I am a journalist, writer, editor, and the author, most recently, of Teaching Common Sense: The Grand Strategy Program at Yale University about one of Yale’s best-known and most sought-after courses. Based on several years of onsite reporting, archival research, interviews with students and faculty, and original survey data, Teaching Common Sense looks at “Studies in Grand Strategy,” a year-long, by-application leadership seminar. The course addresses some of higher education’s bedrock question, such as how is critical thinking taught and how will this generation learn to cope with uncertainty in a fast-changing world.
I have collaborated on seven nonfiction books, working successfully with a group of diverse, demanding personalities to tell their personal, and sometimes painful, stories. These include Amanda Knox’s New York Times bestselling memoir, Waiting to be Heard; Hillary Clinton’s Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets, written while she was First Lady; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life; George McGovern’s What It Means to Be a Democrat; George Foreman’s Guide to Life: How to Get Up Off the Canvas When Life Knocks You Down; and James Carville’s We’re Right, They’re Wrong. Each of these projects required me to become an expert on a nuanced topic, whether on the Italian legal system, the root causes of homelessness, heavyweight wrestling, the history of pets in the White House, or gun safety reform.
For the past fifteen years, I have worked with former Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady, writing his family memoir, A Way of Going, op-ed pieces, and speeches. One speech, “Fifty Years in the Business: From Wall Street to the Treasury and Beyond,” presented at Stanford University, was anthologized in the book Ending Government Bailouts.
I joined the staff of U.S. News & World Report in 1995, where I covered the 1996 presidential election, traveling on Air Force One with Bill Clinton. Over the course of a decade, I rose to become a senior writer, conceiving and orchestrating several of the magazine’s special editions and writing many of its best-selling cover stories on topics as varied as a profile of the Arkansas doctor who operates on newborns with tumors, Jesus’s Jewish identity (anthologized in Perspectives on the Passion of the Christ; Religious Thinkers and Writers Explore the Issues Raised By the Controversial Movie), and the history of food in America. This work honed my ability to explain complex ideas to a lay audience, find my subject’s voice, and tell a compelling story.
Prior to U.S. News I was a fact checker at The New Yorker for two years after graduating from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1993.
Among other publications I have contributed to the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, National Geographic, AOL’s PoliticsDaily, and NPR. org.
Born and raised in Atlanta, I live in Washington, DC, with my husband, photographer Ralph Alswang, our two children, and dog.