Neal Denton addresses the audience
Photographer: Ashley Anderson
Mar 6, 2012
By Ashley Anderson
Ohio University alumnus Neal Denton met with various faculty and students from University College on Feb. 29, to discuss his work for the American Red Cross, offer career advice and reminisce about his time as a student.
Before his current job with the American Red Cross, Denton gained experience as chairman of the Public Policy Committee of the American Society of Association Executives and the Public Policy Committee of Independent Sector. He also served as a staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As senior vice president of government relations and strategic partnerships for the Red Cross, a major part of Denton''s work includes connecting government, nonprofit and private sector stakeholders.
"We desperately try to build the relationships with our chapter and their legislators," said Denton. "The chairman, congressman or senator — who they really want to know isn't the 'cheeseball' government affairs guy from 'HQ.' Who they really want to know is the chapter CEO, the board members and the volunteers who are going to be responding in their community if something is to happen."
Throughout the discussion, Denton also emphasized the value of getting involved on campus and the significance of his time at Ohio University.
As a student, Denton took classes relating to politics and business and served as president of Student Senate. He credits his work with the Student Senate as one of his most influential experiences of his career.
"I probably learned more doing that, that I still use to this day," said Denton. "The work I learned in Baker Center then — learning how to build coalitions, learning about advocacy, management and nonprofits — there were so many learning experiences that came out of that."
As a senior, connections he made advocating state legislation in Columbus offered him the opportunity to begin an internship and later work in Washington D.C. Denton completed his degree by working with professors to create a self-directed learning program using his work experience in Washington to earn a Bachelor's Degree of Specialized Studies (BSS) in political advocacy management.
Denton offered advice to students preparing for their professional lives after college. He stressed the importance of having common sense, the ability to write and communicate well and creating a personal brand.
"Pay attention to what your 'brand' is," said Denton. "It's the way you dress and how you communicate yourself. It's what's on your Facebook page, what's on your Twitter page and what your email address is."
Despite the growing challenges stemming from a weak economy, Denton encouraged students to get involved with the nonprofit sector.
"In the nonprofit world right now, it's all about how we can make the best use of limited resources," said Denton. "The folks who are succeeding and the folks who are making a difference are leaders who are moving the rest of the community where it needs to be."
He suggested taking advantage of opportunities in Athens to get involved with volunteer work that could offer both experience and connections.
"Athens County is one of the most robust nonprofit communities I have ever been a part of," said Denton. "It creates a great atmosphere."