Political Science alumnus Sanders uses degrees to craft high-level messages across public, private sectors
For Auburn University alumnus Cody Sanders, the knowledge and experience he gained while on the Plains has helped him write messages for the nation’s highest office, as well as clients and organizations looking to reach the American people. Coming from a family full of Auburn graduates, Sanders knew he was bound to be a Tiger. While the rest of his family had attended the university to study business or engineering, Sanders had a different career path in mind—politics.
“I was always a political junkie,” said Sanders, whose parents and grandparents also graduated from Auburn. “Other kids would wake up and watch cartoons in the morning, and I would watch the news. I’ve just always enjoyed keeping up with politics and current events.”
During his time on the Plains, Sanders’ inclination for leadership blossomed. He served as a member of the Student Government Association, chairman of the Organizational Board and held a leadership role in his fraternity, Sigma Nu.
“All of those experiences were great in terms of teaching me how to work with teams and work with diverse groups of people toward accomplishing a common mission,” Sanders said.
Sanders graduated from Auburn in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and in 2016 with a master’s degree in public administration. Following his time at Auburn, Sanders served as a development associate for Americans for Prosperity, then as a legislative correspondent for former Alabama Sen. Luther Strange. Armed with his experience from working with Strange, Sanders made a move to the White House, where he served in various roles throughout the Donald Trump administration.
Sanders entered the White House as a presidential writer, crafting correspondences, response letters and proclamations for former President Trump. From that position, he became director of presidential messages and director of proclamations and messages. Sanders combined the two roles, putting him at the head of what for a while was one of the White House’s largest overall offices.
“A lot of it was planned on a messaging calendar based on what was going on at that time, but then obviously when things happened, you needed to be able to adjust quickly,” Sanders said. “When it came to some of the bigger, large-scale projects like the State of the Union or a major foreign policy win, everybody had a part to play, so you got to work collaboratively with the other offices.”
Even while serving in the White House, the world could become a little smaller when he ran into another member of the Auburn Family.
“You never knew who you were going to run into at the White House,” Sanders said. “Tim Cook was there one day, so getting to talk to him and say, ‘Hey, I’m an Auburn alum too,’ was really, really special.”
Sanders also worked as a policy coordination manager at the National Security Council, or NSC, where he served in the Strategic Engagement Directorate on a variety of pressing national security items. He believes graduate school at Auburn helped prepare him for his time on the NSC.
“My graduate program was crucial to my career,” Sanders said. “I became a better writer and learned how to really read reports, which became very beneficial to me when I got to the National Security Council and the White House, in terms of understanding mass quantities of data, briefing analyses, being able to synthesize it and get what you need out of it. At the time, I didn’t realize that graduate school at Auburn would have such an impact, but it made me overall a better aide to both the president and the National Security Council.”
Now serving as a director of public affairs at PLUS Communications, a public relations and communications consulting firm in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Sanders takes his experiences from working in the public sector and applies them to the private realm.
“I’m lucky to have transitioned from a very fast-paced environment in the public sector to another fast one in the private sector,” Sanders said.
At PLUS, Sanders works with clients to craft messages for issue and advocacy campaigns that will reach the American people. He takes pride in seeing how PLUS’ work impacts the world.
“I think the coolest thing for me is seeing how our work ties into so many other things,” Sanders said. “Right now, we are working with a client who is working to fight illegal trade, and you can see how that plays into combating other issues, such as the fentanyl crisis. That’s probably been one of the cooler aspects.”
Outside of work, Sanders spends his time duck hunting, hiking and boxing. In November 2021, he raised nearly $15,000 for AUTLIVE, Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl’s cancer awareness foundation, by fighting in “Haymakers for Hope,” a charity boxing event in Washington, D.C., that raises funds for cancer research, care, awareness and survivorship.
Sanders’ advice for students who might be interested in a career in politics is to get experience, not be afraid to talk to people and to take advantage of all the opportunities to learn from experts that Auburn offers.
“My first piece of advice is to do an internship, and my second is to go knock on some doors and talk to people,” Sanders said. “Find out the issues that matter to people and get a heartbeat on what the people in your area are thinking. I would also say while you’re at Auburn to take advantage of as many speaking engagements as possible and then talk with the speakers afterward, because you never know if that person might be able to help you one day with an internship or a letter of recommendation.”
Sanders looks back on his time at Auburn positively and believes it helped him get to where he is today.
“I really enjoyed my time at Auburn,” Sanders said. “It certainly prepared me for the career that I have.”