Rachael Sharp of Williamsburg, Va. is getting an inside view of how public policy takes shape in her home state after being selected for a prestigious fellowship this summer.
The Emory & Henry College political science major was selected to join the Virginia Governor's Fellows Program, which since 1982 has brought exceptional students with creative ideas to state government — an experience that often leads to careers in public service.
Sharp is currently serving as the Governor's Fellow for the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, Admiral John C. Harvey. In this position, she works closely with the rest of Harvey's office to conduct research related to the legislative priorities for the 2016 General Assembly session.
Much of her work this summer has focused on veterans' issues. Despite the partisan gridlock that often occurs in government, Sharp has been surprised to see that bipartisanship can still exist when it comes to dealing with issues related to veterans.
“Secretary Harvey likes to say that he's not a Democrat or a Republican; he's just an old admiral. I admire that perspective immensely, and its effectiveness shows in how much his office has been able to do in just the past two years, and it will continue to show over the next two,” said Sharp.
Sharp has yet to decide if she will pursue a career in government service, but she is inspired by the hard work and daily effectiveness of the office where she now works.
While I have always been interested in public service, seeing how state government functions from the inside has been an eye-opening experience into the breadth of what that can actually mean. Most people don't know how much goes on in state government or how much is accomplished on a daily basis, even in a government that is very politically divided.Rachael SharpClass of 2016
The two-month fellowship has provided Sharp with many career networking opportunities. She and other Fellows participate in regular brown-bag lunch sessions with various government administrators and elected officials.
So far, Sharp has been able to have face time with the governor, the first lady, all the cabinet secretaries, and a Virginia Supreme Court judge. This brief time with some of the most powerful figures in the Commonwealth was invaluable.
“I sat next to the governor at our lunch with him the other day, and it was mind-blowing to think that such a busy and energetic man was willing to sit there with a group of twenty-somethings and let us pick his brain. It really doesn't get any better than that.”
Outside of working hours, Sharp says she has learned some big life lessons. “Frankly, learning how to live in an apartment has been one of the biggest ones so far,” she said, laughing.
Sharp will continue her work as a Governor's Fellow through the end of July.