Middlebury College alum being recognized for accomplishments in DC

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 8:21 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 8, 2023 at 9:36 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Middlebury College alum Elsa Alvarado was the youngest director ever to work in the Pentagon. While she has since moved on from that position, she’s paved a path forward for many with her accomplishments.

She told WCAX News she’s being recognized by Middlebury College this weekend and that her education there shaped her future.

“There’s an idea of what a typical person at the Pentagon will look like,” Alvarado said. “It’s usually a senior military official that has served.”

Alvarado was hired as the director of strategic communications for the Department of Defense at the age of 24.

“I was a young Latina from New York City that have never served in the military,” she said. “I was different from the start and so I thought that I had to work twice as far to really earn the respect of my colleagues and my bosses, but there was definitely a learning curve.”

She says she started working on President Biden’s 2020 campaign after completing her master’s degree in China. From there, she worked on the inauguration, before being hired to work in the Pentagon.

“Not only did I serve the president and work through different world crises, but I also developed an internship program in the office that I was in,” Alvarado said. “My goal was to really expand the amount of women that we have in defense and the amount of people of color. I was lucky enough to have a couple of Middlebury students.”

Alvarado attributes a lot of her skills and knowledge to her time at Middlebury College, where she graduated in 2018. Her professors and mentors say they’re not surprised she’s already accomplished so much.

“I remember first meeting her and thinking I’m either going to vote for her someday or work for her someday or both,” said Sam Prouty, Middlebury’s director of admissions.

“She’s open to different perspectives ideologically, politically, just really wanted to soak up knowledge and you know that’s brought her a long way,” said her former professor, Matthew Dickinson.

Dickinson adds that Alvarado always had an interest in politics and public policy, attending weekly discussions on those matters.

Alvarado says Middlebury wasn’t her first choice back when she was pursuing colleges and universities, but was encouraged to apply because of their prestigious French program. She says her acceptance letter and attention to individual students are what pushed her to go there.

“I received in the mail my acceptance letter with a handwritten note from the admissions office where they detailed exactly what they loved about my application,” she said. “The professors at Middlebury were a big part and getting me to where I am. They’re expertise and their mentorship is still part of my life.”