The Policymakers

Maureen Hinman (BA ’02, MA ’03)

“Leap and a net will appear.”

That is what Maureen Hinman (BA ‘02, MA ‘03) was thinking when, a year after graduating from the Korbel School of International Studies, she sold all her belongings, packed up her Toyota Corolla and drove across the country to Washington, D.C., to pursue her dream: becoming a U.S. trade negotiator.

“People thought I was crazy,” says Hinman, who grew up in Thornton, Colorado. “But I was ready, and I wanted to try my luck in the trade policy world and see if I could make it work. I knew D.C. was where I had to be.” 

This leap-of-faith mindset has guided Hinman throughout her academic and professional career—from her decision to come to DU to her work in the federal government and now, as co-founder of Silverado Policy Accelerator, a nonprofit, bipartisan policy organization. 

Hinman arrived at DU in the fall of 1997 during the most challenging time of her life. When she was a senior in high school, her older sister, a student at DU, was tragically killed in a pedestrian-automobile accident. Distraught, she threw away her college applications and wasn’t sure what she was going to do. In May, however, she decided she wanted to go to college in the fall, long after applications were due. She applied to DU.

“DU took excellent care of me,” Hinman says, not only accepting her application late but offering her a generous scholarship. “I’m extremely grateful to the University for supporting a very unorthodox admissions process and also just being a very soft place that I could land.”

At Korbel, she quickly became interested in economics and international economic policy. Her specific interest in trade policy came from the realization that “our entire tangible world is actually shaped by these people who sit in these rooms and negotiate trade deals. It determines what we produce in our economy, what’s available on grocery shelves, what we can buy at what price at Target—that seemed fascinating to me.”

She credits two of her advisors, Korbel professors George DeMartino and Ilene Grabel, with providing “spectacular” support as she navigated the 4+1 program, eventually earning a master’s degree in global finance, trade and economics. 

“[Professor] DeMartino taught me that everything is a negotiation and how to negotiate early, which sparked my love for the process,” says Hinman. “[Professor] Grabel taught me how important it is to know all the facts and make sure your analysis is rigorous. The art of negotiation, combined with the rigor of knowing what you’re talking about, has been a real recipe for success.”  

Hinman worked her way up through the ranks in D.C., starting at an economic policy consulting firm, where she honed her writing and analytical skills, learned how to run projects and traveled a lot—including to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland. “I remember the first time I walked into the WTO. I was 24 or 25 years old, and I was just like, I can’t believe I’m allowed to be here.”

But Hinman not only wanted to be there; she wanted a seat at the table. She transitioned to the U.S. Department of Commerce, where she worked as a foreign trade zones analyst, a policy analyst and then as a senior environmental technology trade specialist.

Environmental technology, Hinman says, was a rapidly growing, niche field, and she was able to become a field expert quickly. After eight years at Commerce, she took her expertise to the Environment and Natural Resources Office at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, where she realized her dream of being a trade negotiator, working on deals related to clean tech issues—including everything from water pipes and transmission lines to air pollution and waste management.

Negotiating such complex topics, she says, comes down to “solving people’s problems.” “If you focus on interests, not just positions, you have a place to start. And for the deal to stick, everyone at the table has to take something home that they and their stakeholders will be proud of.” 

In 2021, Hinman and her husband, cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch, launched Silverado, which she calls a combination “think tank and do tank.” Silverado fulfills a need they saw to speed up the implementation of policy solutions, offering policymakers the expertise and data they need to get things done quickly. They work in three strategic areas: trade and industrial security, economic and ecological security, and cybersecurity.

As Hinman forges ahead, changing the world one policy solution at a time, she also stays connected to her past. Silverado has started a fellowship in her sister’s name, the Catherine Hinman Memorial Fellowship, which brings a group of graduate students to D.C. each summer to gain practical experience and build their professional networks. They always hold a spot for a DU student.  

The program, which is based on financial need, is aimed at students who don’t have the resources or connections to help them get a start in Washington—providing a net for the next generation when they leap.

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