Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

Washington Insider

Yearlong Presidential Fellows Program exposes Carl H. Lindner Honors-PLUS scholar to political insights and civic responsibility.

When Sarah Stenger, BBA ’12 heard about the Presidential Fellows Program, she knew it was an experience worth pursuing.

“I knew this was something I was passionate about and wanted to participate in,” she says of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC) in Washington, D.C., that oversees the program.

For more than 40 years, the Presidential Fellows Program has been offering college students like Stenger a unique opportunity to study the U.S. presidency, policy making and chief executive relations with Congress, allies, media and the American public. The goal is to mold a new generation of future young leaders to commit to public service.

Stenger, a marketing major and a Lindner Honors-PLUS Program scholar, is in the middle of a yearlong program commitment in the nation’s capital to learn about leadership and governance. As part of the program, she’s required to attend a fall and spring conference, write a research paper and—new this year— blog about a topic.

Blogging about the experience added an interesting program component because “it reflects the lifestyle of the fellows,” she says. “We are all college students that often leverage the Internet and social media in our every day lives.”

Her research topic focuses on presidential and congressional leadership, specifically tied to the inspirational story of Cincinnatus, the famed Roman leader for whom Cincinnati is named. He is valued for being a farmer who left the fields to serve as a leader for six months. Once he defended the Romans against neighboring Aequi in the Alban Hills, he returned to his farm.

“My paper will touch on how our political leaders are lacking that type of leadership, and how we need someone like Cincinnatus to solve the critical problems ailing America today,” she says.

At the fall 2011 conference, Stenger met with other fellows to discuss research topics, tour the U.S. Capitol Building and listen to political heavy-hitters such as Representative Nancy Pelosi, former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and former Army Secretary Togo West. The spring 2012 conference culminates with the Center’s Annual Awards Dinner, an event that honors U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The overall experience left her craving more.

“I anxiously await the spring conference, where students will share their final research conclusions, and we will get to hear from more influential leaders in America,” Stenger says.

She also enjoyed meeting students from top universities all over America, including two international fellows from Japan, she says.

“It was fascinating to hear the perspective of people my age, and how different, or alike, our viewpoints were because of our different backgrounds,” she says.

She credits Jeri Ricketts, director of the Lindner Honors-PLUS program, and Marianne Lewis, associate dean of undergraduate programs and director of the Marvin P. Kolodzik Business Scholars, with much of her college success. Stenger first entered the Lindner College of Business as a Kolodzik Business Scholar and then transferred to the Honors-PLUS program as a sophomore. Both faculty members have instilled in her the need to ask questions, proactively listen and learn, be professional and appreciate diversity.

That overall philosophy enriched her experience as a fellow, she says, allowing her to utilize those “critical skills in discussing sensitive political issues in a room full of diverse individuals with varying opinions.”

As mentors, both Ricketts and Lewis have been her “biggest cheerleaders.” She’s also grateful for her college peers who keep her motivated and challenged.

“I truly believe that if you surround yourself with greatness, you too will become great,” Stenger says. 

As she moves forward toward the graduation goal, she plans to “continue to stay involved and soak up all the knowledge I can,” she says.

Stenger will continue with her on-campus and community involvement in Kappa Kappa Gamma, ROAR Campus Tour Guides, BearcatLive, Girl Scouts, CWEST (Cincinnati Women in Excellence and Spirit Together) and Cincinnatus Society.

Regardless of her chosen profession, she vows to be an active citizen in government and politics, she says. “We are the future of America.”