Two Gold Star mothers — parents who have lost sons or daughters in service of the United States Armed Forces — walked up to the Russell Senate Office Building on Jan. 19, the day before the presidential inauguration, to find a large line of people awaiting security checks.
Brittany Donnellan, ’15, noticed them as they were glancing around for someone who might help them navigate the crowd.
Donnellan was busy serving as a liaison to the Missouri State University Chorale at the time, but stepped aside to talk with the women.
“Hi, can I help you?”
“We’re here for a meeting with Senator Blunt, but we don’t know if we can get in,” one of the women said.
“I work in his office; I can definitely help you,” Donnellan said.
She made sure they were able to get to their meeting before heading back to her MSU group.
Making it to the Capitol
Donnellan is one of about 35 staff members in U.S. Senator Roy Blunt’s office. She’s been living and working in Washington, D.C., since graduating in 2015 with a bachelor’s in international business administration and a minor in Spanish. Before that, she had interned in Blunt’s office during a summer break.
“I had the opportunity to attend committee hearings and press conferences, talk with advocacy groups and Missouri constituents about federal policies, and learn from some of the most brilliant and passionate staff members. After that summer, I was sold on returning to D.C.”
When she was offered a position in his office after graduation, she said it “was like going back home.”
She started on “the Hill” as a full-time staff assistant for the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, chaired by Blunt. Next, she moved to his personal office to become a digital legislative correspondent.
“Working near some of the nation’s top leaders has taught me the importance of cultivating curiosity — to never be afraid to ask questions, learn to say ‘I don’t know,’ and to use what I’ve learned coupled with my passions to create change. With every opportunity, I ask myself: How can I take this knowledge to better the lives of Missourians?”
She splits duties between legislative and communications teams.
“On the legislative side, I conduct research and monitor developments on legislation related to taxes, pensions, entitlements, trade, housing, small business and religious liberty — to name just a few. I also meet with Missourians on behalf of the Senator to talk about how federal policy may affect them.”
For the communications team, she helps correspond with constituents on social media and also prepares some weekly reports for the Senate Republican Conference.
“The Senate office buildings are a world of their own — complete with cafes, a hair salon, gelato bars, dry cleaning, a post office, gym … to name just a few features! But my favorite aspect of working in the Senate office building is being at the pulse of the nation at a critical time in our history surrounded by, and learning from, some of the most respected and incredible leaders.”
She’s planning for a long career in public service. She’s attending the Washington College of Law at American University as an evening student, and expects to graduate with a Juris Doctor degree in 2018.
“The legislative process has always thrilled me — it’s exhilarating to watch an abstract idea become real legislation that directly affects people in Missouri and across the nation.”
Debbie Donnellan, Brittany’s mother, has worked at MSU for 33 years. She is now the organizational and talent development coordinator for human resources.
She visits her daughter in D.C. several times a year.
“We love to visit the Smithsonian museums, the monuments and memorials, and try out new restaurants. We’ve toured the city on Segways, canoed the Potomac River and cheered on the Wizards at the Verizon Center.”
Brittany planned to attend a college in D.C., but decided Missouri State felt like home, Debbie said.
“Her time as the student body vice president with the Student Government Association, and serving as the Public Affairs Week chair, are among her favorite experiences.” They share a passion for public service.
“Brittany has been driven to become an attorney since the third grade. Our mother-daughter conversations always involve discussing and debating legislative proposals — very different than some families! — but I love hearing her passion for what she does and all that she is able to experience on the Hill. The reality is, she is living my dream and I couldn’t be more proud.”
She’s a former Citizen Scholar Award Winner
Brittany Donnellan was among six Citizen Scholar award recipients in the 2014-15 school year. The Citizen Scholar award is one of Missouri State’s top honors. Recipients must have stellar achievements in academics, community engagement and leadership.