Alumni Spotlight: Anna Sugg ’08
Anna Sugg is one of the most hardworking, positive, and enthusiastic people you will meet. Since graduating from Westminster in 2008, she attended Furman University, where she double-majored in political science and communications, worked the Romney presidential campaign in 2012, landed a position at Fox News in the booking department, and became Director of Television at the Republican National Committee. Her extensive experience, combined with her drive and tenacity, also landed her a spot on the Huffington Post’s list of Most-Influential Women in 2016 Election Media. She now works with CBS News as a producer for their digital streaming network CBSN. It’s a full plate, to be sure. The motivation behind everything she does, however, is her faith, says Anna. “I’m a firm believer that work is worship. I also believe that it’s not what job I have but how I do the job I’m given. Work matters. What we do with our work matters. Most of the jobs I’ve held have a relatively large sphere of influence – but for me, it’s more than that. I stay faithful in how I do my work, focus on glorifying God through my work, and keep perspective on the impact of my work,” she says. When reflecting on 2016, Anna clearly identifies it as one of the most challenging and growing years to date for her.
Back at RNC, her work last year encompassed two sides—the campaign side and the media side. “It was incredibly interesting and humbling,” she says. “When people talk about ‘the media’ or ‘political operatives,’ those are more than just abstract terms to me. I know these people. It gave me an extremely interesting, personal, and complicated perspective—one I believe is an incredible gift.” The days were grueling. Anna had to institute a personal rule not to accept any producer calls before 7 a.m. She worked long hours—most nights getting no more than five hours of sleep – and her limited free time did not allow for as much connection and community as she would have liked. To top it off, she found herself in an extremely challenging and unique political situation. “It’s no secret that this was an extremely divisive and difficult election,” she says. Despite the hardships, Anna says she learned a number of valuable lessons during that time. “I learned that I am stronger than I think I am, and a lot of that isn’t me. There were several situations where I felt very weak and ill-equipped, and I had to remind myself that God will never put me in a situation that I could not handle without His help.” Reminding herself each day that God was at work—in the people and circumstances she found herself in helped, too. “Remembering that every single person is made in the image of God was essential for me and still is,” she says. “I think this goes a long way in our political culture. Every person is extraordinary, and every child of God deserves grace. Reminding myself that elections aren’t out of God’s control and my career isn’t out of God’s control helped me have perspective. Everything works to His good.”
While her Starbucks coconut milk mocha macchiatos helped her survive most mornings (“It’s God’s gift to mankind—especially really tired mankind!” she says), her church family supported her through the thick and thin of the 2016 presidential campaign. “My church family would send me emails and texts, take me out for coffee, go for walks…I even had one friend that volunteered during the Republican National Convention and made it her mission of the week to ensure my sanity. I was never without a hot cup of coffee, a snack, or a cell phone charger – I don’t think I could have made it through without her,” says Anna. Spiritual support from her church community group helped ground her as she immersed herself in the political world. “Politics and media aren’t exactly known for being rich soil for the Christian life,” she says. “A life of faith is extremely counter cultural. It’s one reason I was thankful former Westminster teacher Mr. Talley had us memorize Romans 12 back in 8th grade. The Christian life can be isolating at times in the world, but it’s worth it to hold fast.” From 8th grade and on through her high school years, Anna sees Westminster as having played a significant role in shaping how she lives out her faith in everyday life. “Westminster gave me a great faith foundation,” she says. “I was in Mr. Boesch’s AP Government class, and I learned more about civics, government, and the philosophical basis of our country than I thought possible. I wasn’t told what to think, but I was taught to use my faith-based foundation to come to a well-thought out and researched opinion.” At Westminster, she learned by example how to apply her faith to every aspect of her life, says Anna. “I learned how to look at everything with a Christian lens. Being a Christian is more than church on Sundays, and at Westminster, it was more than just Bible class. I had excellent role models, from Mr. Knerr who taught me to think critically as a Christian, to Miss Woodall, who taught me what it’s like to be a faithful and strong woman of God.”
The road from Westminster to college and career has, at times, put that faith foundation to the test. “Post-graduate life has been challenging for my faith, but I made a personal decision of faith my sophomore year of high school and have never looked back,” says Anna. Throughout her career, work has demanded a significant portion of her time and effort. “I was constantly traveling, always exhausted, and honestly, my quiet time really struggled. I was also immersed in a culture and industry that doesn’t prioritize faith in the same way I do. It took – and continues to take – a lot of learning experiences, disciplined time management, and some pretty frank accountability sessions with friends and family to continue to grow in my faith.” However, her faith in Christ is worth fighting for, says Anna, and she wouldn’t trade that growing experience for anything. “Yes, I would have loved to learn lessons without having to go through valleys, but it’s a challenge that has given me such a rich and personal experience of my need for Christ as well as the beauties of grace. It’s a walk that’s still continuing to grow, and I’m under no impression that I’m finished being stretched. Not even close.” In her new role at CSBN, Anna is already stretching herself professionally having just helped launch a show in January. It’s been an exhausting but rewarding experience to watch the show grow, she says. “It’s also an amazing time to be involved in covering presidential politics,” says Anna. “Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, everyone can agree that it is constant. My skills as a journalist and producer have gone through a crash course, and I’m excited to see how they improve in the months to come.”
In all the work that lies ahead, Anna is passionate about being a positive contributing factor in changing the way people talk about politics. “I firmly believe that Christians need to be leading by example – to be able to have these conversations with people that do not agree with them and engage on a personal and compassionate level. It’s tough. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. If anything, it’s a call to engage the world around us, and through the work I’m doing now, I get to be a part of that national conversation. I am so honored to be working in this field.”