George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Mason senior thrives at school and on the job

February 2, 2016   /   by Damian Cristodero

Ryan Thornton, a senior government and international politics major, is in on the ground floor of the start-up Quorum, a Washington D.C.-based company that provides analytical analysis of federal legislators. Thornton handles the company's client relations and media outreach. Photo by Ron Aira.

Ryan Thornton is at his desk in the Washington D.C., offices of Quorum Analytics at 7:30 every morning.

Considering the George Mason University senior has an hour-long bus-and-Metro commute to his full-time job, takes an online class and has class Wednesday nights from 7:20-10 p.m., his diligence and stamina are commendable.

“He beats everybody in,” Alex Wirth, the company’s co-founder said. “That’s unbelievable.”

“It’s rough,” the government and international politics major said, “but I love it.”

Thornton handles client relations and media outreach for the year-old company that employs 18 and provides subscribers (such as lobbyists, law firms and even George Mason) with profiles of legislators, their agendas, voting records and how well they cooperate with other lawmakers.

That information, gained from government websites, press releases, Library of Congress records and social media, is gold for anyone needing to build relationships with lawmakers. The Huffington Post called it “Google for Congress,” and Thornton has gotten the company mentions in high-profile media such as the New York Times and Vox.

It all started with an email the job-hunting Thornton sent the company after he saw it featured in the Washington Post. After nailing an interview he was hired in April.

Thornton acknowledged he used all Mason has to offer – its proximity to Washington D.C., which provided internships on Capitol Hill, a faculty that challenges him, and guidance that helped him understand what his job really entailed.

It was the Honors College, Thornton said, and Assistant Dean Andy Hoefer, who helped him find his optimal academic track. After accepting the job at Quorum, Thornton spoke to Paul Liberty, Mason’s vice president for government and community relations, about marketing and communication strategies.

“But what that turned into was an explanation of the product,” Liberty said. “I said, ‘You’ve got something there, you’ve got to run with this thing.’ In a matter of a short time, we picked up with Quorum. We are now a customer because of that interaction with Ryan.”

Add that to Thornton’s list of achievements. The Pittsburgh native was a resident assistant who “helped build a community on his floor,” Hoefer said. He captained Mason’s Ultimate Frisbee team and, with fellow Honors College student Beverly Harp, helped create Mason’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a student-led think tank that facilitates political discussion.

“Mason does one of the best jobs providing the resources and opportunities to succeed,” Thornton said. “Look at my development. I really excelled outside the classroom in terms of leadership and setting up organizations and getting internships and jobs. I really credit Mason with that.”

“He’s the full product,” Liberty said. “He’s got the skills, the business acumen, the interpersonal skills, and that’s what you want in a communications leader inside a growing company.”

At least Thornton’s nighttime class load is down to one. He had three night classes last semester.

“I’ve grown tremendously,” Thornton said. “It’s definitely worth all the hard work.”