From the halls of academia to the highest levels of government, Stacey Feindt will put to good use the political science degree she collected from the University of Mary Washington last week.
Just days before graduation, the Fredericksburg native learned she was among the 28 rising college seniors and graduates from across the country selected for a coveted spot in the 2019 Governor’s Fellows Program. Beginning on June 3, Feindt will combine the knowledge and skills she garnered in her time at Mary Washington with the hands-on experience she’ll gain working in a division within the Office of the Governor in Richmond.
“I’m looking forward to learning how those serving in the executive branch cooperate to improve the lives of Virginians and ensure that the commonwealth thrives,” said Feindt, who came to UMW after earning an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from Northern Virginia Community College. With a 4.0 GPA from NVCC and a “budding desire” to continue her learning, Feindt found a seamless transition from community college to UMW.
“I was passionate about helping people navigate the legal system and fascinated by the judicial branch of government,” said Feindt, who had worked part time and raised two children before pursuing her bachelor of liberal studies degree. “However, I realized that instead of making a difference on a case-by-case basis, I could make a larger impact by working to improve public policy and its implementation.”
In the two-month program, Feindt will apply the skills she picked up as a research assistant on Associate Professor of Political Science Rosalyn Cooperman’s study of female congressional candidates in 2016 and 2018. Feindt learned about the program through Professor of Political Science Stephen Farnsworth, and Cooperman also encouraged her to apply.
Cooperman, who was Feindt’s honors thesis advisor for her research into the process of pre-trial detention in Virginia, called the honor “well-deserved” and said it reflected Feindt’s hard work and stellar academic performance.
“Stacey maximized the substantive and meaningful undergraduate research opportunities that are a hallmark of our department and UMW,” Cooperman said. “She’ll be well-positioned to share her expertise and findings with legislators and other policymakers in Richmond.”
The prestigious Governor’s Fellows Program began in 1982 to give talented students an entry into state government while working alongside Office of the Governor staff members and under Cabinet secretaries in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“Every summer, I look forward to the arrival of the Governor’s Fellows and the unique experiences, perspectives and energy that each one of them brings,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “This program aims to cultivate the next generation of Virginia leaders by introducing young Virginians with a desire to serve to the workings of the executive branch and helping them build the skills and relationships to create a positive impact in our commonwealth.”
Other fellows were selected from The College of William & Mary, University of Virginia, University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth, New York and Yale universities.
A bundle of nerves walking up the stairs from the Alvey Drive parking deck to the Jepson Science Center on her first day of classes just a few short years ago, Feindt reminded herself to “take everything one step at a time, one sentence at a time, one challenge at a time.”
It worked. She excelled in her classes and maintained a high GPA at Mary Washington. Feindt also received the Ann Elizabeth Fitschen Memorial Political Science Award and the Bachelor of Liberal Studies Distinguished Graduate Award, and served as a member of UMW’s Kappa Upsilon chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society.
“On my very last day of classes, I purposely walked very slowly back down the same set of stairs,” Feindt said. “But this time, I smiled because I felt confident and accomplished.”
In a few weeks, she’ll climb the steps to the Governor’s office to improve the lives of her fellow Virginians knowing that her hard work and her UMW degree got her there.