2021 DC Graduates: Sean McDaniel and Archnashree Nellan | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

The LBJ School is thrilled to celebrate the newest class of LBJ DC Fellows — our sixth — as they graduate with master's degrees from our 18-month DC Concentration. These soon-to-be alumni spent their first year of school in Austin before moving to Washington, DC, to finish their studies while working at Policy Apprenticeships.

Two members of the 2021 DC cohort, Sean McDaniel and Archnashree Nellan took some time to talk with us about their experiences in graduate school.  


McDaniel came to LBJ after serving as an Army field artillery officer deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan and Manbij, Syria. As his squadron's fire support officer and operations officer in Syria, he helped implement a joint training and combat patrol mission between the U.S. and Turkey, seeing first-hand how policy decisions at the strategic level can maintain and prevent, conflict. During his master's studies he has focused on American foreign policy as it relates to troop movements, and worked at Brady during his Policy Apprenticeship.

 

Sean McDaniel (MPAff-DC)

Sean McDaniel (right) with friends at a Longhorns tailgate
Sean McDaniel (right) with friends at a Longhorns tailgate. (Courtesy of Sean McDaniel)

 

Sean, you came to the LBJ School already on a path of public service. What made you want to explore policy in a deeper way?

After serving in the Army, I knew public service was my calling, however I wanted to build a strong foundation in policy analysis. Attending the LBJ School, especially the DC Concentration, really gave me the opportunity to understand and create federal policy.

What is your favorite memory from your time at the LBJ School?

Playing on the LBJ School softball team! It was the first time we could all get together after the vaccines were available and start to come together as a class.

What was your best experience in the DC Concentration?

Other than being inspired every day by all the important work going on in DC, I felt I really had an amazing opportunity with my Policy Apprenticeship with Brady. I was included from Day One on legislation, amendments and meeting with staff members of Congress to discuss policy solutions.


"I have moved around my entire life, so I wanted to understand how I can engage at the local level. [The Civic Engagement Program] offered so many opportunities and highlighted the great efforts by local communities to be engaged." —Sean McDaniel (MPAff-DC '21)

What class or experience left the biggest impression on you?

I really enjoyed the Civic Engagement Program. I have moved around my entire life, so I wanted to understand how I can engage at the local level. This program offered so many opportunities and highlighted the great efforts by local communities to be engaged.

Tell us about your next steps.

I have applied for the Presidential Management Fellowship, so we are waiting for them to announce finalists. I am also applying to jobs with a few federal agencies. However, I am also going to enjoy some time off!

What is your advice to the incoming class?

NETWORK! I struggled with this aspect when I first started the program, mainly because I don’t enjoy talking about myself, but it is extremely necessary! It doesn’t have to be a deep connection; a simple mention to a hiring manager can go a long way.  


Prior to graduate school, Nellan worked at Precision Strategies in paid media and digital advertising field on projects including from elections and campaigns for progressive nonprofit organizations on the state, national and international levels. She came to LBJ interested in policy development and sustainable solutions to combat false advertising. She worked at the National Endowment of the Arts during her Policy Apprenticeship, and studied ways for the federal government to support the creative economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Archnashree Nellan (MPAff-DC)

Archnashree Nellan at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum
Archnashree Nellan at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum. (Courtesy of Archnashree Nellan)

 

Archnashree, you're about to complete your Policy Apprenticeship at the National Endowment for the Arts. How have you seen the role of the federal government changing in supporting the arts, particularly during a global health crisis?

Since LBJ signed the agency into law, the mission of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has been to establish consistent federal assistance to allow state and local arts agencies to thrive. More than anything, the experience of living through a global pandemic heightened people's understanding of how the arts can improve physical well-being and mental health, as well as the community-building capabilities of the arts. I think we're living in a moment when there's a greater appreciation for the NEA's work, as seen by the increased emergency funding to the NEA during the pandemic, and I am excited to see how the agency grows from this moment.

What is your favorite memory from your time at the LBJ School?

The LBJ Presidential Library invited students to an early viewing of the "Lady Bird: Beyond the Wildflowers" exhibit. I brought my parents to it, and we loved getting to learn more about her and her accomplishments. It's impossible to grow up in Austin without seeing the work of Lady Bird Johnson's environmental stewardship but the exhibit gave me an even greater level of appreciation for her.


"Be open to learning from everyone but exercise discernment. The loudest opinion is not always the right one." —Archnashree Nellan (MPAff-DC '21)

What was your best experience in the DC Concentration?

The LBJ alumni network in Washington, DC, has been so warm and supportive from the moment we arrived. During one of the steering committee events, I spoke with an LBJ alumnus about taking classes with Barbara Jordan. Every story he shared made her seem as wonderful as I imagined.

What class or experience left the biggest impression on you?

All DC concentration students must take a congressional procedures class. I don't think I've ever entered a class more intimidated than I did for this class. But through the readings, assignments and the professor’s guidance, it quickly became my favorite class and the work I am most proud of during my time at LBJ.

Tell us about your next steps.

Well, graduation is around the corner, and I am looking forward to celebrating this accomplishment with my family, teachers and peers.

What is your advice to the incoming class?

Be open to learning from everyone but exercise discernment. The loudest opinion is not always the right one.

 

We wish Sean and Archnashree, along with their fellow classmates in the DC Concentration cohort, the very best, and are excited to welcome them into the LBJ alumni family. Congratulations!

Learn more about the LBJ School's 18-month DC concentration at the LBJ Washington Center.