Madeleine Bright, ’19

Public Service

In blue skies or gray

Madeleine Bright, ’19, specializes in helping people on their worst days. After a natural disaster strikes and a community is reeling from loss and damage, Bright is there as both an advocate and a liaison. As part of the Interagency Recovery Coordination (IRC) team of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Bright needs both the hard and soft skills — some of which she picked up at UR, some she’s learned while at FEMA, and some she had all along.

“They needed someone to pull it together, and I ... ended up as the de facto leader.”

Within a year and a half of joining the IRC, Bright was placed on a committee to craft her region’s strategic plan for 2022–26.

“I realized after the first couple of meetings that there wasn’t a strong leadership presence in this effort,” Bright said. “They needed someone to pull it together, and I somewhat unintentionally ended up as the de facto leader.”

While still fresh in her role, Bright took the daunting position as an opportunity to ground herself as a respected member of the team. “It taught me a lot of the confidence, poise, and team management that is essential to advancing a federal career.”

Bright spends most of her time communicating and building relationships with other federal agencies during “blue skies,” or when disasters aren’t happening. “That way, when the bad thing does happen,” she said, “we aren’t meeting for the first time. In a crisis, it’s tough to build trust on the fly.”

Given that the recovery process is a long one, the IRC team must be sensitive to where and when they are needed. “We wait in the wings, attentive, ready to meet them where they’re at when they’re ready.”

Bright was drawn to the public sector early on. “I can’t emphasize enough the value of my Jepson background — the ability to negotiate, speak on the fly, and be a good listener,” she said.

Whether in blue skies or gray, Bright has an array of tools to help her build foundations of trust, grounding communities when they need it most.