted to work in government. I wanted to participate in big decisions that people have to make . I think that movie brought everything in that class to life for me.”

A 2006 Kent State graduate, Dunwoody now works in the Obama administration as special assistant to the deputy under Secretary of Defense for Budget and Appropriations Affairs.

Dunwoody said his job includes tracking legislation in Congress and preparing materials for senior officials.

“It’s mainly an office that’s dedicated to managing the legislative affairs of the Department (of Defense) only on issues dealing with the budget,” Dunwoody said.

Dunwoody grew up in Detroit. He said he came to Kent State at the suggestion of a high school friend who mentioned Kent State’s ROTC program. Dunwoody was an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet in high school and continued with the program his first two years of college.

While at Kent State, Dunwoody took a Model NATO class that he said piqued his interest in international relations. He also founded Students for the Study of International Relations and the Kent Political Union. He interned at the U.S. Commercial Service after seeing a poster on campus.

“I said ‘Hey, that would be fun’,” Dunwoody said of his decision to apply for the internship. He was turned down at first but was able to go after someone else dropped out. The U.S. Commercial Service is a trade-promoting unit within the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce.

Dunwoody joined the National Guard shortly before Sept. 11, 2001. In 2005, he was deployed to Iraq. He said he was able to use his knowledge on finance while deployed and to “see how things play out, not just in books, but in reality.”

In December 2006, Dunwoody graduated from Kent State with a degree in political science with a concentration in international relations. At the time, he said he thought he wanted to go into international relations. His plans changed when he heard President Barack Obama, then a candidate in the Democratic primary, speak in Detroit.

Dunwoody said he was so impressed with Obama’s speech that he became an unpaid intern for the Obama for America campaign in May 2007. He drove to Cedar County, Iowa, a place he had never been to before, in preparation for the Iowa Democratic Caucus. He slept in his car his first night there. Approximately two weeks later, he was hired as a field organizer working to recruit campaign volunteers. When Obama won the Iowa caucus, Dunwoody “felt that I could fly,” he said.

After Iowa, Dunwoody said he worked in Nevada and Oregon. He became a veterans director working with statewide outreach programs for veterans in Pennsylvania. After spending time in several other states, Dunwoody ended up in North Carolina for Obama’s win on Election Day.

“I was around mostly campaign staffers,” Dunwoody said. “We were all just very, very humbled by the moment.”

Dunwoody applied for a job with the Obama administration after the campaign ended. He said he hoped to work in the Department of Commerce.

Instead, Dunwoody was offered his current job in the Department of Defense.

“People have to be flexible but still be striving to go along a certain path to get to a certain goal,” Dunwoody said. “I took a byroad, but it ended up being even better.”

Dunwoody was sworn in May 4, 2009.

“They had no prior knowledge that that’s an important date in Kent State’s history,” Dunwoody said, referring to the 1970 shootings that took place on the same date.

Dunwoody again emphasized the importance of versatility.

“Before I got this position, I had said ‘If I’m so fortunate to be offered a position in the administration, I hope it’s the commerce department,'” he said. “All the things I did were kind of to prepare me for going on that way . well, that didn’t happen.

“People have to be willing . to be able to try something new, and that might seem totally random, but still keep a plan . Set tangible goals that have to do with the practical things in life and set them high. Set the goals high.”

Contact student politics reporter Liana Evrard at [email protected].