Willows alum Harrison Diamond, Class of 2004, is pursuing a career in international affairs in Washington D. C. focusing on communications and public relations, which unite his double major of International political economy and psychology. He is currently interning at Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, a mid-size communications consulting firm specializing in public relations, reputational management, and international affairs. Harrison started at The Willows in kindergarten in 1995, graduated from the Windward School in 2008, and graduated in 2012 from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. He spent a year in Amsterdam studying global affairs at the Universiteit van Amsterdam and interned in the D.C. office of California Senator Barbara Boxer.
Tell us about your internship at Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates? Can you describe your involvement with the firm and what the firm specializes in? As an intern at CLS, I’m tasked with tracking and reporting media mentions for specific accounts, conducting research, helping to craft Op-eds that we place in national media publications, and various other supportive activities. What’s great about the smaller scale of CLS (as opposed to multi-office, multi-national communications conglomerates) is the ability to work closely with senior partners and actively participate on high profile accounts.
What memories do you have of your days at The Willows? I remember my time at The Willows almost like it was yesterday: running around on the woodchips for hours on end, learning ‘computer music’ before Apple made it mainstream, dressing up as a humpback whale while learning about sea mammals in Ronit’s first grade class, taking a mallet to a cinder block wall that was to become Willows II, singing the teepee song in Erin’s third grade class, burying mysterious artifacts from a fabricated civilization for the other sixth grade class to dig up and analyze, and so many more. I’m so fortunate to have spent my early formative years in such an inspiring community.
What has inspired you to pursue this career and internship? Trying to identify a professional sector that reconciled my double majors of International Political Economy (IPE) and Psychology felt like a lofty task given their seemingly unrelated subject matter. However, I came to conceptualize those fields of study as being complementary, with IPE focusing on a macro analysis of societal and economic organization and the other taking a more nuanced look at individual human behavior. Communications integrates these two frameworks; utilizing messaging to shape public opinions and perceptions for clients that play substantial roles in international economics and governance.
What is it like living in DC? Living in DC has been unbelievable. It’s full of young, smart, and ambitious professionals that come from diverse backgrounds and hail from all over the world. Walking around the National Mall still produces the feeling of awe that I remember from my first trip to DC with my class at Willows. It never gets old.
What song do you know all the lyrics to? This is tough; there are so many. I’ll go with a Willows-era 90's classic and say "Closing Time" by Semisonic.
How did you first become interested in politics, communications, reputation management etc.? I entered college with the intention of pursing a major in psychology, though soon found that my true academic love was international affairs after taking an intro course in IPE to fulfill one of my freshmen core requirements. I was hooked. It wasn’t until I completed a psychology thesis during my senior year that I realized the extent to which I was fascinated with the shaping of public opinion. Communications seemed like the obvious choice.
What career opportunities will you be exploring after the internship? How has the internship inspired you? I’m hoping to stay in a similar field, perhaps leaning more towards public relations and exploring opportunities in media. Having interned on the hill after my sophomore year, I may look for positions in communications offices in the House or Senate when this internship comes to an end. My time at CLS has inspired me to push harder and strive further. Working for such high profile clients and with such intelligent, well-connected professionals has strengthened my resolve to break into this sector and climb my way to the top.
Did your experience at The Willows influence where you are today or who you are today? Absolutely. The Willows provided a foundation for creative thinking and fostered openness to novel and diverse viewpoints. These skills have been my keys to success in everything I have pursued, whether it be conceptualizing a out-of-the-box theory that separates my academic paper from the rest of the class or personally connecting with someone during a job interview.
What do you enjoy most about your job? The best part about my job is having the opportunity to work with such a diverse array of eminent clients, from tech industry titans to industry advocacy groups and foreign governments
What book are you currently reading? What is your favorite book? I’m currently reading Chad Harbach’s "The Art of Fielding." My favorite book would probably be 'The Corrections' by Jonathan Franzen, though I’m not sure if anything can top 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.'
Was politics always a preferred are of study? Politics wasn’t always my preferred study. It wasn’t until I tried on several different academic fields that I decided politics was one of my strongest passions.
What did you do while working for Senator Barbara Boxer? Working for Senator Boxer was as exiting as it was surreal. Congressional interns usually preform similar tasks, such as handling constituent correspondence, attending congressional hearings on behalf of the office, helping out with administrative tasks, and conducting tours of the Capitol Building for visiting Californians and VIPs. Even though I spent the whole summer walking through the Capitol and running around congressional office buildings, the feeling of excitement and awe from walking down halls that have played host monumental historical moments never diminished.
Do you have any other hobbies, interests etc? I love to write and did so for my college newspaper and other campus publications. Music is also one of my passions and, while I don’t play an instrument, I was a DJ for my university’s radio station and go to as many live shows as possible. I’ve been interested in photography ever since high school and have tried to pursue that hobby often.
Do you have a special hero or someone you emulate? As trite as it sounds, I still think my Mom is one of the most inspiring people I know. Her zeal for life, unconditional positive outlook, and professional prowess are all qualities that I try to emulate in my own life.
Name your three favorite movies or television shows? Hmm I’l go with "Layer Cake," "Mean Girls," and "Arrested Development."
Any internships?. Since high school, I’ve had internships at ForYourArt, an arts and culture communications firm, and the Children’s Institute, Inc., a non-profit for underprivileged, abused, or neglected children in Los Angeles. I wrote for my university’s newspaper, The Trail, and acted as the editor of the opinions section my senior year.
Did your experience at The Willows prepare you for high school or college? The Willows laid the foundation for the ways in which I approach learning and academic involvement, especially in the areas of critical thinking and self-expression. I’m thankful to have been taught that learning can be fun if approached correctly. The Willows taught me that the process of working through any given issue is as, if not more, important than the ultimate solution. Learning this at a young age has given me the confidence to tackle anything that might come my way, no matter the apparent difficulty.
What fact do you think people would find the most surprising about you? The fact that I lived in Alaska for a year during my childhood comes as a surprise even to those who know me best, probably because they assume that I couldn’t handle such a rugged environment given my love of city life and aversion towards roughing it.
Any advice to fellow alums especially those pursuing your areas of study? The earlier you can get involved, the better. If you’re entering college, run for a position in student government or volunteer for a political campaign. Being visible will not only help you succeed academically but bolster your resume for when it comes time to enter the job market. Read the news. It may sound like silly advice but the students and professionals that excel politics and communications have an up-to-date knowledge of both domestic and international affairs. Even if you’re simply reading a news aggregator or skimming a website, staying informed will help you to participate in discussions, lend credibility to your positions, and ultimately set you apart from your peers. Finally, I find that building and maintaining connections is the foundation of success in politics and communications - even those that may not seem valuable at the time could prove useful in the future. Engage your professors, mentors, and peers; their passion and knowledge can help you discover the areas of study that interest you most.
Complete this sentence:
At The Willows, I learned to . . . curiously explore the world around me and to treasure the personal connections I make along the way.