Senior Stennis Fellows, who number over 190 since the inaugral class in the 103rd Congress, have completed the Stennis Congressional Staff Fellows 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.
In particular, the Senior Fellows are working to: Develop ongoing congressional staff development opportunities;
Provide a forum for the discussion of issues (external and internal) that impact the effectiveness of the Congress;
Act as a resource for Congressional leaders, Members, staff, the press and general public on the role and operation of the Congress;
Expand the network of individuals and organizations who are concerned with the long-term effectiveness of Congress;
Senior Stennis Fellows are currently considering two types of new projects: (1) to assist in the professional development of congressional staff; and (2) to improve efforts to educate the public on the role of the national legislature. A Senior Fellows Reunion and Celebration event – the first major gathering of Stennis Fellows across the classes – was held on Monday, April 29, 2002.
Senior Fellows Potential Projects
During the Planning Session, Senior Fellows identified a number of potential projects that they would like to pursue, building on work done by a Senior Fellows Planning Group. A task force for each project will be established based on the interest of all Senior Fellows. Each task force will be asked to further research and develop the project, including the development of a timeline, and implement the project, in coordination with the Stennis Center.
Projects to assist in the development of congressional staff
Education, training and resource handbook/information for junior/new staff – Targeted for junior and/or new congressional staff, this project would include the development of a handbook on research and writing. It would include information on writing constituent letters, floor statements and issue briefs. It would also provide information on resources (books, web pages, etc.) for researching both issues and the legislative process.
The project would also explore the development of a web site that could provide links to other resource pages. The Handbook on writing and research might also be available through the web site. The Handbook and the web site would be tied to a training program that would introduce new staff to available resources.
Proposed next steps for the project are to (1) inventory what organizations are proposing to do or are currently doing in this arena; (2) to begin to assemble the resources currently available; and (3) to explore the web site possibility.
Outreach to Interns:
Existing educational programs for interns focus on textbook “hows and whys.” A Stennis Fellows program can offer interns selected on the basis of merit a series of regular, seminar-type sessions presented by Senior Stennis Fellows to discuss the “real Congress” from the perspective of working senior staff members and former staff members. This could encourage promising interns to return to the Hill as staff, provide promising interns insights that will serve them in related, non-Hill careers, and generally better equip a group that can become leading citizens after their experiences. The size of the intern groups would be limited in order to facilitate give and take. This could be made available via Congressional offices (which will entail some method of determining which offices, how many and which interns, etc. will be involved). It also could be offered via colleges and universities that operate Washington semester programs – so that the program could be made available to all the interns or participants in such a program.
Outreach to Adult Citizens:
Most adults’ knowledge of how the Congress operates is derived from school civics texts and classes. Congress often operates quite differently from the classic textbook model. Senior Fellows can develop a syllabus or a series of interactive seminar programs for adults to offer knowledge and insights into how the Congress really works, and why it generally succeeds (despite some sentiment to the contrary). This could give citizens a better appreciation for the way our democracy actually operates and a better understanding of how more effectively to convey their views to the process. The seminars could be offered to association groups and others. The syllabus/presentation might be test-marketed initially with a national group such as the League of Women Voters before attempting to expand its reach to a broader set of organizations/groups. It also might be possible to partner with such groups and thereby share the administrative and financial burdens of this activity.
Outreach to Media and Other Organizations:
Media and other organizations often have need of insights, comments, or formal talks on Congressional operations and actions. A speakers bureau – Stennis Fellows willing to be contacted by media and other organizations for comments on specific subjects or to give a presentation to a group – and/or a resource handbook prepared by Senior Fellows could provide a reference tool for individuals and organizations who seek a knowledgeable speaker or commentator on Congressional topics. The aim of this activity is to help ensure that accurate and helpful information is available to interested organizations.