Alumnus Profile: Joseph Theall '16
By Emily Hollenbach '18
Joe Theall took part in a rich variety of academic and pre-professional offerings during his time at the College. A Political Science major with minors in both Accounting and Cinema Studies, his activities included key roles in the Student Government Association; a semester-long internship in British Parliament as part of the prestigious Hansard Scholars Programme; participation in the Northeast Regional Ethics Bowl; and work at the College's Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership.
Q. Where do you live now, and what do you do?
A. I currently live in Albany, New York, and work in the New York State Legislature working in the office of Assembly member Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) as Committee Clerk. Although Clerk is my official title, I really have three main hats in the office: scheduler, legislative assistant, and committee assistant. Working for the Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee has allowed me to delve into the regulatory and policy issues surrounding that area, as well as a number of local issues for a district that is just north of Marist. Working in politics, you quickly learn that there is not a "normal" day, but I’ve found it to be a rewarding and unique experience. My role requires me to meet with a variety of stakeholders including advocacy groups, industry officials, and lobbyists about legislation that is considered by the Assembly.
Q. What advice would you give to students interested in a career in politics and policy?
A. For anyone interested in working in an elected office, I think relationships are key. Politics is really based on trust and the relationships that an official is able to build with their constituents so I think it’s kind of natural that the same is expected for staff. This is definitely a field which can be difficult to break into, but there are some ways that are pretty easy to get involved and break your way in. Take internships, volunteer on a campaign, or participate in political or community groups. If you are able to develop a good reputation for yourself in either an internship or volunteer placement, you will develop a strong network of colleagues and friends who will work to help you out.
It’s important to know that your first job does not have to be exactly what you want to do. Before graduation, I would constantly say how I would never work on a political campaign, but I took an opportunity working on a Congressional race in part because I was approached by someone who I had previously worked with and needed an experience. Although our campaign did not ultimately win, that opportunity led me to my current position, which if you asked me a year ago, is exactly what I wanted to be doing.
Q. Which aspects of Marist remain particularly vivid or important to you?
A. The sense of community at Marist is something that is really unique and I often miss. You are living in a bit of a bubble but in college you are constantly surrounded by friends and like-minded people. Social interactions are easy to come by, but you’re also constantly given an opportunity to think. After graduation I think there are more constraints to your life. Work can be overwhelming and you don’t instantly have a community you belong to. In college, you really have an opportunity to pursue your passions and just spend time thinking. I think Marist in particular has a great balance of a social atmosphere and an intellectual challenge. You have the opportunity to make wonderful and fun memories while also expanding your perspective.