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Robertson School students complete fellowship in the governor's office

Oct 1, 2018

Posted in: News

By Adam Hamza, Communication Intern

Robertson School students Salinna Lor and Tonecia Brothers-Sutton returned to the university this fall with a new appreciation for the work taking place in Virginia’s executive office after completing the 2018 Governor’s Fellowship Program.

 

Lor, a senior public relations major and general business minor, and Brothers-Sutton, a senior double majoring in broadcast journalism and political science, both learned about the program while interning at David Bailey’s Associates in the spring.

“They were always giving us opportunities there,” Lor said. “We went around the General Assembly and got to know a lot of politicians, so that's when the program was kind of introduced to us.” She added that she "met the person that works in the governor's office that runs a fellowship." 

The Governor’s Fellowship Program is an opportunity for rising seniors, recent college graduates and graduate students to experience work in the Office of the Governor. Students serve under different secretaries and perform a variety of tasks. This year, 22 students were selected from across Virginia.

Brother-Sutton was placed with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and attended meetings, drafted briefs and wrote pieces of legislation for the governor to propose.

“We did a lot of research for the governor,” Brothers-Sutton said. “I was able to directly help them figure out new legislation the governor can introduce around things like trauma-informed care or around maternal and infant health.”

 

Lor worked in Constituents Services, where she answered phone calls from constituents across the Commonwealth. She also answered letters that came to the office, primarily letters of recognition from the governor for retirees, Eagle Scouts, Girl Scouts, universities and even for birthdays.

“We took so many phone calls,” Lor said. “I just got to talk to constituents and learn about what was happening in Virginia and help them to the best of my abilities.”

One of the more challenging parts of the program for both Lor and Brothers-Sutton was operating as an employee at the Office of the Governor.

“I knew we were going to be there a long time, but I wasn't expecting the 9 to 5,” Brothers-Sutton said. “We actually worked like employees of the state, so we had to give our all from 9 to 5.”

Lor echoed a similar experience: “It was hard to adjust because I worked 8:30 to 5 every day.” 

In addition to their work, fellows were also assigned a policy project, where they would develop a piece of legislation and presented it to the governor’s counsel.

It wasn’t all work and no fun though. The fellows had brown bag lunches, where secretaries and other important people from the governor’s office would join them, including Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

Overall, Lor and Brothers-Sutton regarded their experience as the highlight of their summer. They talked about the strong sense of comradery between the fellows that made the experience much more enjoyable than they had anticipated.

Lor, who gained a position in the governor’s office after her fellowship, said that the experience helped reaffirm her desire to serve in public office. She hopes to continue her current position after graduating or working on the legislative side of Virginia’s government.

"I didn't really know everything that the governor's office did, but everybody in there just works so hard to get things done,” Lor said. “That really helped me kind of reaffirm my belief that I wanted to go into this field.”

Brothers-Sutton expressed similar feelings, saying that the people she worked with “had no hidden agendas” and wanted to help people.

“They want to just genuinely help people and so I hope to carry that with my career and just be able to help others,” Brothers-Sutton said.