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 Lewis Institute is envisioned as a means to equip students to break new ground through citizen leadership.
Each year, 25 students are selected to become Fellows in the fall of their second year. 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. This opportunity prepares them to contribute meaningfully to the University in their third and fourth years, choosing to deepen their involvement with a particular student organization, focus their engagement on a particular topic, or examine and contribute to broader issues on Grounds.
UVA parents Bill and Rebecca Sanders provided seed funding to launch the program in partnership with the University. Now in its fourth year, the program depends on the generosity of private donors to flourish and grow.