This week we’ll be spotlighting another proud EU grad, Jason McConachy! Originally from New Jersey, Jason graduated from Eastern in May of 2000 with degrees in Political Science and History.
From a young age, Jason has followed institutions like Congress and politics; they’ve always been on his radar, and so it only made sense for him to go to college with political science in mind. He added his second major, in history, somewhere along the way, saying that it just kind of made sense to study history alongside political science.
After completing his undergraduate studies, Jason then pursued a Master of Public Policy at American University in Washington D.C., and completed the program in May of 2002. While Jason worked towards his masters, he was also working through a student work program called the Student Career Experience Program, where he interned with the Federal Highway Administration. A lot of Jason’s undergraduate studies in political science came into play here, enabling him to better understand how legislation is done, as well as how Congress and public agencies they worked with functioned.
Upon graduating from American, Jason began working as a PMI (or Presidential Management Intern). In this role, he served as a Budget Analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Jason’s work at NOAA was much like that of a Budget Analyst anywhere in federal government: he looked at the resources they had and helped prepare the justification that goes to congress for funding. After a year and a half, he transitioned to work for the Health and Human Services Department in the Administration on Aging, working with IT services and budget management. Today, Jason still works as a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, but now as a part of the Office of Inspector General. Jason served 5 years as the OIG’s Budget Director and is now a special assistant to the CFO.
Jason’s current role includes advising on matters of budget, management, and operations and coordinating with folks to make sure OIG has the mission support activities for an organization of over 1,600 people in over 70 locations.
He says that the best part of his job is when he is able to see the impact he has made by the work he does, and told a story illustrating this that took place within the past few years. HHS OIG was involved in investigations that led to a doctor having to stop practicing and being sent to jail, as the doctor had been telling healthy patients that they had cancer and then giving them chemotherapy so that he could bill the government for the federal financial support involved in the medical processes. The patients then had to suffer all of the side effects of unnecessary treatment while the doctor made off with the fees. (You can read more about this here or watch an American Greed episode about it here!). OIG was involved in the investigation that put a stop to this, and this demonstrates the impact of public service, which continues to drive his work.
Looking back, Jason says that his college self might be surprised to see him where he is now—after all, his current self is sometimes still surprised!—but would recognize the way that it fits, and makes sense. He points out that although we don’t always take the time to look back and appreciate it, there is so much that goes into where we end up after college. Looking at all of the opportunities he’s had that have gotten him where he is, Jason says that he’s really got to appreciate them, he has to be grateful—and we all should.
Jason points to his time at the highway administration and the mentorship he received there as particularly defining in his career path. Due to his studies at Eastern, which led to his Master’s program at American, he had access to practical experiences that had great impact on his career path. At Eastern, his involvement with student government, Waltonian, the Leadership Fellows Program (LFP), and all the extracurriculars he was involved in were critical. He says those kinds of experience are great to have on a resume, especially if you haven’t held many jobs. Jason looked even further back, pointing to an experience in high school as enabling him to get into LFP and be able to attend Eastern. The chain just seems to go on and on. Yes, academics were foundationally important, they honed his critical thinking and prepared him technically, but for Jason, it was the extracurricular pieces that really led him to where he is today.
When asked what advice he might offer to current undergraduates, Jason points out that most folks don’t know what they want to do until they have a real experience of it—so you need to get out there and get the experience! He might have gone elsewhere given different opportunities, but this is where he is now, and he loves it. Not only do experiences like internships play a key role in helping us to figure out what we want to do, but they are also crucial to figuring out how to create the way there. They offer us experience and knowledge, helping us to become marketable in that field. They often offer mentorship and guidance, in short, all of the things that Jason is most grateful for as he looks back, all of the things that played the biggest roles in his career journey.