The Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service announced its fall-semester class of five fellows, including four Georgetown alumni, with backgrounds in fields ranging from journalism to increasing minority representation in politics.
The Georgetown University Politics fellows, who serve for one academic semester and were announced by the institute Aug. 21, will work directly with students, holding discussion groups and office hours at the GUPolitics Office to share their industry experience with Georgetown undergraduates. The institute is held an open house with the fellows Sept. 5.
The fall 2019 class includes four Georgetown alumi: Republican policy and political advisor Jonathan Burks (SFS ’99), former Republican Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer (CAS ’81), Senior Advisor to the Human Rights Campaign Olivia Alair Dalton (COL ’06), and ABC News reporter Karen Travers (COL ’00, GRD ’03). The fifth fellow for the semester is EquisLabs co-founder Stephanie Valencia.
GUPolitics purposefully selected fellows from across the political spectrum in this year’s cohort, according to Executive Director Mo Elleithee (SFS ’94).
“We seek out Fellows from a variety of professional backgrounds and political ideologies, who we know can bring diverse perspectives and help enrich the Georgetown student experience,” Elleithee wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As with every year, this year’s process was competitive, and we came out with a dynamic group.”
This new class of fellows brings an abundance of real-world experience in public policy, journalism and politics. Burks currently works in the private sector, advising clients on national policy with his firm JWB Advisors. Colyer served as governor of Kansas from 2018 to 2019, is a board-certified craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeon, and has a special interest in with implementing foreign aid to solve major international disasters and humanitarian crises.
For eight weeks this semester, each fellow will hold a 90-minute discussion group in the evenings open to the whole Georgetown community on a topic relevant to their industry. Elleithee stressed the accessibility of the fellows in these discussions.
“There are no required readings and no homework, just lively discussions open to the entire university community,” he wrote. “This semester’s discussion topics range from the 2020 presidential election, to White House reporting, to strategies for success in public service, and more.”
Bringing a policy background to the cohort, Dalton is currently the senior advisor to the Human Rights Campaign and founder of Dalton Strategies, and she formerly served as First Lady Michelle Obama’s press secretary. She is known for her active commitment to LGBTQ rights and policy. Valencia is the co-founder of EquisLabs, which works to empower the Latinx electorate to make their voices heard in American politics. She also advised former President Barack Obama during his campaigns and both his terms in office, serving in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
In the journalism industry, Travers is a Washington, D.C.-based White House correspondent at ABC News, where she began working in 2000. She has covered the President Donald Trump administration, the Russia probe and Trump’s international trips and summits with world leaders.
Any currently enrolled students can visit the fellows during their office hours at the GUPolitics Office in Healy Hall, and the institute encourages all students to take advantage of the program, according to Elleithee.
Student engagement with the fellows helps the program reach its full potential, according to Jennie Fay, director of fellows and career programming.
“The students’ enthusiasm is really what makes this program so successful: from volunteering their time to assist with our Open House and special events, to working on student strategy teams, to attending regular discussion groups, Georgetown students bring immense value to our Fellows program,” Fay wrote in an email to The Hoya. “They are why the Fellows are here, and so it’s exciting to see so much interest in this program every semester.”
Elleithee said he was excited to see so many alumni were interested in coming back to Georgetown and working with current Hoyas.
“We’re especially psyched about this class of fellows, which includes folks who have reached the top of their fields in politics, government, advocacy and media. And it’s extra special that four of the five are Hoyas themselves,” Elleithee wrote. “Each semester, the GU Politics fellows help pull back the curtain on politics, helping to shed light on how it really works, and exploring with students how to make it work better.”