Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Three U.Va. Students Get an Insiders’ View of the Highest Levels of State Government

Selected from more than 100 applicants, two University of Virginia students and one recent graduate were named to the Virginia Governor’s Fellows Program this summer. This prestigious appointment gives senior undergraduates and graduate students the opportunity to experience firsthand public service at the highest levels.

Alex Dumitriu, a master’s degree student in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; Emily Pik, a fourth-year Batten undergraduate student; and Abigail Sigler, a May government graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, recently completed these fellowships in the Office of Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. The U.Va. students and alumna joined 13 other fellows in the program, which began in early June and concluded Aug. 2.

Established in 1982, the program offers a select group of individuals the opportunity to work within the administration of the Virginia state government. It is designed to encourage careers in public service.

The Office of the President helped provide funding to support the student fellowships, with support from the Alumni Board of Trustees Foundation.

Logan Pugh, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the College in 2008 and a master’s from the Batten School in 2009, directs the Virginia Governor’s Fellows Program as assistant secretary of administration.

“The University is undoubtedly producing the future leaders of the Commonwealth,” he said. “The University’s commitment to public service shows through students like Alex, Emily and Abbi. As an alumnus, I am proud the University is producing graduates like these with the skills, initiative and sense of purpose that employers in government need.”

Fellows were placed in various agencies throughout the Executive Branch to match their backgrounds, interests and goals. They worked within their department each day and also completed long-term projects, such as fundraising for the Governor’s Bowl, participating in a policy debate and presenting policy proposals to the governor’s senior staff.

The fellows also enjoyed lunches with each Cabinet member and attended various events throughout the summer to become more familiar with all regions and facets of the Commonwealth.

Dumitriu, of Charlottesville, wrote about her experiences for the Batten Student Life blog. She was placed in the Governor’s Policy Office, where she conducted research on education reform and helped lay the groundwork for the Governor’s K-12 Education Reform Summit.

She also researched social entrepreneurship, – specifically, social impact bonds, which governments provide to programs that improve social issues and create public sector savings – in preparation for a conference. This event will bring together entrepreneurs and financiers to discuss innovative ways to solve social problems in Virginia.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have had the chance to have such a multi-dimensional job and to have met some of the people who have dedicated their careers to public service and have done so much for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Dumitriu said.

Pik, of Darien, Conn., was placed in office of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade. She was able to witness firsthand the results of McDonnell’s initiative to reduce homelessness, stemming from an executive order early on in his administration.

“I was fortunate to sit in on the committee’s meetings, both with the governor and with congressional staffers in Washington, where the administration was able to share its success in exceeding the goal of a 15-percent reduction in homelessness by 2013,” she said.

Additionally, Pik attended the 2013 Small Business Summit, contributed to an assessment of the recommendations from the lieutenant governor’s final Jobs Commission Report and researched economic development projects in Virginia’s rural areas.

“The insight I acquired from my research on these regions led to my fascination over the issues facing rural communities,” she said. “It culminated with my peers’ shared interest and our group’s policy project proposal to improve access to health care in rural areas, which I had a great experience working on.”

Sigler, of Virginia Beach, served as the communications fellow. In addition to drafting and editing press releases for the governor’s office, she worked on the media campaign for “Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000,” McDonnell’s initiative to match 1,000 children with adoptive families.

“The fellowship was an absolute blast,” Sigler said. “From touring Hampton Roads on a boat to volunteering at the food bank to what would have been ordinary days in the office, each day was an exciting adventure. I gained a more thorough understanding of the commonwealth, public service and communications, and the program has certainly shaped my future career goals.

“Working in the Communications Office allowed me to witness firsthand all of the successful projects the administration has completed. It was an incredible experience, and I’m so grateful to the governor’s entire staff, especially those in communications, for the opportunity to learn from them this summer.”

by Lauren Jones

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