Hutchison Now highlights recent graduates early in their careers who embody how a Hutchison education can lead anywhere you can imagine. We spoke with Brittany-Rae Gregory Rivers ’08, Communications Director for Next Century Cities in Washington, D.C.
Next Century Cities is a national membership organization of more than 170 mayors and local government leaders dedicated to improving internet access in communities around the country. What is your biggest challenge working there?
I love the work that I do at Next Century Cities, and I am honored that so many people trust me with telling their stories through our organization's publications and communications platforms. My biggest challenge is probably time and space. There are so many local leaders to talk to, so many narratives to share, and only so much time and publication space. After graduating from Hutchison, you majored in English and Creative Writing at Wellesley College. When did you first discover your love of writing and did Hutchison provide you with the opportunity to explore that interest?
I was actually inspired to write short stories after reading Harriet the Spy, written by Hutchison alumna Louise Fitzhugh ’46, when I was about 6 years old. The main character journaled daily about the people and situations that she encountered, and I started to do the same thing. I have to say that I really came to love storytelling and its impact while at Hutchison. I often tell people that Mrs. Kelly (Newberry) helped me to become a confident and opinionated writer in her Honors English and Heritage classes. This is something that I took with me to Wellesley, and it definitely influenced my decision to pursue my passion and major in English and Creative Writing.
How did you decide to pursue a Ph.D. in Communications, Culture, and Media Studies at Howard University?
While I was at Wellesley, I developed an interest in the role that communications plays in shaping popular culture and institutions. I continued to foster this interest while I was in my Mass Communications Master's degree program at Middle Tennessee State University, and ultimately decided that Howard University's doctoral program was the best route for me to be able to hone in on this specific area of research. While I was at Howard, I studied the role that communications played in the evolving dynamics between residents and university students in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood.
You currently work with city mayors and other local government leaders, you worked as
communications director at HBCUstory, Inc., promoting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and you served as the press secretary for a U.S. Congressman. Have you always been interested in public policy or did that evolve over time?
I first developed an interest in public policy while I was at Howard. During the second year of my program, I was a graduate fellow for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA). In this role, I was able to combine my background in research and communications to examine what students at all levels of education needed to thrive both inside and outside of the classroom. After that summer, I was hooked. I knew that whether I was in academia or industry post-Ph.D., I wanted to center public service in my career path.
How did Hutchison help you get to where you are today?
While I was at Hutchison, the school's tagline was "A Girl's School of Thought." This was centered in our coursework and extracurricular activities. At Hutchison it was important to me to always think - to think outside of the box, to think about things from multiple perspectives, and to think ahead. This is something that I took with me and I continue to apply to my daily life. Brittany-Rae Gregory Rivers ’08 is the Communications Director for Next Century Cities, a tech-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. She graduated from Wellesley College in 2012 with a degree in English and Creative Writing. She went on to receive a Master’s in Mass Communications from Middle Tennessee State University in 2015, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Communications, Culture, and Media Studies from Howard University in 2019.