Major: Philosophy
Minor: French
Activities: New Directions
Alpha Phi Omega
Catholic Campus Ministries
Philosophy Honors Society
Career: Deputy Director, People for the American Way

The Real World: Student-Alumni Life Experiences Program is an annual two-day life experiences program for all University of Richmond students. The program is designed to help students better understand the lifestyle changes they can expect after graduation as well as to build lasting and meaningful relationships with UR alumni from a wide range of career fields. Learn more about this year's program, which takes place on February 8–9, 2008.

So, you graduated. What was the job search like?

When I graduated from UR, I didn’t take advantage of the amazing Career Center that the university offered. Rather, I naively focused on trying to get a job on my own. Despite my attempt to be independent, Richmond managed to land me my first job.

Shortly after graduation, I knew I wanted to turn my campus activism around diversity issues into a political organizing career. During college, I became enchanted by a national organization called The White House Project whose president, Marie Wilson, was a featured speaker at Westhampton College’s Women in Living and Learning Forum. She spoke out about the importance of bringing women’s voices into the political process and pointed out that the number of female elected officials in our nation hovered at around eight percent.

As soon as some of my professors heard I wanted to work at WHP, they used their relationship with the organization’s president to offer amazingly enthusiastic recommendations. Not just one recommendation, but two—and  I had never even directly asked these professors for recommendations. My professors at UR were amazingly committed to building my success on campus but also my future, and I am grateful for their support.

By the time I walked in the door for my interview, everyone I met had heard about my work at UR. In short, my first interview was more like a welcome reception into my dream career.

Is what you’re doing now related to what you studied at Richmond? Did it need to be?

I work to identify and engage young social entrepreneurs to be the progressive political leaders of tomorrow. Specifically, I focus on helping young leaders transition from being successful campus leaders to being leaders in organizations working for positive social change. My career is not only related to my studies but my experience as an activist on the Richmond campus.

In terms of my studies, my philosophy major equipped me with my most valuable professional skill, creativity. The critical thinking skills I learned in my major are tools I use everyday as I work to create programs and opportunities that engage young people in politics.

A few years out of college, all of the coursework is probably starting to blur together. What’s the one academic experience or class that has stood the test of time and still really stands out to you?

Easy Question: Dr. McWhorter’s Power and Politics course. Power and Politics explores the evolution of social movements from the civil rights movements to the LGBT rights movement of today. That course showed me that people powered change was possible and I felt an amazing sense of urgency to work for change, something that sustains me to this day.

Geographically, where are you? What’s a real day look like in your version of the real world?

I live in New York City in the heart of Time Square, far from Richmond’s lush campus. I wake up early, go to work and hammer out emails before a day full of meetings at my organization. I’m lucky that I get to travel a lot and meet with really passionate young leaders who have a vision for improving their communities.

At work, I collaborate with an amazing team to pilot programs and strategies designed to transition young leaders directly into the political pipeline. I say pilot because my work is relatively new to the progressive movement. Conservatives have been actively investing in young leaders for three decades, and it’s only recently that progressives have been investing in youth leadership development.

In my free time, I workout, run and have dinner with my friends. I also stay connected to UR alumni such as Haven Herrin at Soul Force or Tyrone Hanley at Gender Pac, both of whom are doing amazing work. These alumni have gained national attention for their activism around LGBT issues. It amazes me how many successful UR alumni are out there in my relatively non-traditional field and how easy it is to connect to them thanks to the UR network.

What made you want to come back to Richmond to participate in Real World? What’s the piece of advice you’re eager to share with current students?

In my current position, I help young leaders turn their ideas into action through seeking elected office, starting their own organizations or working for change in the non-profit sector. I can’t think of anything more exciting than meeting campus leaders from my own school and talking to them about following their visions.

Just last week, I came off a two-week period where I worked 15-hour days, seven days a week. If I didn’t absolutely love my job, there’s no way I’d have the energy to get through the day, much less grow in my field. Today’s jobs require commitment, time and energy. I hope to tell UR students to follow their passions because if they don’t, they won’t have the energy to sustain themselves through the beginning of a successful career.

What are you reading? Name a book that’s on your bedside table.

Giving by Bill Clinton, but most of the time I read blogs on my laptop to decompress before bed. I think blogs are the new bedtime book. At least that’s my prediction.   

I knew I’d officially graduated from college when…

I started getting asked about contributions to my retirement account.