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After a yearlong recuperation from a serious health problem and a seven-month stint in Mexico with a failed dot-com company, Bryan Richardson ’00C resolved to take his interest in politics seriously and moved to Washington, D.C., with hopes of finding a job on Capitol Hill.

“To my dismay, I could not find work,” he recalls. “I felt like a little guppy in an ocean of smart people. I couldn’t even get Wendy’s to look at my résumé.”

Then he remembered the Emory Alumni Network.

“I downloaded a list of all Emory alumni working in the D.C. area,” he says. “Suddenly, I had a pool of compelling opportunities, interviews, and new friends. Nearly everyone I contacted from the alumni network returned my calls and e-mails.”

After working as a staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Richardson (left) is now in graduate school at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government pursuing a master’s degree in public policy. He frequently volunteers for Emory Alumni Networking programs.

J. Davidson “Dusty” Porter ’85C, president of Emory’s Washington alumni chapter, says the importance of a strong alumni organization at the country’s political core cannot be overestimated.

“Networking is critical in D.C., which is a city about having connections,” Porter says during lunch on the upper floor of Union Station, with a bird’s-eye view of the capital’s work force racing back and forth between trains. “Here, it really is who you know.”

Porter (left), dean of students at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, became involved with the chapter several years ago. “My Emory experience was very positive, and I was interested in continuing to keep in touch with other alums.”

With about 5,700 Emory alumni, parents, and friends, Washington is the metropolitan area with the third-largest number of Emory graduates working and living there, after Atlanta and New York City. Likewise, the D.C. alumni chapter is one of the most active chapters in the Association of Emory Alumni (AEA).

“The D.C. chapter has a history of active involvement and dedicated leadership,” says Yvonne Flowers, director of regional programs and leadership development for the AEA. “Under the presidency of Dusty, the steering committee–made up of alumni from a cross-section of decades and schools–has taken ownership of its chapter and actively recruited others to join them. The results show in their effective leadership team and program successes.”

The AEA hopes other chapters will follow suit. At a 2002 Conference of Regional Leadership at Emory, the D.C. group was held up as a model.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have had a devoted core of about fifteen really amazing volunteers who love Emory and are willing to put the time in,” Porter says. “It’s a very collaborative effort.”

Recent events included a reception at the Thai Embassy, a service day at a local food bank, and a private tour of the National Cathedral with an organ recital.

“Our formula is to pick a compelling space that people wouldn’t normally get to see, have a speaker with an Emory connection, and charge a minimum fee so that members are committed to coming,” Porter says. “Emory graduates are very capable adults who want to make a difference and stay connected. The alumni chapter gives us a way to do this.”–M.J.L.



© 2003 Emory University