From Eufaula to the White House - Alumni Spotlight with Cody Sanders
Published on Sep 12, 2018
Known for its charm, fishing, and gorgeous antebellum houses lining the streets, Eufaula has served as the perfect backdrop for countless family vacations; it also serves as the hometown to current White House staffer Cody Sanders.
Sanders is a two-time Auburn University CLA alumnus (’14, ‘16) who works as a Presidential writer at the White House in Washington D.C. He primarily writes proclamations, head of state correspondence, and response letters on policy matters for President Donald Trump to review and sign.
“I also work on our bounce back email and other communications – whatever we're messaging that day, that week. If the President's at an event, if he's traveling, or he's at a speaking engagement, we want to talk about what he's doing to benefit the American people. So I work heavily on those communications. That's a large part of my role right now,” Sanders said.
Sanders began working for the White House in November 2017 and says it has been a phenomenal experience.
“There's never a dull moment, and you never know who you're going to run into. For someone who has been a political science junkie their whole life, this has been a little bit of a dream come true in that sense.”
Sanders received his a bachelor’s degree in Political Science (2014), and a master’s degree in Public Administration (2016). He also obtained an interdisciplinary minor with a concentration in management, marketing, and communications. Growing up in a family full of Auburn graduates, Sanders knew he wanted continue the tradition of attending Auburn, but he also knew he wanted his own experience.
“My family had all done business and engineering and other majors Auburn offers, and I never was really into those, so I went into Liberal Arts and took a completely different path from what my parents did when they attended Auburn. It was a unique experience in its own right, but at the same time I got to enjoy the traditions that came with Auburn grads and the Auburn family."
Sanders utilized many of the opportunities Auburn offers its students. He was heavily involved in student organizations like SGA, the College of Liberal Arts Student Eminent Society, and the Committee of Nineteen. He was also in a fraternity, Sigma Nu.
“Being part of these organizations was a big focus for me, so when it came time to graduate, I felt like it snuck up on me. I was trying to decide if I wanted to get into corporate relations, government affairs, or work for a nonprofit. But I wasn’t sure I had enough of a grasp on certain issues to do heavy policy work at the time.”
A conversation with a mentor on campus led him to consider graduate school. Sanders was encouraged to look at the MPA program, and Sanders said it was the right path for him.
“I would say that the Organizational Behavior class was really great. And Statistics, even though I hated every minute of it, I learned very quickly that you can make statistics work for you and you learn a lot about ethical use of data and research. I felt that was very important. Grad school also taught me how to write succinctly—how to get to the point, back up your information, your points, and really just become an overall better consumer and purveyor of knowledge, in all senses.”
His Auburn degrees prepared him for his short list of careers before working at the White House. Sanders began his career with the grassroots organization, Americans for Prosperity, in a fundraising role, but evolved into creating policy and directing communications. He then went to work for Luther Strange, who was filling the Alabama seat as a U.S. Senator in the Capitol (left vacant by the appointment of Jeff Sessions to U.S. Attorney General). When Luther lost the special election for that seat, Sanders was able to utilize his experience and networks into the presidential writer position at the White House.
While Sanders grandparents are still in Eufaula, his parents have since moved from Eufaula to Lumberton, Texas, – but Sanders does still make it back to Alabama on special occasions and says that he will always reflect positively on his time at Auburn.
“Being an Auburn student was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I was lucky enough to do it twice.”
Written by Vicky Santos, director of news and media services in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.