Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Alumni-College Connection

Linking the Campus and the World

With such a rich legacy of producing outstanding leaders in all areas of society, the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy has one of the most exceptional and accomplished alumni groups in the nation. It is no surprise that our alumni are also generous in giving back to our students and to the college in a variety of ways.

  • Generous alumni donations support our programs, education-enhancing activities, and individual students.
  • In addition to monetary support, we’re grateful for the connections our alumni make between the college and businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit groups, connecting our students to applied projects, internships, and significant exposure to the world they will enter after getting their degrees.
  • Alumni valuable and practical insight for our students as they prepare for meaningful careers and leadership positions upon graduation. Here are some of the recent visits our alumni have made to campus to engage with students in the college regarding their professional experience, best practices, and specifics that pertain to their field of expertise.

The Alumni-College Connection serves as a vital component of a major goal in the college’s 2010-2015 development campaign: to enhance our students’ opportunities for personal growth and development inside and outside of the classroom. We’re eager to hear from alumni who want to participate in any meaningful way. Please contact us.

Here are some of the distinguished alumni who have been making the connection with the college:

Jim Murdaugh

im Murdaugh (Ph.D. ’05) spoke at a well-attended Alumni Spotlight event on campus hosted by the Florida State University Public Administration Graduate Association, April 25, 2014. Dr. Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College, spoke with students about his education and career history. He also offered advice on the skills to learn within the public administration field.

Jim is quite active in the community, serving as the chair of the Leon County Economic Development Council, executive committee and board member on the Greater Tallahassee/Leon County Chamber of Commerce, governor on the board of the Leon County Research and Development Authority, and member of the boards of the United Way of the Big Bend, Workforce Plus!, and the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, Florida Trend listed Jim among Florida’s Newsmakers of the Year, and in 2013 he received the Pillar of Excellence Award from the MLK Foundation of Florida, Inc.


Deborah Sawyer

During her 20+ years in the executive search field, Deborah Sawyer (International Affairs,’81) has compiled a CV that reflects a career she only dreamt of while pursuing her IA major. She has led several major global client relationships and worked throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including greater China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore, as well as assignments in London, Paris, Montreal, Toronto, and throughout the U.S.

After six years in Singapore as a partner of Odgers Berndtson, Deborah repatriated to the U.S. in 2012, joining Pearson Partners International, a Texas-based global executive search firm, as vice president. Deborah is a strong advocate of FSU and the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. She continually encourages all of her fellow alum to give back through whatever means available—time, talent, or financial resources. She has recently taken a keen interest in the Master’s in Applied Economics program and contributed a piece to the College’s 2012-2013 Annual Report urging her fellow alumni to make connections between their companies and the College to provide real-world data and projects for students in the various applied programs offered at the College. While meeting with a Tallahassee client of PPI, Deborah took some time to speak to them about how they could forge a mutually beneficial relationship with the applied economics program.


Tom Leahey

During his more than 20-year career in banking, Tom Leahy (Economics,’83) has accomplished a great deal. His resume includes a decade in corporate banking in Florida, Rhode Island, and Georgia. He then became the CFO for the Maxim Group and led the company through its successful IPO and three subsequent public market financings, including capital transactions totaling $2 billion.

Tom has also served as the CFO and COO of STI Knowledge, named one of Inc. magazine’s fast-growing technology companies. His previous post was at NetworkD Corporation of Newport Beach, CA as its CFO and a member of the board. He contributed his capital markets skills in the hedge fund industry working for New York City-based Galtere International Fund from 2007 – 2009, followed by a position as CFO of Verismic Software. Tom has regularly invited his fellow accomplished collogues to speak with our students.


David Coburn

Following a distinguished three-decade career in the Florida Legislature, David Coburn (B.A. Social Science ’73, Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning, ’77) was awarded one of FSU’s highest honors, the James D. Westcott Medal, presented to those whose service “whose life and work exemplify the values of strength, skill, and character that the university seeks to nurture in its students.”

Considered one of the most knowledgeable experts on the state budget, David served as staff director for the Rules Committee in both chambers, among a number of other key positions. He also served in the executive branch as the governor’s director of the Office of Planning and Budgeting. In 2011, he and three partners launched Capital Analytics LLC, a firm that offers analysis and support on state and local government issues. As noted in the presentation of the Westcott Medal, David has been a longtime friend and supporter of FSU and the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy.


Scott Minos

A frequent speaker at the College on a range of issues, Scott Minos (Political Science, ’84) has an extensive resumé that includes his solid experience as strategic communicator. Those skills have been put to use most notably as the Senior Policy and Communications Specialist at the U.S. Department of Energy, responsible for communicating the DOE’s domestic and international programs relating to alternative and renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy conservation, greenhouse gasses and climate change, carbon sequencing electric transmission, and advanced energy sciences.

Even with such a busy and accomplished professional life, Scott still finds time to sing for the Washington National Opera and volunteer for small dog rescue.


Dirk Mateer

Dirk Mateer earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Florida State University in 1991. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Arizona. He is the author of Economics in the Movies (South-Western, 2005). He uses a variety of methods (film clips, music videos, songs, demonstrations, group work, and other active learning processes) to stimulate students to think about economics. As a result, Dr. Mateer’s teaching efforts have been recognized by his students, colleagues, and nationally on over twenty occasions. He was the winner of the inaugural Economic Communicator Contest sponsored by the Association of Private Enterprise Education and the Market-Based Management Institute. Prior to joining Penn State, he taught high school mathematics and science for two years and then worked at Goucher College (Md.) and Grove City College (Pa.).

At Penn State, his primary responsibility is to teach large lecture classes. He believes that effective communication is a conversation. As a result, he teaches economics in as many ways as possible by involving students in the discovery process. This is a challenge in classes of over 700 students.

In 2005, he authored Economics in the Movies, a supplement for the principles market. He uses short 2-4 minute film clips to create a common platform for introducing and learning about economics. More recently, he established an online database of movie scenes appropriate for teaching economics. You can visit a separate, but related, web site at www.moviesforecon.com. This site has 80 film references to economics.

In 2006, Mateer along with Andrew Rice created a website dedicated to teaching economics through music: www.musicforecon.com.

You can view teaching segments at www.youtube.com/dmateer, including an 8-minute teaching segment that helped him win the inaugural Economic Communicator Contest.

In 2008, he has begun the process of writing a textbook for the principles of economics market. All of the endeavors that were mentioned here were incubated at Florida State University. He says, “Jim Gwartney, and the other Economics Faculty, impressed upon me their collective passion for teaching, researching and living economics.”


Jason Altmire

Jason Altmire, a 1990 graduate of the College of Social Sciences, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006. During his time in Congress, Jason worked hard to tackle the issues that are important to the hard-working people of western Pennsylvania, including veterans, health care, and small business issues. As a member of Congress, Jason served as a Super Delegate at the Democratic National Convention in August. Super Delegates are chosen by the Democratic National Committee due to their status within the committee and are often current or former party leaders and elected officials.

After graduating from Florida State University, Jason moved to Washington, D.C. where he spent five years a a legislative assistant to Congressman Pete Peterson of Florida. During this time, he also attended The George Washington University and obtained a Master’s Degree in Health Administration. After leaving the Hill in 1996, Jason joined the Federation of American Hospitals. Two years later, he made the decision to return to his roots in western Pennsylvania where he joined the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and worked as the Acting Vice President of Government Relations and Community Health Services until his resignation in 2005 when he decided to run for Congress. After leaving Congress in 2013, Jason joined Florida Blue, the Sunshine State’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield operation, as senior vice president for public policy, government and community affairs.

Jason currently lives in Jacksonville with his wife Kelly and their two daughters.