Alumnus talks political organizing at VP debate


Ryan Fleury stood in front of about 40 students in the Bill Bordy Theater on Tuesday night. Scattered in clumps of various sizes, the audience was in attendance to watch the only vice presidential debate of this general election. Fleury opted not to stand behind his podium. Instead, he placed himself a foot away from it, presenting himself at an angle. He seemed relaxed, but the Emerson alumnus wasn’t always comfortable with public speaking.

“He was somebody who was very shy,” Communications Studies Chair Dr. Gregory Payne, chair of communication studies, said of Fleury, one of his former students.

Fleury, who graduated in 2009, began his fundraising career in fall 2007 when he was a junior political communications major, he said at the event. Fleury said he traveled to Concord, New Hampshire to meet with Clinton campaign staffers who urged him to become involved with the campaign. He interned with the campaign’s New England finance office in Boston on weekdays and took the bus to New Hampshire on weekends to canvas for the campaign, Fleury said.

“I’m not sure when I went to class,” he said of his junior year at the college.

When Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic nominee race, Fleury said, he began fundraising for soon-to-be-President Barack Obama. Kathy Gasperine, Fleury’s boss when he worked with Clinton, remembered him when Obama ran for reelection, he said.

She contacted Fleury in 2011 to offer him a position on Obama’s finance team.

Gasperine later invited Fleury to join Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign finance team. Fleury accepted, and has worked with the campaign since.

At the vice presidential debate screening, Fleury urged students to intern as much as possible, noting how important the connections made through internships can be.

“My boss in 2007 is my boss now,” he said. “Never burn a bridge.”

Payne also commented on the success that Emerson alumni like Fleury have had in the political communications field.

“Wherever you go,” Payne said, “it’s not very hard to find Emerson at the top.”