Helping Others Through the Power of Public Policy

By Tommy Switzgable

“To me, the fundamental ingredient associated with public service begins with a commitment to creating and sustaining lasting influences so that others who follow benefit from what you contributed to along the way,” says Jim McDonough, CPS’22. “The tools associated with creating that lasting influence are rooted in the development and execution of sound policy that makes a soldier a soldier.” 

McDonough, of Round Lake, New York, served 26 years in the United States Army, working his way through the officer ranks and ultimately achieving the rank of colonel. Beginning his military career in Europe, McDonough eventually found his way back to the United States, where he performed two tours of duty for the Pentagon, including a speechwriting position for the Secretary of the Army. He then deployed to the Middle East out of Fort Bliss, Texas to support Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom before returning home to retire from the Simon Center for Professional Military Ethics at West Point.  

After retiring from the military, McDonough became the CEO of The Headstrong Project, which he describes as a national-facing mental health treatment practice of choice for military connected families. Through his work with The Headstrong Project, McDonough wanted to further his passion for helping veterans, which led him to Northeastern’s doctor of law and public policy degree program.  

Focusing on strategic thinking and research, McDonough noticed there were similar values shared between his time in the service and those taught to him in his degree program—stating that, “…the common thread between my service in the United States Army and my doctoral studies here at Northeastern involves a powerful sense of humility it takes to serve and learn well from others.”  

With a deeper understanding of legal analysis and public policy, McDonough loves to share how his newfound doctorate has catapulted his passion for helping others, especially those who have also served their country. Even with over two decades of world travel and military experience, he credits Northeastern for being a unique vessel that has shaped his perception of public policy through the lens of “contemporary issues that continue to challenge the progress of our society.” Looking back, he says, “my studies have invigorated my appreciation of the role that good people can play in developing good public policy and never giving up on serving the needs of others.”  

Learn more about McDonough and The Headstrong Project on Instagram @getheadstrong. You can reach out to Jim and The Headstrong Project team via their website.

Jim McDonough

Your Northeastern experience should be viewed as just the first step in making a commitment to ongoing learning, the place where you learned how to learn best.”  

Jim McDonough, CPS’22