News

Class of 2019: Announcing Scripps’ 2019 Commencement Speaker: USAFacts President Poppy MacDonald ’97

CLAREMONT, California - February 11, 2019

Poppy MacDonald ’97, president of USAFacts and Scripps alumna, will deliver the address at the 89th commencement exercises on Saturday, May 18, 2019.

USAFacts is a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic initiative that aims to make government numbers more available, accessible, and understandable to Americans. Prior to joining USAFacts in 2018, MacDonald was the president and chief operating officer of Politico USA, a political journalism company; National Journal’s publisher, president, and chief revenue officer; Politico Pro’s executive director of business development, overseeing the launch of Politico’s first paid subscription model; and a partner at Gallup, Inc., where she launched the World Poll and led the healthcare practice. MacDonald began her career serving members of Congress representing her Pacific Northwest hometown on both the Senate and House sides of Capitol Hill, and currently resides in Seattle with her husband and two children.

A first-generation college student, MacDonald majored in history while at Scripps. She studied off campus during her junior year, spending the fall semester in Nepal trekking the Himalayas and the spring and summer interning in Washington, D.C., at The McLaughlin Group, the weekly radio roundtable of analysis and opinion.

Scripps students managed the selection process for commencement speaker. In the fall of 2017, the then-junior class was surveyed about their interests and recommendations for speakers. Thereafter, the Commencement Speaker Committee, comprised of student volunteers, was established. These students helped evaluate results from surveys and polls and advised on potential candidates, describes Jahnavi Kothari ’19, former junior class co-president and chair of the selection committee.

“I had previously met Poppy when she came to campus for a Laspa event two years ago. She had a lot of great insight into what it means to be a leader and is clearly passionate about Scripps,” says committee member Casey Beamish Harris ’19.


MacDonald stands out as one of very few women to occupy a high-profile national media position. How she navigates the current political sphere is one of many topics that attracted the commencement committee to her as a potential speaker.

“Given the current climate of alternative facts and fake news, a nonpartisan, data-driven organization like USAFacts is more relevant than ever,” wrote members of the student committee.

While on campus, MacDonald will also be meeting with students for talks and workshops. “I’m looking forward to hearing directly from students on the selection committee about what they hope to hear,” said MacDonald. “I’m most excited to have time to connect with the faculty and students in a setting that still feels like home.”