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Public affairs grad learned government is people — not ‘an entity’ — serving other people

‘It depends on who the person is who is in that role’

Christopher Weddingen, fall 2023, Outstanding Graduate, School of Public Affairs, Watts College

Christopher Weddigen is the fall 2023 School of Public Affairs' Outstanding Graduate. Courtesy photo

December 11, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

After spending his undergraduate years at Arizona State University studying public service and public policy, Christopher Weddigen said he has come to a deeper understanding about the role of government in society.

One of his clearest conclusions is that it’s about people, not institutions, serving other people.

“People seem to view government as an entity rather than the people behind it,” said Weddigen, the School of Public Affairs' fall 2023 Outstanding Graduate. “But government is a collection of public servants trying to serve the greater good. That’s what it is supposed to be. As long as we have the right people in government who want to serve the public and the greater good, and solve society’s problems, government can do a lot of good. But like in any job, it depends on who the person is who is in that role.”

Weddigen earned a bachelor’s degree in public affairs and public policy with an emphasis in law and policy.

He said Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes has had a “profound” influence on him. Weddigen served as an intern in Fontes’ office but said he had admired Fontes since Fontes was Maricopa County recorder from 2017 to 2020.

Weddigen said Fontes believes in the integrity of American democracy and is “not in it for the game.”

“Government does a lot of good. It should be serving everyone and have no skin in the game other than serving people. We’re not looking for profit, to make money, just looking to serve the public,” Weddigen said. “Government plays a part at every aspect of society. Where we live and how well off we’re doing, whether or not we can afford housing or medicine and health care, whether we have access to basic human resources, government has a part to play.

Read on to learn more about Weddigen’s ASU journey:

Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I think my first “aha” moment was when I attended a political rally the summer after my freshman year of high school. The speaker there inspired me to get into politics and ignited my passion for government and public service. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: You never know what life is going to throw at you. Expect the unexpected; hope for the best and prepare for the worst. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU in part because of the unique "public service and public policy" major. I had not seen this specific major at any other university. It was exactly what I wanted —not just political-related, but the serving of the public and the nitty-gritty of policies aimed at solving real-world problems.

Q: Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I believe one of the most important lessons I learned at ASU through my classes was about the power of networking; that it is not exactly what you know, but who you know, and the things you can learn and opportunities you can unlock through the people that you meet.

I learned this through two of my master's course professors, Tim Gomez and Cynthia Seelhammer. They both brought in a good number of guest speakers and public servants in their classes that I was able to learn a lot from. They not only taught us important lessons, but also transformed the classes into a podium for other public servants and government professionals to speak upon. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Get involved. There is so much to experience at ASU: tons of community groups, events and extracurricular activities. Make connections and expand your network while you're attaining your degree. Not only is this a fun and social thing to do, it could also help your career long-term. However, don't let extracurriculars get in the way of your academics. Remember what you're here for; don't procrastinate, and create a clear and organized schedule so you can get your assignments done on time. You'll be thanking yourself in the long run. 

Q: What was your favorite spot to study, meet friends or to just think about life?

A: Either Noble Library (when I was living in Tempe) or University Center Library (when I was living in downtown Phoenix). Those were the most quiet and productive places for me. The second-floor study rooms in UCENT were also great, if you're able to find one that's not occupied.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are to take at least a semester off and work full-time before pursuing my master's degree in public policy and/or my Juris Doctor degree in law school.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Forty million dollars might seem like a lot, but on the scale of solving big problems on our planet, it's not that much. I would probably use that money to start my own nonprofit for helping solve homelessness in the downtown Phoenix area. I would try to use that money to buy a property that I can turn into a new homeless shelter and/or rehabilitation center and mental health clinic. 

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