Senior Manager of Federal Contracts at Duke University Raleigh, NC
You worked with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for almost 14 years. What were your responsibilities in the role of Contracting Officer? At the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), I was directly supporting the front line soldiers in the war on terror. My job was to negotiate contracts with government suppliers. I made sure we had contracts in place to expedite the process of getting materials to the military; specifically, to units that were deployed.
The Contracting Officer is the signature authority who can obligate the government to pay for supplies or services, so another major role was ensuring that the prices being paid were in the best interest of the American taxpayer.
What drew you to your current role at Duke University? What does your position entail? It is funny how the world works sometimes. I’ve spent my entire life in the Philadelphia area, but a few years ago my wife and I started thinking about moving a little further south. We had good friends in the Raleigh area and had visited a few times. I found the job at Duke on a third-party website and applied.
Almost three years later, I am directly supporting frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19 by focusing on the contractual aspect of COVID-19 research. My role is similar to the Contracting Officer position in the sense that I am negotiating government contracts; however, in this position, I am on the other side of the transaction.
I negotiate on behalf of the Duke University School of Medicine with the federal government. I have the pleasure of working with some of the brightest doctors on the planet. I work with the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and have directly negotiated numerous contracts for research related to COVID-19, HIV, and a universal flu vaccine. It’s rewarding to play even a relatively minor role in such important research at a critical time in our country.
What was happening in your life when you decided to earn your J.D.? I had just moved to North Carolina ahead of my family to start in my role at Duke. For the first few weeks I was staying with friends, one of whom has a law firm here in the Raleigh area. After taking a practice LSAT in my spare time, I decided to take the actual test and, ultimately, enroll in the Online Hybrid J.D. program at the University of Dayton School of Law.
A J.D. is not necessarily the next step in my career, but it will indirectly create opportunities to advance my career. My experience, in combination with a J.D., could also prepare me for government contract consulting opportunities.
My ultimate plan would be to create my own firm and eventually even teach in the Online Hybrid J.D. program!
How do you balance school, work, and your personal life? Every single day is a new adventure. Because I work from home, it is probably a lot easier for me to manage than it is for those who commute or even travel for work. I don’t know how those folks do it!
A typical day starts with caffeine and the creation of a “to-do” list. I try to do my class assignments, readings and the asynchronous modules on a strict schedule. For example, every Friday I will complete the asynchronous for Monday’s class. If I get some time during my work day, I may do a little reading; if not, I will usually try to get it done before ending for the day.
This strict schedule helps me avoid having to spend the weekend catching up, which has an impact on my family life. Balancing my personal life would be impossible without a strong support system. I have my wife — who is amazing and manages essentially everything to do with our house and kids — and my kids, who are extremely supportive, understanding and engaged. They are the first ones to ask about my grades and are equally excited when “we” do well on an assignment or test.
Lastly, my friends in the cohort are incredible. We pick each other up and lend support when needed. If work takes over one week and I couldn’t get to a case that we needed to read, one of them will call me and give me the synopsis. I will do the same for them.
I love what I am doing and who I have in my corner. I am excited to see where this journey takes me!
Can you describe any standout moments from your time in the program? Every class and professor has been extremely unique and rewarding in its own way. For instance, students from the previous cohort told me that the 4-credit classes require more time than the 3-credit classes — something that seems obvious until you meet Professor Watson! In addition to his textbook, you need to read more than 500 pages of supplementary material he has created throughout his years of teaching Property.
Don’t worry, though — he is amazing (even though he is a Duke Law graduate). He has a sense of humor that resonates with everyone, and he makes difficult topics relatable. Only in Professor Watson’s Property class will you find pop stars, politicians and cartoon characters all conveying their property rights in the same lesson!
Tell us about your classmates. Have you been able to learn from their experiences in other fields? Have you made any connections/relationships that now exist outside of the classroom? I am sharing this experience with 29 amazing individuals. I have established relationships with many of them outside of the classroom. I have had at least five business meetings resulting from conversations with members of my cohort.
I have three specific friends that I heavily rely on almost every day. We really have formed an unexplainable connection, and I would expect the four of us to remain friends long after our time at the University of Dayton is over. It is an aspect of the program that I did not anticipate, but one for which I am extremely grateful!
Why did you select the online format vs. attending a program in person? To be honest, the online format was not my first choice. There is a small school with a night program located five minutes from my office, and I really thought I wanted the in-person experience.
I attended an information session about the Online Hybrid J.D. program to keep my options open. The session was hosted by Dean VanZandt. My wife was within listening distance, and when the session ended, she was adamant that I attend. She was incredibly impressed with everything Dean VanZandt had to say. Don’t tell her I admitted this, but she was right!
What recommendations or advice do you have for prospective students? Deciding between the online and in-person programs is a personal choice. I may not yet know what my classmates look like below the shoulders, but I would venture to say that I probably know many of my classmates better than I would had I attended an in-person program because of the online aspect.
Regardless of the program you choose, it is critical to build a support system within your cohort and beyond it. Most of the people who support you at home and at work will struggle to relate to exactly what you are going through, so you need the support of fellow students as well. It is a constant balance that is only achievable due to the environment created by the University of Dayton School of Law and the Online Hybrid J.D. program.