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August 04, 2021

Politics, a New Field of Dreams for Brink to Follow

By Bruce Gerson

From baseball to politics, Bill Brink is used to covering all the bases.

A former Pittsburgh Pirates beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brink is a communications specialist for Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS), its flagship undergraduate major and master’s degree program in international relations and politics, and its internship program in Washington, D.C.

“My main thrust is to try to spread the word about what our students and faculty are doing and to raise the profile of the institute,” he said. “CMU is rightfully known as a STEM school, but we want to let people know that there is a political science department at CMU as well. If you want to study international affairs and politics, this is the place to do it.”

Brink, who joined CMU in February 2020, about a month before the pandemic struck, writes stories about students, alumni, faculty and guest speakers for the IPS website, and runs the institute’s social media accounts. He visited the D.C. interns before COVID-19 shut everything down.

“I got to see the offices right on Capitol Hill, right next to the Supreme Court. The students live on the H Street corridor for one semester. They intern at think tanks, government agencies and Congress. It’s a pretty cool setup,” he said.

“If you want to study international affairs and politics, this is the place to do it.”

Brink also helps with media requests for faculty, which kept him extremely busy during the presidential election last year.

“I love interacting with the students and faculty. They’re all so talented and driven,” he said. “That sounds cliché, but it’s true. I get to talk to people like Dani Nedal about nuclear proliferation, and that takes what I’ve read in The New York Times about the Iran deal and adds nine layers of context to it. I get to learn from people who are experts in their fields.”

Brink, who “bounced around” as a child growing up from New York to New Jersey to Detroit to Maryland, moved to Pittsburgh in 2010 to join the Post-Gazette as a summer intern after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in history with a minor in journalism. 

Less than a year later, after covering high school golf and tennis, and “whatever they needed help with,” he began covering the Pirates on a full-time basis and remained on the Pirates beat for about nine years.

Bill Brink with former Pirate catcher Francisco CervelliFormer Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli interviews Bill Brink at PNC Park. Wait! Shouldn't that be the other way around?

“Covering the Pirates was great, but it was nights and weekends and you’re on the road,” he said. “My wife was the one at home, walking the dog and doing things by herself. It was time for something different. It was time to be home more.”

From the time he was a child, he followed his parents’ lead and developed an interest in politics. They watched The West Wing together as a family. He voted for the first time in the 2008 presidential election. 

“I like to read newspapers and the more I read about politics, the more I got interested in it,” Brink said. “I don’t want to be a politician, but if there’s some small way I can help a department educate the next generation of policymakers or diplomats, that would be a worthwhile cause.”

Brink said his current role with IPS and his previous one covering the Pirates share several similarities, including writing, of course, interviewing and finding those golden nuggets of information.

“... if there’s some small way I can help a department educate the next generation of policymakers or diplomats, that would be a worthwhile cause.”

“The skills you pick up interviewing ballplayers, coaches and executives translate,” he said. “If you listen to people talk enough, they might say something they don’t think much of, but it turns out to be something quite interesting.”

Being around the best in their field is another commonality.

“In baseball I was around the best in the world,” he said. “It was interesting to see their habits and routines and how they achieve and maintain greatness. At CMU, you’re around that caliber of individual regardless of the field they’re in. The drive, grit and compassion of students and faculty are very inspirational to be around.”

After a hectic 2020 that included a new job, getting adjusted to working from home, a new baby boy — their first child — and recently moving into a new home, Brink is excited to get back to campus this fall.

“We just got new offices on the third floor of Posner Hall, and I’ll be going in to get set up in a few days. I’m really looking forward to that,” he said.