ASU grad helps develop White House programs


Andres Guerra Luz

The same month that Andrew Hanus finished serving six years in the U.S. Air Force, he began his undergraduate degree program at Arizona State University. By the following year, the 26-year-old was studying in Washington, D.C., launching a multi-million dollar initiative, and balancing 22 credit hours of online classes with a job at the White House. And he did so while earning straight A’s.

How did he accomplish all of this?

Along with his military training, Hanus said he benefitted from just “going with the flow.”

Hanus began interning at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as part of an ASU leadership program located in the nation’s capital. Hanus interned at the science division within this department.

The department advises the President of the United States about the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. It also works with local governments and agencies to develop policies informed by scientific research.

Completing an internship in D.C. was part of the leadership program Hanus participated in. Offered by the ASU McCain Institute for International Leadership, the Next Generation Leaders program brings up to 20 students each year to D.C. to learn leadership skills and policy design.

Students take part in a class once a week that simulates the daily work environment of a U.S. embassy, Hanus said, and they go to their internships on the other days.

At the time of taking part in this program, Hanus also was earning his ASU undergraduate degree in science and technology policy. He took classes online in order to graduate on time.

Finding a balance between all his responsibilities was challenging at first, Hanus said, but his military training helped him succeed.

“The military taught me a sense of responsibility, a duty to myself and a duty to others,” Hanus said. “I have a duty to myself to be successful at everything I do, and that includes school.”

And while he does not have a plan when it comes to his future career, Hanus said he follows his interests and tries to excel at everything he does.

Hanus said interning in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy involved many different tasks ranging from talking to local government agencies about supporting an initiative to writing articles that provide the public with information about various White House projects.

“There’s not really a typical day,” Hanus said. “I’ve spent some days where I haven’t left the computer screen and I’m there for 12, 14 hours revising documents or just reading through articles trying to get things ready for review. Or there’s days where I don’t even sit down at my desk.”

One of the things that never changes about interning in the White House, Hanus said, is the feeling of “awe” when you “walk in and realize where you’re actually working.”

“That never really grows old,” he said.

Hanus’ internship lasted a semester, during which he worked under the department’s directors including Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Science Division Jo Handelsman.

The work Hanus accomplished during his internship resulted in being invited to join the Office of Science and Technology Policy staff as a fellow for the following semester.

“From his internship, it became very clear that he is extremely bright, he is very assertive,” Handelsman said. “He gets stuff done.”

By the time Hanus completed his fellowship at the White House, he helped launch a multi-million dollar initiative, led the planning for one of the department’s events, and helped set the foundation for new programs.

The multi-million dollar National Microbiome Initiative supports interdisciplinary research, developing platform technologies, and expanding the microbiome workforce to increase the understanding of microbiomes.

Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms that inhabit the environment as well as people themselves, Handelsman wrote in the initiative’s online announcement. Recent science depicts larger organisms visible to the eye, such as humans and plants, swarming with these microorganisms.

The initiative serves to promote a better understanding of these species, she wrote, so that scientists can manipulate microorganism communities “to benefit individuals, communities and societies.”

A colleague who was going to be leaving the department was running the initiative when Hanus was brought on staff. She passed the responsibility of directing the initiative onto Hanus.

“So much of what we do relies on having good relationships,” said Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Education and Physical Science Division Meredith Drosback. “Andrew did a tremendous job on picking up those relationships, building them, and maintaining them to really bring the National Microbiome Initiative to fruition.”

The initiative is funded with over 121 million dollars in federal money and 400 million dollars from private and public organizations around the country.

“That was in large part due to his incredible relationships with the people he contacted and the excitement he generated for the microbiome [initiative],” Handelsman said.

Hanus also planned the White House event announcing the initiative to the public, which meant managing the teams in charge of security, room reservations and other responsibilities.

Even though overseeing all those responsibilities is a complicated task in the White House, Handelsman said Hanus kept on top of all of it and successfully ran the event with about 180 people in attendance as well as a large media presence.

“In a task when most people would be frustrated and move on, he is able to just keep going and make it happen,” Handelsman said. “And with his warm and sunny personality, he’s successful more often than not.”

After launching the National Microbiome Initiative, Hanus worked with the Office of Science and Technology Policy to write material on the initiative. Once the brunt of the work was completed, Hanus then helped lay the foundations for the department’s soil and agriculture portfolio.

Hanus said one of the greatest benefits of working in the department was being able to talk to experts in various fields.

“The diversity of expertise at OSTP was amazing,” Hanus said. “It brings multiple perspectives into my ability to make decisions or present new ideas because I’ve been around all these people with these very diverse backgrounds. It really enables me to be more acute to different things that are going on around scientific disciplines.”

The military training that Hanus attributes to his success involved military-designed leadership courses as well as hands-on training.

This leadership experience made him “conscious of relationships in the workplace and what it means to take leadership” and caused him to think about these matters more than most people his age have, Handelsman said.

“He knows what leadership means and he can take it and he can also respect it in others,” she said. “I think that makes him just a better, richer colleague.”

Handelsman said while Hanus often attributed his work ethic to his military training, there were qualities in him she believed were just part of his nature.

“Andrew is one of the most loyal people I’ve ever known, and there’s a certain security in working with someone you can absolutely trust,” Handelsman said. “I always knew he’d be working for everyone’s best interest.”

Another factor contributing to Hanus’ success was his creative capacity that Handelsman said allowed him to solve problems and do work in the department in ways she, and perhaps anyone else on the team, would not have thought of.

“There’s no recipe for doing things in OSTP and building policy is really complicated,” Handelsman said. “We know where we want to get, but getting there is the challenge.”

“He was really able to dissect and then solve a lot of the problems of moving forward with initiatives,” she said.

This fall, Hanus is enrolled at Georgia Tech University to pursue two master’s degrees: one in public policy and the other in city and regional planning.

With his military record, his ASU undergraduate degree, his experience with the McCain Institute and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Hanus has a solid foundation for his career.

Where can he go from here?

"Anyplace he wants,” Handelsman said. “With his talents and skills and personality, I think he can do anything he sets his mind to.”