Growing up in Independence, Ohio, Matt Bruning, ’03, dreamed of a career in public service.

As a former legislative aide and policy director for a think tank and now a senior member of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s policy staff, he can safely say his dream has come true many times over.    

“Knowing that I am part of a team that is working to better Virginia is both an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience,” said Bruning, whose official title is special assistant for legislative affairs.

“My primary role is the governor’s lobbyist and conduit to the legislature. But I’m also serving as deputy director for the Government Reform and Restructuring Commission to develop recommendations to make state government simpler, more effective, and deliver services at a reduced cost.”

Reaching one’s dreams, of course, takes hard work and good opportunities, something to which Bruning will attest. With a campus not too far away from the nation’s capitol, an opportunity to double major in leadership studies and political science, and a curriculum structured to allow him to gain plenty of practical experience through community engagement and internships, he knew he needed to put the University of Richmond at the top of his list when he was looking at colleges.

After being accepted he decided to do an internship all three summers during his academic career. He interned in the district and D.C. office of the representative from his home state after his freshman and sophomore year, respectively. For his required Jepson internship, he immersed himself in politics outside the United States. Through the University’s summer internship program in London, he worked for a member of the House of Commons in Parliament.  

“Both internships really helped to broaden my understanding of not only how government works, but of the impact decisions make,” said Bruning. “And I am continually harkening back to what I learned at Richmond. The foundation I gained from my experience at Jepson on situational leadership, ethical decision making, and critical thinking is something that has proven instrumental to being successful in my positions.”

The relationships he formed during his time on campus, and alumni connections, also proved to be instrumental. He credits political science professor Dr. Dan Palazzolo with helping him get his first job with KBR, a leading global engineering, construction, and services company. Later William J. Howell, B’64, speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, hired him to be the policy director for the Virginia Reform Initiative.   

Now Bruning has advice for students who want to pursue a career in government. “Be willing to get involved and work hard on whatever opportunity is presented. Be open and take chances because there are so many paths in government and politics, and you never know which ones will open up to you.

“With a great educational experience behind you, opportunities shouldn’t be a problem.”