DC Huskies

How to Make It in DC: 2015 mentors

How to Make It in DC is an evening of “table talk” — small group discussions with professionals willing to answer your questions and provide guidance about navigating the professional landscape of Washington, D.C. It takes place Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, from 6 – 8:30 p.m. Learn more about this event.

The following UW alumni and friends will offer professional insight in the areas noted below:

Campaigns/Hill Staff

Jeff Bjornstad, ‘92 – President of Federal Affairs and Strategic Communications, Washington2Advocates

Bjornstad leads Washington2Advocates’s federal practice and plays a key role in developing effective legislative and communications strategies for clients. A veteran of the Washington, D.C., and Washington State political and policy arena for over 20 years, Bjornstad has helped to advise and shape key policies throughout the Northwest. During his time on Capitol Hill, he served for four years as the chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and the chief of staff to U.S. Reps. Adam Smith and Rick Larsen. He directed Sen. Murray’s 2010 senatorial campaign and has managed numerous congressional campaigns.

Christy Gullion – Director of Federal Relations, University of Washington

Gullion serves as the chief DC advocate for the University of Washington and has nearly two decades of experience working for a variety of federal, state and local agencies. Most recently, Gullion was director of federal relations for Washington2Advocates, where she was responsible for managing lobbying strategies for multiple and diverse clientele, as well as building and maintaining successful relationships with members of Congress and their staff. She has also served as northwest Washington director for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, chief of staff to King County (WA) Council member Bob Ferguson and as a legislative analyst for U.S. Rep. Brian Baird.

Jessica Lawrence-Vaca, ‘03 – Senior Vice President at McKeon Group

Prior to joining McKeon Group LLC, Jessica was a vice president at the Podesta Group where she worked with clients in the global, defense, trade and appropriations sectors.  As a seasoned lobbyist and government relations strategist, she has the proven ability to develop and execute tailored government relations and advocacy strategies, interface with high-level government officials, build coalitions of third party validators and craft messaging and supporting materials in furtherance of advocacy efforts. She has also worked for former U.S. Rep. Steven Rothman, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, where she focused on foreign policy and national security issues.


John Amaya, ’01, ‘05 – Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Prior to his appointment as deputy chief of staff for ICE, Amaya served as senior counselor to Patrick Leahy, then the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Upon graduating from UW School of Law, he worked as a law clerk in Montana and subsequently started his career as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Allen Shimada, ’78, ‘85 – Fisheries Biologist, NOAA, National Marine Fishery Service

Shimada was a fishery research biologist for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle for 10 years before moving to Silver Spring, MD and National Marine Fisheries Service headquarters as a fishery management biologist and national program coordinator. Since 1999 he has served as national treasurer and board member of the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists (established at UW College of Fisheries in 1956).


Dale Learn, Esq., ‘93 – Vice President/Principal, Federal Government Affairs, Gordon Thomas Honeywell et al

Learn manages the DC office of the Washington state-headquartered law and government affairs firm of Gordon Thomas Honeywell (GTH). Prior to GTH, he spent over six years as a senior advisor and legal counsel to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, and two years as a senior advisor to U.S. Rep. Adam Smith. Learn’s areas of legislative and administrative expertise include transportation and infrastructure, law and justice, technology and telecommunications, energy and natural resources, trade and commerce.

Dawn Yamane Hewett, ‘00 – Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives for Department of Commerce

Hewett joined the Department of Commerce from the Washington, D.C., office of Arnold & Porter LLP, where she was a member of the firm’s international arbitration, litigation, global anti-corruption and white collar practice groups. Prior to joining Arnold & Porter LLP, Hewett worked for a number of organizations, including the Princeton Project on National Security; Front Line, an organization in Ireland protecting human rights defenders around the world; and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone. In 2014, Hewett was recognized as one of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s Best Lawyers Under 40.


Elizabeth Becker, ‘69 – retired New York Times correspondent, former Senior Foreign Editor of National Public Radio and author

Becker is an award-winning journalist and author. As a New York Times correspondent, she covered international economics, the Pentagon and agriculture. She was the senior foreign editor at National Public Radio and began her career as a war correspondent in Cambodia for the Washington Post. She is the author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, an Amazon book of the year; and When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, which won a Robert F. Kennedy book award.

Dr. Sheila Brooks, ‘78 – Founder, President and CEO of SRB Communications, LLC

Dr. Brooks is an Emmy-award winning journalist, entrepreneur and dedicated advocate for minority and women’s issues and small businesses. In 1990, she founded SRB Communications, LLC, a full-service advertising and marketing communications agency specializing in multicultural advertising, public relations, media relations and broadcast production. Prior to starting her firm, Brooks built a distinguished television career as a news director, reporter, anchor and documentary producer at CBS, NBC, PBS and Fox-affiliate TV stations across the country. She is currently working on a book; based on her dissertation, it will be published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Bryan Monroe, ‘87 – Verizon Chair and Professor at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication/Former Editor, CNNPolitics.com

Before joining Temple University, Monroe was the Washington Editor, Opinion & Commentary at CNN and the editor of CNNPolitics.com. He also served as the assistant vice president of news at Knight Ridder Newspapers, where he helped lead journalists at the Biloxi Sun Herald to the 2006 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Monroe was also vice president and editorial director at Ebony and Jet magazines, where he led coverage of the 2008 presidential election, conducted the first post-election interview with President Barack Obama and did the last interview Michael Jackson before his death.


Ellie Canter, ‘12 – Director of Programs, Turning the Page

Canter is the Director of Programs at Turning the Page, an education non-profit committed to building family engagement capacity in DC’s public schools. Before joining Turning the Page, she graduated with a Master’s in Education Policy and Leadership Studies from UW College of Education. Prior to graduate school, Canter served two years as a college adviser through the National College Advising Corps, an AmeriCorps program that supports potential first generation college students and their families as they explore post-secondary options for college and career. She was selected in 2015 as one of the Aspen Institute’s Emerging Non-Profit Leaders.

Michael Yaguchi, ‘85 – Director, Veterans Affairs Programs, SRA International

Yaguchi has over 36 years of experience creating and analyzing strategic and operational plans and international arms control treaties from an operational and national defense policy perspective. Prior to joining SRA International, Yaguchi was the executive director at Pan Pacific American Leaders and Mentors (PPALM). He is on the board of directors for the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF) and on the board of governors for Go For Broke National Education Center. He retired from active duty after 27 years in the U.S. Air Force and later assumed civilian leadership positions as a director and deputy director within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Department of Veterans Affairs.