Using the skills cultivated by the Honors College, our graduates are transforming the Capital region. Ryan Thornton (Government & International Politics ’16) has played an essential part in growing a public affairs software company. The company, Quorum, has expanded from a small core of full-time employees when he joined in his senior year to nearly 80 employees by the time he left the organization in 2019. Now, Thornton plays a key role on the communications team at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a trade association representing the technology industry's public policy interests.
While attending Mason, Thornton was able to make great use of the opportunities the region presented. Internships with the Office of US Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and the AFL-CIO helped prepare him for his first full-time position with Quorum Analytics. While contributing to Quorum’s growth, Thornton’s interests in the technology industry and public policy deepened. Transitioning to ITI presented Thornton a challenge that he believes all graduates face when building their careers: applying their skill sets to a focused subject while continuing to learn skills that will enable them to succeed. “Always develop yourself,” said Thornton when discussing this transition.
As ITI’s Senior Manager of communications, Thornton develops and implements ITI’s messaging strategy, often engaging with several stakeholders in advocacy. In his daily work, Thornton has the opportunity to offer communications guidance to technology industry experts, helping to develop focused messages that effectively represent their interests and concerns. Each project requires a carefully designed communication strategy. By coordinating press releases about key issues, efforts to put important messages in front of key policy makers, and calls with reporters, Thornton's team is able to raise awareness of the issues most important to ITI's stakeholders.
Thornton credits Honors College Deans, Dr. Zofia Burr and Dr. Anthony Hoefer, among others, for supporting his personal and professional development during his time as an Honors College student: “I can’t tell you how many times I was able to go to them for advice.”
Thornton also made excellent use of Mason's student community to build the skills that have become the foundation for his career. “[I wanted] students to have a place to [...] take action on policies” explains Thornton about his motivations when co-founding a chapter of the Roosevelt Institute at Mason with fellow Honors College alumna Beverly Harp and others. The Roosevelt Institute is a nonpartisan policy organization that writes and advocates for progressive policy change. Thornton subsequently served as the New Chapters Coordinator for the national Roosevelt Institute organization. These leadership roles, says Thornton, helped sharpen his ability to engage with external stakeholders by giving him opportunities to create partnerships with other departments and organizations.
Thornton advises current and future Honors College students to make use of the many extracurricular and personal development opportunities available at Mason. Thornton emphasizes the value of the many resources available to Honors College students, explaining: “My extracurricular involvement made it so much easier to tailor my interests to my career.”