A Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) alumna, Riva currently serves as the communications director for the House Republican Conference. She also launched the first-ever congressional staff organization for Republican female staffers — GOP Women on the Hill — which provides women with mentorship opportunities and introduces them to prominent female leaders who have paved the way before them.
Major in college: Double Major: History and Political Science
Professional role: Communications director, House Republican Conference
What's the most challenging part of your job? What's the most rewarding part of your job? Not unlike my days in Alpha Phi, there is never a dull moment on Capitol Hill. (And you become exceptionally good at running around the Capitol complex in heels.) No day is the same as the one that preceded it. But it's exhilarating to be at the center of the action: from averting the fiscal cliff to sitting in the House Chamber during the President's State of the Union to welcoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a joint session of Congress, it is a tremendous honor to witness history unfold every single day.
Why did you create GOP Women on the Hill? As a woman on Capitol Hill, a traditionally male-dominated world, I am passionate about empowering other women to pursue careers in politics and public service. And I've learned firsthand the invaluable nature of mentoring. So I decided to launch the first-ever congressional staff organization for Republican female staffers: one that brings women together, provides them with mentorship and networking opportunities and introduces them to prominent women leaders who have paved the path before them. My boss, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, has been instrumental in making it a success.
Who is your biggest role model? My brother Ben. He was killed in a tragic fire at 19 years old, but I carry him in my heart every single day. Ben laughed at everything, especially himself. He never ended a phone call without saying "I love you." He met everyone, even strangers, with compassion. And he reminded me that there is always a silver lining - sometimes we just need to look a little harder to find it. Years after his death, Ben reminds me to make the most of this one beautiful life we are given.
What's your favorite thing about living and/or working in Washington, D.C.? Much like my home city of San Francisco, I am in constant awe of this city. You pass the Washington Monument and the White House on your walks home from work. You see First Lady Michelle Obama in your fitness class and Kevin Spacey in the Capitol preparing for his next "House of Cards" episode. Your daily runs are interrupted by the Vice President's motorcade heading down Pennsylvania Avenue. But beyond that, Washington, D.C., is breathtaking in both its beauty and its history. Sometimes I sit at the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps - overlooking the Reflecting Pool and the National Mall - and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be surrounded by such rich history. There's nowhere else I'd rather be.
What professional achievement are you most proud of? Hands down: serving as a speechwriter for last year's Republican address following the State of the Union. My boss, Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, was asked to deliver this important speech, and we worked together on every aspect of it - from word-smithing to fact-checking to dress-rehearsing. To be in the room as she delivered the live, prime-time address was the thrill of a lifetime.
What's on your bucket list? Two years ago, I walked 40 miles and raised $48,000 in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in memory of my mom, who lost her life to breast cancer a few months after her 60th birthday. It wasn't long ago that I received an unexpected call from Avon, informing me that the money I raised enabled 312 women to get mammograms. Next on my bucket list? Do the walk again - this time with better shoes (for the record, Shape-Ups are not ideal), raising even more money than I did before. Ultimate bucket list goal: complete the Avon Walk in all seven cities in which it's offered. And take some part - no matter how small - in ending cancer during my lifetime.
How do you define success? To me, "success" is about so much more than an impressive list of professional accomplishments or career advancements. It's about your character. About being proud of the person you are, not just the things you've achieved. I think the most successful people in the world are the ones who exude real, honest, infectious humility.
What's a quote you live by? I have two. The first is Plato's "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's something I think about every day - no matter where I go or whom I meet. You never know what the person next to you - on an airplane, at a coffee shop, in the office - is going through. So always, always, always be kind to them. The second is Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver's "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Those words hit me right in the heart when I first read them. And they serve as a daily reminder - no matter how tough things get - to make the most of my days.
What do you tell yourself after a tough day? That somewhere in the world - probably not too far from me - someone else's day has been worse. It could always be worse. And it always gets better. No matter how tough the days are - and believe me, they're tough sometimes - I feel an inexpressible surge of excitement and gratitude when I walk through the doors of the United States Capitol every morning.
What's a priority on this week's to-do list? Compile a messaging packet on our ObamaCare replacement. Prepare for President Obama's budget to be delivered to Congress. Coordinate a press conference with local small business owners to highlight House Republicans' small business flexibility legislation. And - in the few hours when I'm not at work - SoulCycle, Ann Taylor Loft's 40% off sale (again), and an incredibly unhealthy consumption of coffee.
What advice do you have for collegians who want to go into politics? Go for it. Politics was once known as an "old boys' club," but it's encouraging to see more women in all aspects of political life - at the Capitol, across state legislatures, and in local governments all across the country. Women bring a unique and important perspective to the table - especially in public service. So pursue your passions, take risks and don't let a single thing stand in your way.