The Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership was launched in fall 2014 by the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer. Named for the famous pathfinder who set out to explore the western territory with the backing of Thomas Jefferson, the institute is envisioned as a means to help students break new ground through citizen leadership.
Each year, 25 rising third-year students are selected to become fellows in the program. Incorporating academic, experiential, and applied learning elements, the program includes a School of Architecture course on “Foundations in Design Thinking” for fellows in the second-year spring semester. Subsequent components include a six-week summer leadership institute, a Batten School “Leadership in Practice” seminar in the third-year spring semester, and ongoing work to improve the University in their fourth years.
Over the span of six weeks during the summer program, Lewis Fellows live on Grounds, immersed in discussions with University officials and engaged in skill-building and group projects. With opportunities for collaboration and teamwork, they examine how they and other student leaders can address challenges within the University. All this prepares them to contribute meaningfully to the University in their third and fourth years, either focusing on a particular student organization or examining broader issues on Grounds.
UVA parents Bill and Rebecca Sanders provided seed funding to launch the program in partnership with the University. The program depends on the generosity of private donors to flourish and grow.