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Andrew Phaff

Andrew PhaffAlumni Profile

Graduation year and major

2017, Bachelors of Science (B.S.) – History, Bachelors of Art (B.A.) – Political Science

If you attended graduate school after attending ISU, please indicate where you went, area of study and graduation year:

Vrije Universitiet Amsterdam, Master of Laws (LL.M) in the Law and Politics of International Security, Graduated 2019

Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Master of Law (LL.M.) in International and European Business Law, Graduated 2023

University of Denver, Juris Doctor (JD), Graduated 2023

Where do you currently work, and what is your position?

I currently work for Nathan Dumm & Mayer P.C., located in Denver, Colorado, as an Associate Attorney

Why did you choose to attend Iowa State?

Originally I chose to attend Iowa State University because I was pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering and ISU is a top-notch engineering school. However, once I decided to forego Engineering and transition to History, I decided to stay at Iowa State because of its proximity to my family, the faculty in the Liberal Arts departments, and the close friends I’d made along the way.

Why did you choose to major in political science?

Originally, my liberal arts studies started in the History Department. However, I quickly became a Political Science student after taking Dirk Deam’s Law & Politics course, in which I found a passion for the law and political sciences. I discovered my love for how the world interacts across various parts of the globe, and understanding the foundations that our society is built on and why. After that, I took as many political science courses as I could, rapidly changing Political Science from a minor, to a double major, to a full second degree.

What did you enjoy most about being a political science major?

The heated political, societal, and philosophical debates both in and outside of class.

Is there a political science class that you particularly enjoyed?

Dirk Deam’s Political Science 335, Science, Technology, and Public Policy. Going through the public policy considerations that can shape nations’ rises and declines in the context of modern and ancient political theories was exceptionally interesting, giving new contexts to everything from Greek myths to the American-Soviet Space Race.

Did any faculty members or staff in the Department of Political Science inspire or support you when you were at Iowa State? How?

Professor Dirk Deam. His passion for seeing political interactions, the law, and legal philosophy through unique lenses, and his ability to ask the right questions to spark debates that change one’s perspective on the world is unparalleled. He was able to recognize a potential in me to pursue law that I never would have thought of, encouraged me to consider becoming an attorney, and ultimately set the foundations for the career and success that I have today.

How has your political science degree supported your career aspirations?

My Political Science degree, and particularly my courses under Professor Dirk Deam, didn’t try to teach me what to think but rather how to think. This intensely detail-oriented and hyper-critical approach to solving life’s problems has enabled me to excel in tackling complex concepts, first in my graduate studies and now in my legal career.

How do you use what you learned as a political science major in your daily work?

Iowa State’s Political Science program honed my critical thinking skills and attention to details and minute differences. Without that foundational support from my political science studies I would not have the mentality that I utilize every day in approaching multi-faceted problems and reaching comprehensive solutions of them, which is essential to winning positive results for my clients.

What would you tell students who are considering a political science degree at Iowa State?

It’s important to not only consider whether you enjoy and appreciate the content of your courses, but also have a vision for how those courses and that content will build towards your ultimate career goals. Many colleagues of mine graduated and then had to stop and ask themselves “now what?” because they did not have a clear picture in mind from the outset. Whether your dreams are politics, law, lobbying, teaching, data science, a combination of those, or something else entirely, it’s important to have a sense for what your dreams are, even if they change as you go, so you can select the courses that will best prepare you to tackle those dreams.

How well did your Iowa State political science major prepare you for graduate school?

I believe my Political Science degree from Iowa State prepared me extremely well for my masters and juris doctor studies. It was not about the content of what Iowa State taught me, as my latter degrees were almost entirely different subject matter, but rather how Iowa State taught me to think critically and comprehensively by drawing on every available resource and frame of reference possible. That is a skill that once learned can be applied to any facet of life.

What advice do you have for political science students who are considering graduate school?

Don’t pursue something just for the sake of pursuing it, or for adding another piece of paper to your office wall. Pursue something because it’s going to help you build towards whatever your ultimate goal is. Education is power, but you must be conscience from the outset of how you would use that education to build towards your goals, otherwise you’re not progressing yourself down the path that you want.

What is your fondest memory of being a political science major at Iowa State?

Preparing for Dirk Deam’s exams through heated debates and content reviews with my classmates, learning from each other by watching how each person applied the content differently to reach their own unique results.

What advice to you have for current or future Iowa State political science majors?

Anybody can learn the content and be successful, as long as you are patient with yourself and give yourself enough time to learn it. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the learning resources available, whether it’s office hours, TA tutoring, your fellow classmates, or people who have taken the courses before you.