By Maureen Cowhey ’19 and Rena Patel ’19
On the evening of May 18, President of USA Facts, former President of Politico USA and the National Journal, and Scripps alumna, Poppy MacDonald ’97 will deliver the commencement address to this year’s graduating class.
A first-generation college student, MacDonald earned her degree in History. She studied abroad in Nepal, trekking across the Himalayas during the fall semester of her junior year and spent the spring and summer interning in Washington D.C. at the McLaughlin Group, a weekly radio roundtable analysis and opinion show.
MacDonald credits Professor Julie Liss, who had been her academic advisor and thesis advisor during her time at Scripps, as the guiding force for her interest in U.S. History and the reason she pursued a History degree. Professor Liss also encouraged MacDonald to spend her junior spring in D.C.
“[Liss’s] guidance, mentorship, and genuine interest in guiding my success was instrumental to my future career path,” MacDonald said in an email correspondence with the Voice.
After graduating from Scripps, MacDonald served members of both the House and Senate, representing members from her Pacific-Northwest Hometown. From there, she worked for The Advisory Board, Gallup Inc., and the National Journal before joining Politico USA, where she was the executive director of business development and later the president and COO.
During her time at Politico, MacDonald was responsible for overseeing the launch of Politico’s first paid subscription model focused on providing sector-specific coverage. She was responsible for driving the organization’s growth, developing the business strategy, and executing the daily business operations of the company.
MacDonald is currently the president of USA Facts, a non-profit, non-partisan civic initiative aimed at making government numbers more available, accessible, and understandable President of USA Facts and Scripps Alumna Named Commencement SpeakerImage Courtesy of USA Factsto Americans.
MacDonald has been actively involved in Scripps post-graduation and has returned to campus several times in the past few years to attend events held by Career Planning and Resources, the Intercollegiate Feminist Center of the Claremont Colleges, and to interact with current students interested in politics and media.
During her visits to Scripps, MacDonald enjoyed seeing the campus updates and changes, like the fitness center, new dorms, and sushi on Fridays as well as finding her old room in Browning again. When she returns in May, MacDonald hopes to be able to spend more time connecting with the students and faculty of the place she still calls home.
MacDonald’s diverse professional experiences navigating the political sphere as a woman in a high-profile position is one of the reasons why the commencement committee was drawn to her as they considered who to approach to be this year’s speaker. Having successfully merged her creative aspirations with the business side of journalism in a historically divisive time for our country, MacDonald is a timely speaker as the 2020 elections loom in the periphery.
When asked about what she wanted the Class of 2019 to gain from her address, she said, “I’m looking forward to hearing directly from the selection committee about what they hope to hear…and then asking Oprah to deliver it.”
MacDonald hopes that her experiences both at Scripps and after graduation will provide some insight and encouragement to the graduating class about what’s to come. Her understanding of how media shapes our perception of politics and her passion for encouraging our peers to strive for success in historically cis white male dominated fields will be both timely and inspiring as this year’s graduating class embarks on their post-Scripps careers.