Great Grad: Jeffrey Readinger ’95
Arkansas Classroom to Intelligence Floor – From Middle East battlegrounds to the congressional floor and the nation’s security hub, Jeffrey Readinger ’95 defends America armed with a degree from UALR.
At the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since 2004, Readinger is now legislative affairs director for the Offices of the Secretary and Legislative Affairs. In addition to being responsible for legislative issues in the Washington D.C. office, he serves as a congressional liaison for senior officials in administration, finance, information, human capital, procurement, security, privacy, counter-narcotics, and civil rights and liberties.
So how does one get to work alongside a cabinet member for the President?
Readinger, who grew up in Little Rock and attended Hall High School, obtained a B.A. degree in philosophy and political science from UALR. “I know the idea is to move off to college, but my parents moved to Texas about the time I started college, so I stayed where my friends were,” Readinger said. Initially he worked full time while in school — in the Marine Corps Reserve and in security at night before going into the Gulf War.
After the war, Readinger was able to attend school full time. “Philosophy was a small program, which is what I liked,” he said. “Philosophy teaches you how to think about problems, how to think about things like morality, and teaches skills that you can apply to most situations and understand processes.”
He took so many political science courses as electives that he decided to add it as a second major. “When I came to D.C., the two credentials together helped open initial doors,” he said.
Readinger was active on the UALR campus. He was selected in 1994 by the faculty as Greek Man of the Year and held several leadership roles including president of the Inter-fraternity Council, Student Government senator, vice chairman of College Republicans, treasurer of Zeta Eta Chapter, Pi Kappa Alpha regional vice president, and columnist for the Forum student newspaper.
“This is where I really maximized the learning skills, combining them with action in student organizations,” Readinger said. He recognized campus was “a safe environment” to hone those strategy skills. “Now if I mess up, it’s national security,” the UALR alumnus admitted.
He continued his education with a master’s degree in political management from The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
Prior to joining DHS, Readinger had congressional experiences as legislative affairs specialist for the Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet, legislative affairs director for the American Shipbuilding Association, and assistant director for the U.S. Navy League. He also served in Tim Hutchinson’s U.S. Senate and Congressional offices.
A combat veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Storm, Readinger’s awards include the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon, Reserve Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, two Kuwait Liberation Medals, and recognition for rifle and pistol sharpshooting.
What Readinger likes about his work at DHS is not the hours. “We don’t do start-ups in federal government often,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s difficult but very rewarding. Success is tough especially getting through Congress and state and local government. I deal with contractors and small businesses across the country on legislation that has a huge impact. It’s hugely rewarding. But it would not be possible without a college degree.”
Readinger continues to keep up his collegiate connections on the board of the Zeta Eta Housing Corporation helping Pi Kappa Alpha rebuild after a recent fire, as a member of the Greek scholastic honor society and Gamma Sigma Alpha, and as a life member of the U.S. Navy League and UALR Alumni Association.
“As a student, you complain about a lot of things like the bureaucracy of getting paperwork through. When you leave college, those problems don’t go away,” he said. “The biggest reason I got involved with the Alumni Association is that as UALR’s reputation goes, it reflects on the individual. And it’s reciprocal in that success of individuals reflects on the university. When you first get out of college, you’re too busy to think about other things in life, but you invested a lot to (achieve) success. You are forever tied to (your college) once you graduate.”
Readginer is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College. He and his wife, Patricia, have a newborn son, Ike. They plan to stay in D.C. — the other city he says that never sleeps — for a while.