Danielle Cass

Tech Sector Liaison, Global Development Lab, USAID

Cass is currently the tech sector liaison for the newly created U.S. Global Development Lab within USAID. Her responsibility is to develop partnerships with the science, technology and innovation communities in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. The goal is to find breakthrough innovations to accelerate global development and end extreme poverty by 2030.

"Whether it's using online crowdsourcing to net 1,500 ideas from around the world for a better protective suit for Ebola frontline workers, using Twitter to share critical information with thousands of people, using cellphones to provide mobile banking and e-payments to people in rural areas where no banks exist, or using iPhones as mobile microscopes, there are hundreds of ways Medill alumni can share their own ideas and expertise for big impact in the developing world," says Cass.

Previously, Cass created a role for herself after working five years at Kaiser Permanente as innovation evangelist on the innovation and advanced technology team. As an innovation evangelist, she helped Kaiser Permanente's care providers share their innovative projects such as programs that use telemedicine video, mobile devices and smartphones to connect members to health care, across the Kaiser Permanente universe. Cass had also worked as Kaiser Permanente’s national director of public relations strategic planning and partnerships. In 2011, PR News presented her with the PR People Awards Media Relations Professional of the Year Honorable Mention.

Perhaps the most important lesson she learned at Medill is never to bury the lead. “Medill taught me how to seek out the people you need to tell a story, put them at ease to get them talking so you can share their story in a compelling way — or capture it with video, something I do now as often as writing stories,” says Cass.

As an undergrad in the spring of 1989, she hadn’t yet lined up a summer internship. She remembers sitting in the office of Professor (now Emeritus-in-Service) Peck, who picked up the phone and found her an internship working with a Medill alum at Adweek’s Marketing Computers magazine in New York City. “That was a great summer job that led to several good stories, including an analysis piece I wrote and published in PRWeek magazine about NASA’s response to the Challenger shuttle crash,” she says.

Cass said the best part of her Medill experience was her Teaching Media (now Journalism Residency) internship at the Albuquerque Tribune, which set her on a path as a legal affairs reporter at The Oakland Tribune following graduation and sparked her love of outdoor adventures in the west.