The roots of Laquan Austion’s political career grew from his time in The Forest.
Through classroom discussions, mentoring from professors, and a key internship award, Austion left Drew with a set of ideas, skills, and experiences to find his place in the world of politics.
While at Drew, Austion received an award through the Jeannette V. Balber Endowment, which honors the efforts and interest of Balber in Madison and Morris County public service and Democratic Party and grassroots politics.
Austion received the award despite his standing as a member of the Republican Party, something he felt was appropriate given Drew’s openness to different points of view.
“I remember a professor sharing in class that the discussions were designed to challenge what we think we know and force us to compete our ideas and not our feelings,” he said.
“These robust conversations helped mold and sharpen my political acumen and policy positions. In many ways, it also helped me relearn some issues that I thought I knew and believed.”
The award allowed Austion to get his first political campaign experience that “tipped the dominoes towards a career in policy and politics.”
Since earning the award, Austion has worked in crisis communications and public affairs work for Fortune 500 companies and worked on several political campaigns.
Austion pointed to professors Patrick McGuinn, Phil Mundo, and Carlos Yordán as playing significant roles in his Drew education and interest in politics.
“Drew helped me find my career and passion and also helped expose me to things I would not have experienced otherwise.”
“Each professor had a very different teaching style but always masterfully found a way to end each discussion with my wanting to learn more,” he said.
In addition to his political consulting career and pursuit of a career in academia—inspired by his Drew professors—Austion founded The Juneteenth Foundation in the fall of 2020.
“I felt a sense of restlessness following the death of George Floyd,” he said.
“I felt that simply sitting on the sidelines complaining was not enough. I wanted to do something that helped accelerate change that would ultimately help celebrate an important part of history for Black Americans.”
The foundation’s primary goal is to have Juneteenth—a celebration and commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States—recognized as a federal holiday.
The organization also strives to “champion corporate and citizen engagement for healing and advocacy for Black Americans.”
“Drew helped me find my career and passion and also helped expose me to things I would not have experienced otherwise,” said Austion.
The passions are now pointed towards a meaningful cause of celebrating freedom and Black culture.
This story originally ran in Drew News in March 2021.