Fall 2007 Issue
UIS grad makes good
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, MA ’95 PAR, was one of the first to graduate with a University of Illinois at Springfield diploma. But she is remarkable for other reasons, too: She has a keen sense of purpose; she is deliberate and strategic; and she is very good at what she does.
Perino came to UIS from the University of Southern Colorado, now Colorado State University – Pueblo, for the Public Affairs Reporting program. She did not like the idea of spending two or three years in a graduate program that resulted in all theory with no practical experience. The PAR program gave her exactly what she was looking for: a one-year intensive that included both theory and professional experience.
As a PAR intern, Dana worked at the Statehouse for WCIA television out of Decatur. She decided then that she wasn’t a great reporter. Not even a very good reporter. She says, “I think if I’d been good at that, I would have recognized it and stuck with journalism. But really, I wasn’t very good at it.” She did learn what it took to be a journalist, to cover controversial topics, and to understand politicians and the political culture – all valuable lessons for her current position.
After graduating from UIS, Dana went back to Colorado. She contacted Rep. Scott McInnis for a reference; she had gotten to know him and his staff through her work as a reporter for the public radio station at Southern Colorado. But they gave her a job offer instead. She was afraid they wanted her to work in Pueblo. As it turns out, they wanted her in D.C.
August of 1995 found her answering phones for McInnis. A few months later, she landed a job as press secretary for Congressman Dan Schaeffer, who was chair of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee. She loved working for him. “He was a wonderful man to work for. I was very empowered.” He and his chief of staff, a woman, were supportive and encouraging of women to become powerful professionals.
She met her husband, from Great Britain, on a plane. Once married, they lived in London for a year. They returned to the States – San Diego, “where everyone should live if one has the means to do so,” she says. While there, she worked for a private-sector public relations firm, which she enjoyed.
It was at a dinner in 1998 with friends from her political life that she learned then-Texas governor George W. Bush was seeking re-election. She told her friends that he had to run for president and if he did, to please call her because she’d love to help him out.
White House photo by Chris Greenberg