Each morning before 8 a.m., Nicole Foltz passes through the staff entrance of the Cannon Office Building – often with coffee, briefcase, and newspaper in hand – and up two flights of stairs to her office at the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee.
Foltz, a 2005 graduate of the University of Mary Washington and a legal counsel for the committee, was recently named one of the National Journal’s 25 Under 35 Most Influential Women in D.C. for 2013.
The call from the magazine informing her of the accolade came as a complete surprise, said the Mansfield, Ohio native.
“My job is very nerdy,” she said. “I’m completely flattered and honored to even be considered for [the list].”
As part of the House budget committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, she drafts legislation and monitors bills for how they will affect the budget and the deficit.
“There really is no typical day for me,” Foltz said. “Sometimes I’m meeting with different [House] member offices to brief them on issues. Other times I’m talking with the Congressional Budget Office or going to the House floor for bills.”
The road to Capitol Hill was an untraditional one for Foltz. She excelled as a business administration major at Mary Washington, and was involved in campus life as a member of the varsity crew team. But a life of politics wasn’t yet on her radar as an undergrad.
After graduation in 2005, she went straight to law school at Regent University.
“Mary Washington has a pretty rigorous standard academically,” she said. “It helped prepare me for law school and eventually to start my career in Washington, D.C.”
While a law school student, Foltz took an internship on the Hill with Rep. Mike Oxley, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
That work spurred her to gravitate toward a career in the public sector rather than in the courtroom.
“I was fascinated by the whole [political] process,” she said.
Now, Foltz credits the one-on-one interactions with faculty and broad liberal arts background at UMW, along with her experiences in law school, with preparing her for a successful career in government – one she couldn’t have guessed she’d have eight years ago.
“There are so many things you can do with a business degree,” she said. “Just with a degree from Mary Washington there are a lot of different opportunities out there that you may not necessarily know about.”
Students interested in a career in politics or the government need to stay determined and be prepared to work hard, she said, since the Hill is known to be an extremely competitive environment.
“Talk to as many people as possible to hear about their careers,” she said. There isn’t just one path.”
Her own networking – combined with a relentless and humble pursuit of her goals – has brought Foltz success and respect in her field, said Brad Knox, Foltz’s mentor and vice president and counsel at AFLAC.
“What I admire about her is that she doesn’t believe any of the attention is warranted,” he said. “Nevertheless, there is no secret to her ascent as one of the top women on Capitol Hill. She came to D.C. willing to do whatever it took.”