Alumna Spotlight: Cate McCanless ’03

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Cate McCanless ’03 is the recent recipient of the 2014 Professional Women in Advocacy’s Excellence in Advocacy for an Up and Coming Practitioner award. McCanless is the senior policy advisor for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Washington, D.C.

The Excellence in Advocacy by an Up and Coming Practitioner award recognizes the advocate for early achievements in her career and potential to be a successful contributor to the field over time.

“I am so honored to be recognized by such a prestigious organization. There is a growing culture of women helping women in this country, and in Washington we are striving to keep up,” says McCanless.

McCanless strongly supports the PWIA’s mantra, “When women have a seat at the public policy table, everyone benefits. In order to get and keep our seat, we must be equipped to competently and confidently represent our viewpoint.”

Her job as the senior policy advisor includes a multitude of tasks including reading statutes, working to interpret regulations for clients, meeting with legislators and their administration staff to advocate on behalf of her clients, and much more.

“Currently, my work allows me to develop and advocate policy positions on behalf of pharmaceutical and device manufacturers,” said McCanless. “These policies provide life sustaining treatments to patients, physician organizations, companies, providers who serve the Veterans Health Administration, and public health institutions that serve large rural populations and those living with HIV/AIDS. My clients all have different policy needs but all operate within the health space.”

McCanless transferred to ECU after spending her first year of college as a theater major at UNC-G and her second year of college performing on a cruise ship.

“Looking over my academic interests I realized that I was drawn to political science over my current love – theatre – and it was an easy decision to make once I visited the ECU campus,” McCanless said. “I was interested in a school that would allow me to be well rounded and not force me into a program or career before I had an opportunity to experience several of my many interests.”

At ECU, McCanless served as the vice president of the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Honors Fraternity, in which she organized the first senatorial debate hosted by ECU. She was the inaugural Sen. John P. East Scholar in political science. She also was an active member of the Delta Zeta sorority, serving as assistant new member educator for one year.

“While I was at ECU, I was able to participate in Greek life, experience leadership opportunities, perform with student theatre productions, sing in campus groups, and generally explore interests outside of political science. I felt this was encouraged and I appreciated the opportunity to grow in other areas,” said McCanless.

“I am a Pirate through and through. I believe that my experience allowed me to grow and develop in many areas, leading me to the fulfilling, well rounded career I enjoy today,” said McCanless.

Today she is still connected to the political science department at ECU, to her Delta Zeta sisters and to many friends she made during her time as a Pirate.

By Sara Strickroot

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