|Stanford in Government: Forty Years of Influence by Chuck Ludlam (Class of ’67)SIG’s Forty-Year History
By May K. Chiang and Michael Ortiz
In the winter of 1963, two Stanford students, Jamie Hunter and Armin Rosencranz, started an unpaid summer internship program in Washington, D.C. with members of Congress. The idea originated with Jamie Hunter, a recent graduate of Yale and a Stanford law graduate in 1964. According to the Stanford Daily and the Stanford Alumni Magazine, Hunter was encouraged by his grandmother to establish a program offering opportunities to Stanford students to gain valuable experiences and knowledge by interning with members of Congress. Hunter approached Stanford Alumni Association Director Bob Pierce and Associate Director Julia Hirsch (’60) for advice. They provided office space and support. Hunter then approached the student body president, Armin Rosencranz, who decided to travel to Washington with a ticket purchased by the ASSU. After a week of knocking on Congressional doors, Rosencranz was able to arrange summer internships with five senators, including Frank Church (’47), Lee Metcalf (’36), and Phil Hart, and with nine U.S. Congressmen. Some of the internships were paid, although most were not.
In March 1963, with support from Director of Development Richard L. Balch, Vice President for Finance Ken Cuthberston, the Stanford Alumni Association, and a $4,400 grant from the William T. Grant Foundation of New York, the group, then known as Stanford in Washington, became the first such program on the West Coast. The internship program expanded rapidly. Within three years, more than 100 students participated in internships in Washington, Sacramento, and San Francisco.
The organization was renamed Stanford in Government (SIG) in 1966, when California State Representative Tac Cravens added the Stanford in Sacramento state/local fellowship program. At its founding, SIG was run entirely by students, with a chairperson and nine committee directors. SIG also received assistance from an advisory board of students, alumni, and faculty. By 1984, SIG was not only recognized for its internship program, but also its campus programming. Members hosted forums, debates, and symposia with faculty and government officials; organized a list of public service internships; promoted Stanford applicants in Washington, D.C.; provided grants from alumni for students who would otherwise be unable to accept an unpaid internship; secured Washington housing through alumni, house-sitting opportunities, and Georgetown University apartments; and sponsored social and educational opportunities in Washington, such as alumni barbeques, happy hours, and speaking events. Through the work of the SIG’s Public Policy Forum, a diverse group of distinguished people have spoken at SIG events throughout the years. Speakers have included Vice President Walter Mondale, Senator Alan Cranston, Ralph Nader, Senator Eugene McCarthy, Senator Joseph Biden, Senator Paul Tsongas, Lt. Col. Oliver North, Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Attorney General Janet Reno, Jack Valenti, Speaker Newt Gingrich, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, and Tibetan Monk Palden Gyatso.
In the early 1980s, SIG participated in the ASSU Special Fees election and received a $20,000 appropriation from the student body. However, in the following years, SIG faced several financial and institutional challenges. The first arose when the Stanford Alumni Association, which had housed SIG for many years in Bowman House, urged it to find another home. Then, the major donor who had funded SIG for the past twenty years became concerned about the lack of sustainable funding for the program. Fortunately, Stanford President Donald Kennedy had just hired Catherine Milton, with whom he had worked in Washington, D.C., to evaluate public service and community service on campus. When Milton began her inventory of Stanford’s public service programs in 1984, she interviewed members and friends of SIG, including the major donor, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, and alumni. While she encountered concerns with SIG’s uncertain financial situation as well as the organization’s ability to support internships, she considered SIG to be critical to the Stanford public service community and would be vital to a future public service center. “I felt it was really important to keep SIG alive and to encourage students to continue with the kind of work they were doing, not only on internships in Washington, but to continue to bring speakers to campus who would stimulate interest in public service,” Milton said. She also added that “running an organization is good preparation for students.” Although Milton’s public service report supported SIG’s mission of student involvement in local and national service, she also believed SIG needed to be reorganized and invited it to be one of the three founding student groups of the new Public Service Center in Owen House in 1984.
While many SIG members, alumni, and friends, including Scott Reisch (’86, JD ’88), Chuck Ludlam (’67), Leslie Hecht (’85), and Anna Jackson (’85), supported SIG’s rebirth as part of the new Public Service Center, there were many challenges to launching the project – especially financial obstacles. In 1985 SIG was not awarded ASSU Special Fees funding, which significantly affected the organization’s ability to host campus events and provide internship support. Fortunately, under the leadership of SIG Chair Scott Reisch, SIG received the necessary signatures to put SIG back on the Special Fees ballot for the subsequent year. For SIG and other groups in the Public Service Center, a generous endowment from the Haas family made a new home possible for Stanford’s public service community in 1989, the Haas Center for Public Service.
Support from the Public Service Center provided SIG with many opportunities to strengthen the organization. First, SIG began working with formal advisors. Jeanne Wahl Halleck, currently an administrator for Stanford in Washington and the John Gardner Fellowship Program, came to Stanford in 1983 and agreed to serve as an advisor to SIG. Halleck formerly served as a staff director for a presidential advisory committee and had extensive experience working in numerous Washington organizations. In 1996, Suzanne Abel, the Haas Center’s director of external relations, joined Halleck as a SIG advisor. Abel had previously served as the founding director of a Mendocino County museum and also had significant experience both in Washington and internationally. The guidance and wisdom of Halleck and Abel have truly contributed to SIG’s success and sustainability over the years.
SIG’s relationship with the Haas Center and its advisors also lent support to SIG’s fellowship program. Summer fellowships in Sacramento were added in 1986 and the first international fellowships in Stockholm and Budapest began in 1991. Fellows continued to be placed in the upper echelons of public policy making and governance – fellows worked on the formation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Watergate and Nixon’s impeachment, Taiwanese constitutional reform, and public health in developing countries. The internship placements are impressive on their own, but the careful selection of students for these internships continues to reinforce SIG’s reputation for excellence. Comments from one fellowship office exemplify the reputation: “SIG fellows are steady, conscientious, show a willingness to learn, and a sustained interest. Many of my colleagues share my same opinion.”
As SIG began receiving university and private funding for fellowships, its advisors at the Haas Center and influential friends of SIG helped coordinate donor stewardship and outside funding. Today, SIG offers more than 30 fully funded fellowships each summer in local, state, national, and international positions. Thanks to fellowship fundraising efforts during the years by staff, faculty and students, most SIG fellowships are now endowed.
Throughout SIG’s history, faculty and friends have provided constructive advice and valuable input. As SIG began fully funding its fellowships, expanding the fellowship program to include international opportunities, and strengthening its campus programming efforts in the 1980s and 1990s, many distinguished faculty offered extraordinary support. Of particular importance is the advice given by Chuck Ludlam, former Counsel to Senator Joseph Lieberman. Ludlam, a two-time SIG intern, continues to assist SIG in numerous ways. In recognition of his generous support, SIG’s office in the Haas Center is named the Chuck Ludlam Room.