Class of ’95, first-generation college student credits RBC as launch pad for successful career
By Abigail Holmes
October 12, 2022
Jeff Britt grew up near Richard Bland College in Prince George County, VA, where he graduated in ’95. Government and political science caught Britt’s eye while attending RBC, prompting him to strategically transfer to George Mason University and get involved with the political scene on Capitol Hill.
Britt and his family knew he would attend college as a first-generation college student. The 4-year school admissions process was overwhelming to the high school senior who was unsure of what he wanted out of his future. “I wasn’t the best student—probably earned solid B’s—but I was accepted to RBC where I could enjoy the comforts of home and get a taste for college life,” says Britt.
Britt qualified for a Pell grant which made college an affordable option for his family. He remembers, “I took for granted the financial aid I was receiving and didn’t focus on my schoolwork as I should have. During my second year at RBC, I allowed my GPA to dip low enough to lose the grant, forcing me to take out a personal loan to cover my spring classes. That was a wake-up call.” Once Britt was literally invested, he reached the turning point, which drove him to take his education seriously.
Sight unseen, Britt applied and was accepted to George Mason University. Upon transferring, Britt took advantage of GMU’s proximity to Capitol Hill, interning for a U.S. Senator from Virginia.
After graduating from Mason, he moved to Richmond where he took a position as a legislative aid in the Virginia House of Delegates during the 1999 General Assembly. That experience led to a part-time job with the VA Board of Elections where he processed voter applications, proofed ballots, and audited campaign finance reports. “I learned a great deal about Virginia elections and campaigns during my time, but that job was a means to an end. I knew there was more out there. After a few months, the board secretary offered me a full-time job, but I was honest and turned it down, explaining that I would love to work in the governor’s office instead,” says Britt.
Britt’s bold move to turn down a steady, full-time job right out of college was rewarded a few months later. It was one of those turning points in his life where things started to work out right after taking a risk. He received an offer to work in the governor’s office in constituent affairs, where he served as the governor’s “front door” for two years before the term ended.
At that point, he took a different course and decided to jump into campaigns. His seasonal volunteer efforts with a candidate for attorney general caused a campaign manager to notice Britt and hire him as a campaign staffer to do grassroots organizing.
That led to a five-year stretch where Britt worked on three statewide races and served as the political director of the state Republican Party. In this time, he met his wife, January, and they began to build their family.
“Campaign life and family life are hard to balance,” recalls Britt. “During my last campaign, we had our first son. Unfortunately, we lost that race and suddenly, I was unemployed with a baby at home.” At that point, Britt’s wife went back to work as a school teacher and he was home with an infant considering his next move.
“I wasn’t sure I had any marketable skills outside of campaigns,” said Britt.
As luck would have it, a great opportunity presented itself with a powerhouse public affairs firm in Richmond. In 2005, Britt thought he blew an interview at McGuireWoods Consulting when he told the firm he did not care to lobby. Britt reached another turning point because, as it would turn out, he could not have given the lobbyist-heavy company a better answer; they did not want another lobbyist, they were interested in his skillset as a grassroots organizer.
Britt serves as a senior vice president in the firm’s advocacy practice, having worked at McGuireWoods for almost seventeen years. “The same rules apply at the firm as they do campaigning—it’s all advocacy,” says Britt. He uses grassroots organizing to advocate for his clients in the areas of energy, manufacturing, healthcare, and land use to ensure that good policy is implemented.
With the support of the firm and his wife and four boys, Britt attended the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia in 2007 and returned to school to earn his master’s in public administration from Virginia Tech in 2014. But looking back on his career, Britt attributes much of his success to the time he spent at Richard Bland. “I learned a lot about myself while at RBC,” said Britt. “My time at Richard Bland was formative giving me the experience and confidence to forge my own path.”
Britt currently serves as Chairman of the RBC Foundation Board of Directors, where he is committed to supporting the mission of the college and the success of its students.
Britt offered this bit of advice to students at RBC, “Take time to learn, take time to play, take time to explore your interests, but don’t take your time at Richard Bland for granted. Make the most of it.”