Three U.Va. Education Students Claim Unique Seats at Inauguration

January 23, 2009 — Three graduate students from the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education traveled to Washington to participate in the University Presidential Inaugural Conference, held Jan. 17-21 in conjunction with the swearing in of President Barack Obama.

U.Va.'s Brian Ullman and Lauren Germain, both Ph.D. students in higher education, and Adam Seid, a master's student in counselor education, participated in the conference. They were among nearly 5,000 university students chosen nationally.

Ullman and Germain were students in a Curry School course on higher education policy taught by associate professor of education Brian Pusser.

"Much of the course addressed the importance of symbols, coalitions and leadership in politics and policymaking. I can't think of a better real-world example of how these forces come together than in this historic inauguration," said Pusser, chair of Curry's Center for the Study of Higher Education.

According to Congressional Youth Leadership Council organizers, the conference gave outstanding student-scholars the opportunity to witness the inauguration of the 44th president. In addition, it aimed to increase their understanding of U.S. presidential campaigns.

Prior to the Jan. 20 inauguration festivities, conference participants attended multiple speeches, seminars and panel discussions given by senior political administrators and analysts, including former Secretary of State Gen. Colin L. Powell, former Vice President Al Gore, Democratic strategist James Carville and former Bush adviser Mary Matalin.

On Inauguration Day, the students watched Obama take the oath of office and listened to his address from the National Mall, then viewed the parade from Pennsylvania Avenue. They later attended a black-tie inauguration gala at the National Air and Space Museum.

Admitted through a rigorous selection process, participation in the conference was reserved for student-scholars who are alumni of several youth leadership programs and members of select honor societies, and who currently are enrolled in a post-secondary graduate program.

For information on the conference, visit