Success Stories

Communicating on Capitol Hill

Dave Yonkman

“I work with some of the most brilliant people on the planet every day,” said 1998 Grand Valley alumnus Dave Yonkman. “It is amazing to see how willing these folks are to dedicate themselves to public service.”  
 
In 2011, Yonkman accepted a new position as communications director for Mike Rogers, congressman and House Intelligence Committee chairman. Previously, Yonkman worked as press secretary for Congressman Pete Hoekstra in Washington, D.C., moving from Holland, Mich. in 2002.

Yonkman, a Muskegon native, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He spent much of his time at Grand Valley working at the Lanthorn as arts and entertainment editor, news editor and editor-in-chief. In 2006, he was named Distinguished Alumni-in-Residence of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Yonkman said one of the most important things he learned at Grand Valley was to building relationships on both sides of the fence. “It has helped me throughout my career both as a reporter at the Holland Sentinel and in communications on Capitol Hill,” he said.

Relocating from West Michigan to Washington, D.C., can be intimidating, but Yonkman said that after the first few months, and a very steep learning curve, he was able to quickly build a network and learn to keep pace with how rapidly Washington moves. “The perception of Washington that I had before moving was that everything was political and argumentative,” he said. “But most of the people I have met genuinely enjoy working to better their country.” 

His advice for students is to network like it’s your second job and learn everything you can about your field; he said 95 percent of job opportunities are never posted. The harder you work, the luckier you get, he added. “My career has taken a path that I never would have imagined as a student at Grand Valley,” Yonkman said, “But, through connecting with people and committing myself to my work, the stars aligned.”

by Kevin Virant