Skip to content

Stennis Congressional Staff Fellows Program

Program Description

The Stennis Congressional Staff Fellows Program (Stennis Fellows) is a bipartisan, bicameral leadership development experience for senior staff members of the U.S. Congress. Established in the 103rd Congress, the Stennis Fellows program focuses on future challenges to Congress as an institution of American democracy and the leadership role played by senior congressional staff in meeting those challenges. 

In each Congress, up to 34 Stennis Fellows are selected by an independent panel of previous Stennis Fellows, balanced by political party and chamber. The goal is for Stennis Fellows to meet every four-to-six weeks over 18 months, with times and locations chosen to accommodate the congressional calendar and time demands of the Stennis Fellows. One of the unique features of the Stennis Fellows program is that Stennis Fellows determine their learning agenda. In addition to a welcome reception and an awards dinner, the program consists of approximately six half-day roundtable discussions with nationally renowned experts in Washington, D.C., to explore various aspects of the agenda. While insights from guest experts are valuable, even more significant is the dialogue, learning, and relationship-building that takes place among the Stennis Fellows. To help facilitate this, the Stennis Center hosts four overnight retreats for Fellows outside Washington, D.C., including an overnight embark onto an aircraft carrier.

Stennis Fellows Alumni

Program Mission

ENHANCE THE CAPACITY AND COMMITMENT of exceptional senior-level staff members to “Look Ahead” to what will be needed to better serve Congress and its members in a world of rapid change.

FOSTER DIALOGUE AND THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS among senior-level staff members in a neutral venue, and create a valuable network of bipartisan, bicameral working relationships.

BUILD A COMMUNITY of legislative staffers that is invested in congressional capacity and legislative effectiveness.

RECOGNIZE AND HONOR senior-level staff of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate who have demonstrated outstanding public service leadership.

115th Congress Stennis Fellows at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV, in October 2017

Program Eligibility Requirements

There are no specific requirements to participate in the program and all interested staffers are encouraged to apply. Typically, successful applicants are senior-level congressional staff, such as committee staff directors or deputy staff directors, chiefs of staff or deputy chiefs of staff, legislative directors, or senior professional staff.

117th Congress Stennis Fellows attend roundtable session in Washington, D.C.

Applicants should demonstrate:

A track record of leadership in key staff positions (personal or committee) characterized by senior management responsibility and involvement in significant aspects of the legislative process;
A reputation for statesmanship - caring for the evolution of Congress and the political system as a whole;
Significant career commitment to public service, with special emphasis on Congress;
A desire to make a significant contribution to further the mission of the program; and
A commitment to learn and fully particpate in the responsibilities of the Fellowship.

Previous applicants not selected in prior Congresses are highly encouraged to apply again. In addition, senior staffers from supporting offices of the Legislative Branch, including the Congressional Budget Office, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Capitol Police, are also eligible for the program and encouraged to apply.

The independent selection committee carefully reviews each application, paying particular attention to the career profile and short essay responses in each application. The ability to devote the time necessary to participate fully in the program is a prerequisite to being selected and retaining the designation of Stennis Fellow.

The Stennis Center seeks diversity in the Stennis Fellows program. It does not discriminate among individual applicants on the basis of race, religion, sex, national or ethnic origin, disability, or veteran status.

Sample Program Timeline for Each Congress


(First year of Congressional session)

Application materials available


Application materials due and selection committee meets to finalize selections




Welcome reception




Overnight dialogue retreat


(First and second year of Congressional session)

Roundtable sessions, university visit, embark




Concluding retreat




Awards dinner

Senior Stennis Fellows

Stennis Fellows on USS JOHN C. STENNIS Embark

The Look Ahead Leaders Program is for Senior Stennis Fellows who have completed the Stennis Fellows program. Over 400 Stennis Fellows have completed their fellowship and are now part of the Look Ahead Leaders Program. While some have moved to careers in the private sector or other government arenas, all remain committed to the institution of Congress, where they have spent a significant portion of their careers and have made valuable contributions.

The Look Ahead Leaders Program promotes congressional staff leadership while strengthening the ability of staff members to serve Congress better. The program also aims to expand public understanding of the role of Congress in our government and improve the effectiveness of Congress as an institution of American democracy.

In particular, the program aims to (1) Develop ongoing congressional staff development opportunities; (2) Provide a forum for the discussion of issues (external and internal) that impact the effectiveness of Congress; (3) Act as a resource for congressional leaders, members, staff, the press and general public on the role and operation of the Congress; and (4) Expand the network of individuals and organizations who are concerned with the long-term effectiveness of Congress.

Senior Stennis Fellows Speak Participate in Senior Executive Service Orientation Panel

One Research Boulevard, Ste. 104, 

Starkville, MS 39759

(662) 325-8409

201 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Ste. C-7, 

Washington, D.C. 20002 

(202) 546-1837