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Recent grad helps US Surgeon General’s office engage public with nation’s health concerns

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January 4, 2022

It’s not quite the West Wing—its federal headquarters are located a few blocks away on Independence Avenue—but for an ASU graduate just months away from school, Tree LeVeque has landed a job in Washington, D.C. where he can help deal with Americans’ health concerns. .

Leveque has been getting a lot of attention from Americans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – the nation’s health – working with a high-ranking federal health official: the surgeon general.

Trey LeVeque, a May 2021 Arizona State University graduate and spirit of service researcher, performs the department electronically for his position in the Surgeon General’s office. Photo courtesy of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General
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ASU graduate in May 2021 is Engagement Support Specialist for U.S. General Surgeon Vivek Murthy, part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the job since early November, Leveque provides administrative and strategic support to the public engagement efforts of Murthy’s office.

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“I could not be happier to join this wonderful team and support the work that is being done to continue addressing misinformation, mental health, loneliness, and public health in general in the United States,” said LeVeque.

“The past two years have not been easy for many individuals, with all that we have had to deal with in the face of COVID-19,” he said. “From loneliness from social isolation to the loss of loved ones, we have all been affected in one way or another. Therefore, it is so important that public health remains a priority for all of us. This is why I am personally so excited to play a role in this work.”

Gilbert, Arizona, who is based in Arizona, was a triple major – in public service and public policy, and global politics and law – with a bachelor’s degree from WP Carey School of Business. Leveque also received a certificate in Cross-Sectoral Leadership from the Watts School of Public Service and Community Solutions, where he was a scholar at the Reverend Center for Public Policy and Service in the Spirit of Service.

Read on to learn how Leveque got the job and what his experiences here at Arizona State University helped prepare him for this important career move.

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Question: Tell us a little bit about yourself. where do you come from?

Answer: I am a proud Arizona native, born and raised in Gilbert and Chandler. Throughout my life, I have been part of my community and have served as a leader in organizations such as Special Olympics in Arizona, Hugh O’Brien for Youth Leadership in Arizona, and the Boy Scouts of America.

I became passionate about access and equality when I was appointed to the inaugural student advisory board of the former First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative in 2017. I hope to continue to increase access to the first generation of low-income and underrepresented students across the country. At the end of that period, I continued my work with the Reach Higher as a 2018 Summer Fellow in Washington, D.C., and then as an UpNext participant from 2018 to 2021, where I was able to Affecting the lives of more than 300,000 students in the process of pursuing their higher education.

In addition, my interest in civic engagement—with an emphasis on voter participation and youth participation—began early through my involvement in society. I hope to continue to improve voter participation, education, and voter turnout. I continued my understanding of the Arizona legislative process as an intern for the Arizona Senate Page in 2019 and as an intern for the Arizona Secretary of State Initiative in 2020.

In my spare time, I love to explore the outdoors as an avid hiker and national park enthusiast (in June 2021 I went on a 23-day solo road trip visiting 25 national parks across the country), and enjoy indoor cycling and running (I completed my first half marathon in February 2020) and I cherish the time I spent traveling to visit friends and family (especially when it came to live music or great food). I appreciate the moments when you were able to bring people together and create a sense of community.

Q: How did you get hired at your job? US Department of Health and Human Services?

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a: I solemnly swore to my turn on November 8th.

The United States’ Office of the Surgeon General has been able to expand its team, the work they are doing as a result of COVID-19, and the Schedule A authority granted to federal agencies to meet their staffing needs. The Surgeon General’s current engagement manager has been working on his team over the summer after he was sworn in. He reached out to me at the time, having previously worked together in a few other capacities, and I had the skill set he and the team were looking for based on my experience and education.

Q: How does your time at Watts College prepare you for life after ASU?

a: My time at Watts College was a launchpad for my career in public service. Through the classes I took for my Business (Public Service and Public Policy) and Cross-Sector Leadership Certificate, I was able to learn a lot about how to be an effective government employee and a cross-sector leader. Watts College’s impact wasn’t just limited to the classroom. I am also very grateful for the financial support I received from the Pastor Center to be able to pursue my higher education, as well as other opportunities. For example, I was able to secure funding from the center to pursue a summer public policy internship program in Washington, D.C. during the summer of 2018.

I was also very fortunate to participate in programs like Spirit of Service Scholars program, which “honours outstanding students from all disciplines who are passionate about public service leadership and advocacy, and actively participate in promoting awareness and engagement related to a range of societal change and public policy issues.”

Q: What was the “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study your field?

a: To be completely honest, I don’t think there was really a single “aha” moment. I think in many ways that the majors I decided to take while I was at ASU found me. For example, if you were to tell me as a high school student that I wouldn’t get not one, not two, but three, I would have thought that I was wrong to be someone else. When I applied to colleges and universities, business was attractive to me because I recognized the importance of having strong business skills such as marketing, economics, accounting, and finance. But at the same time, I knew I didn’t want to do any of those as a career.

Through leadership roles in high school campus organizations and the community, my love for public service has grown. With all this in mind, I decided to apply to ASU and pursue business (global politics), which allowed me to have my education rooted in business while also learning more about political science. Since I came to ASU with some dual enrollment credits, I had the flexibility to be able to add several more degrees over the course of my four years at ASU. I ended up adding business (public service and public policy) and business (law) right after the other because of this.

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At about the same time, I was dedicating more time and energy to work centered on civic engagement as a member of the ASU Civic Engagement Coalition, as Vice President for Policy for Undergraduate Government at Arizona State University, as Arizona State Senate Page and as Andrew Goodman Ambassador. As a result of this work, my passion for public service and public policy has developed.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while you were at ASU? Are you still in contact with them?

a: Alberto Olivas He is the founding executive director of the Pasteur Center, an initiative to help students learn skills for effective civic and political participation. Apart from this role, Alberto provides training and technical assistance on issues related to public dialogue, public participation, and civic education. Not only has he served as my professor, but also as a mentor and advisor while I was a member of the Civic Engagement Coalition and Ambassador Andrew Goodman.

The most important lesson I learned from him is that in order to be able to solve the many complex challenges facing our country, we must consider the mind, heart, and hands (known as the civil spectrum) for every situation. The head is focused on understanding what the problem is, the heart is focused on why it is important to tackle the topic and the hands are concerned with how the problem is dealt with. In everything Alberto does, he displays this and lives it in all of his work.

Q: What did you learn while at ASU — in class or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

a: One of the most meaningful experiences I had as a student was my internship at the Arizona State Senate. Through this training, I learned a great deal about the legislative process in Arizona; More than I was learning through a textbook or class. As Senate Page, I played an important role in the daily operations of the Senate. Page’s most important responsibility in the Senate is to serve the needs of Senators while they are on the Senate floor during formal sessions, at standing committee meetings, and during caucuses.

Q: If you had a kidney to try again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?

a: When thinking about my college experiences, there are two things in particular that I wish I could do more of, or a little differently: take more classes for fun outside of my main map and study abroad for longer. Although I made an intentional effort to take a handful of classes that weren’t related to my required classes in my main map, I wish I had taken more which sparked my various other interests. I think we learn more about ourselves and the world around us through experiences like this. On my second point, I was very fortunate to travel quite a bit during college, but I think that pursuing study abroad for a semester would be very beneficial for my educational journey. For anyone even considering this remotely, I highly recommend making time while studying in college. The experience of immersion in a different culture cannot be replicated in any other way.

While there are only a few things I would have done differently, there are quite a few that I would have done the same way. It was really important for me to push myself in college, especially early on, to do as much as possible so I could test out the things that were important to me to help me figure out what I wanted to devote more time and energy to (this was also important in helping me figure out what I want to do after graduation). Through all those experiences, I faced a lot of challenge. It was very worth it, although I was able to meet some of my close friends, have the most memorable experiences and learn a lot about myself and others!

Q: What is your life motto in one sentence?

a: Live life on purpose and enjoy the journey.

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