MSU PLS alumna honored with Bryce Harlow Award

April 7, 2021 - Karessa Weir

MSU Political Science alumna Brenda Larsen Becker has some advice for today's PLS students:

“First of all, it’s about building relationships and networking. Don’t wait – it’s not all about bookwork. It’s important to study and get good grades but it’s about internships, building your resume and getting involved on campus and in campaigns,” Ms. Becker said. “It’s great that you played lacrosse – that’s leadership and teamwork – but what have you done that shows your interest in this world?”

Brenda BeckerThe 1981 Political Science graduate has advised the Vice President of the United States and senior White House staff, counseled the Secretary of Commerce and spent two decades working on health care and other important legislation initiatives with the U.S. Congress.  She is being honored for her body of work this Spring with the Bryce Harlow Business-Government Relations Award.

“Public service is extremely rewarding because you are helping others and promoting policies and ideas that help the American people,” Ms. Becker said. “We all need a seat at the table when policies are being developed because policy makers need to be educated and informed on the impact these ideas will have on their constituents. Elected officials can’t be experts on a multitude of issues ... so it is important for you to engage, educate and make your voice heard.”

This recognition, given by the Virginia based Bryce Harlow Foundation, is awarded for significant contributions to the advocacy profession through a lifelong career as an exemplary role model.

Ms. Becker, now a Virginia resident, grew up in Michigan and started her journey in politics in high school campaigning with her father, former state Rep. Melvin L. Larsen. Mr. Larsen is best known as the co-author of Michigan’s anti-discrimination law the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Mr. Larsen also served as Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1979-1981.

She started at MSU in the business college but switched to Political Science when she recognized the importance of policy making in all aspects of the business world. She has advocated that business schools include courses on political science because of the heavy regulations most industries face nationally and locally. She then went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Central Michigan University.

After graduation, she worked in government affairs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan. Ms. Becker first left for Washington, D.C. “not knowing a soul” to work on national state relations for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. In total, she worked for the Blue Cross network for more than 20 years.

Following the election of President George W. Bush in 2000, Ms. Becker was tapped to join the administration. “Because of my healthcare background, the first call I received was to serve at The Department of Health and Human Services but then Secretary Spence Abraham (also a Spartan) who had served as party chair after my dad, asked if I would be interested in joining him at the Department of Energy,” Ms. Becker remembered. “Finally, Secretary Don Evans at the Commerce Department reached out and I accepted the position of Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“This position requires U.S. Senate confirmation and have to say appearing before that congressional committee was extremely intimidating.”

Three years later, the White House called and Vice President Dick Cheney asked Ms. Becker to join his office to advise on legislative strategy, a position she held for three years.

“People often ask if I’ve ever ‘gotten there’ professionally and I’m not sure ambitious people like myself ever ‘get there’ but serving in the White House is a pretty big highlight of my career,” Ms. Becker said.

Ms. Becker has since returned to the health care industry as the Senior Vice President of Global Governmental Affairs for Boston Scientific, a medical device company.

Her children have both followed in her footsteps. Megan graduated from James Madison College at MSU in 2014 and Max is a 2017 MSU Political Science graduate. Both are employed on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.