Jim Messina, the architect of President Barack Obama’s successful campaign for re-election, will be the featured speaker during The University of Montana’s 116th Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18.
Messina graduated from UM in 1993, where he studied political science and journalism. He served as Obama’s national chief of staff for the 2008 presidential campaign and led the president’s 2012 campaign.
The influential Griz has been hailed as the “most powerful man in Washington you’ve never heard of” and the mastermind behind a new presidential campaign style that features social media, hard data and armies of grassroots volunteers.
“Going to The University of Montana is the single best decision I ever made in my life,” Messina said. “I couldn’t be more excited to come back to UM and watch as the next generation of leaders graduate from my alma mater.”
Between presidential campaigns, Messina was Obama’s deputy chief of staff for operations in the White House. He now is national chairman of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit organization established to help Obama achieve his national agenda.
In addition, Messina has founded The Messina Group, a consulting firm that advises corporations, politicians and nonprofits using the technology and grassroots lessons pioneered by the Obama campaign.
“We are thrilled to have such a prominent alumnus return to UM and share his experiences with our graduates,” UM President Royce Engstrom said. “It’s apparent that Jim loves UM and attributes his success to the education he received here. I’m sure he will have much to offer our students and their families.”
A native of Boise, Idaho, Messina was a UM student from 1988 to 1993. He interned with the 1991 Legislature in Helena, and in 1993, as a UM senior, he ran the successful re-election campaign for Missoula Mayor Dan Kemmis.
He became involved with several state campaigns, and by 1995 he was working for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). He worked on and off for Baucus until 2008, as well Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.). Many political candidates seek him out for his political expertise.
Commencement will begin at 10 a.m. in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Individual ceremonies for the College of Arts and Sciences and Missoula College will follow at noon, and individual ceremonies for professional schools will begin at 2 p.m. Sue and John Talbot of Missoula each will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during the graduation ceremonies.