Clayton Cox (AB ’10) is the Vice President of Federal Affairs at McGuireWoods Consulting. He has spent over ten years working in campaigns fundraising for political parties and candidates that he believes in. Clayton attributes his love for politics to his time at the University of Georgia where he majored in Political Science and International Affairs. “SPIA was the first entity to give me a break.” He fell in love with political campaigning when he ran for Student Government Association freshman year. “SPIA really gave me the tools, the relationships, necessary to get involved. Being in SPIA was my first crack at professional politics and introduced me to Dr. Bullock who I still remain in touch with.”
His dual degrees gave him a unique perspective, especially going into politics. “PoliSci is more cut and dry. It’s more of a science. IA is a little more theoretical; it’s a little more up in the clouds. In politics and policy, there is a skillset that requires both.” Since graduating, the tools that Clayton learned during his undergraduate degree provided him the foundation for a career in politics. SPIA also provided him with the tools needed to pursue an advanced degree. “International Affairs gave me a really good grasp of the forces that happen in the rest of the world. I saw how the U.S. was a microcosm of the rest of the world, and it prepared me for graduate school by requiring dense concepts to be boiled down to more coherent thoughts.”
Clayton applied the skills to pursue a Masters of Political Management and almost immediately moved to the national stage. Some big names he has worked with include Senator Warnock, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, and President Biden. For SPIA students interested in politics and campaigns, “it is a meritocracy. Whatever job you are asked to do, whatever you’re initially brought in to do, the work flows to people who get things done. Don’t get caught up in titles. Be the person who does the easy things right. Be reliable on politics and campaigns. Become someone people can trust.”
After reaching the highest platform of American politics, Clayton moved to his current space at McGuireWoods Consulting to run the Georgia federal practice where he advocates Georgia’s interests at the federal level. “It was the chance to represent local counties, schools, and companies that I care about.” Coming home to Georgia brought Clayton back to his roots and reconnected him with UGA where Clayton joined the SPIA Alumni Board of Directors last year.
With a passion for getting in on the ground level and building capacity, Clayton recognizes that SPIA is in the stage of “ramping up and launching.” Founded in 2001, SPIA celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. For Clayton, that means the opportunity to make a lasting impact. “Being a part of SPIA is about being a part of crafting what the school will look like in the future.” From students to faculty to alumni, everyone connected to SPIA is cultivating how the school will perform in the future.
When asked what he wished he had known when he was a SPIA student, Clayton said, “People want to help you. People want to help folks in similar situations as them so use your tools. I was always so afraid to reach out to people to ask for internships and other things, but people want to help.” He and other board members are making that easier through the UGA Mentor Program and events hosted by the SPIA Alumni Board.
“The appeal of the board is being connected back to UGA, which is one of the top three experiences of my life. I love seeing the programs, the students, and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.” He is delighted to continue setting processes and programs in place “that will set students up for success in the future.”