Location: Washington, D.C.
Born in Bismarck, North Dakota, Bob Van Heuvelen left the Midwest after completing his M.A. at the Humphrey School to pursue a law degree from George Washington University. He has held a variety of posts throughout his career, including the director of civil enforcement and regulatory enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and chief of staff to Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND). He currently runs Van Heuvelen Strategies, LLC, a legislative policy and strategic consulting firm, in Washington, D.C.
Why were you interested in studying public affairs?
I was inspired by the option the government presents to try and solve problems for the common people and to try to be an instrument of change. I have always loved politics, and the notion that politics is here to solve real-life problems became abundantly clear early in my life. Doing a master program in public policy seemed to be a smart idea in order to develop some tools to affect change in politics.
What sort of network does the Humphrey School foster?
The alumni network is alive and well. For example, I served on the Alumni Board when I first came to Washington and I recruited an alumnus to work with me. In addition, I recently was at the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport and I ran into one of my graduate school roommates, who also serves on the Alumni Board. So, yes, there’s a network—and it works.
What is public policy?
Public policy is the challenge of trying to develop answers to problems that confront ordinary Americans. Policy formation is the process by which you create the policy, adjust peoples’ expectations, and engage them in the process.
The way that American government was set up by the Constitution's framers and by laws that have been enacted since, imposes a conservative bias on the process—conservative in terms of change. The opportunity for change is upon us. The challenge that it presents to people who have gone through a program like the Humphrey School's is to use your smarts and what you’ve learned to work towards affecting that change.