The Stennis Fellows Program is a practical, bipartisan leadership development experience for senior-level staff of the United States Congress. Established in the 103rd Congress (1993-1994), the Stennis Fellows Program brings together chiefs of staff, committee staff directors, legislative directors, and others to explore ways to improve the effectiveness of those who work on Capitol Hill.
A new class of 24 to 28 Stennis Fellows is selected competitively from each Congress. Each class is balanced with nearly equal numbers from both political parties and both chambers. The 113th Congress Stennis Fellows met at the National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown, West Virginia September 20-21, 2013 to explore more effective usage of dialogue as a leadership tool on Capitol Hill. The bipartisan and bicameral group of Congressional staff leaders is exploring the theme of Meeting the Challenge: Bridging Boundaries for the Common Good as they work together in a series of roundtable sessions and retreats. The Stennis Fellows of the 113th Congress will meet for their final retreat in June of 2014 to synthesize their learning and to share insights gained through the Fellowship with others.
The Stennis Fellows Program focuses on the future challenges of Congress as an institution and the leadership role played by senior congressional staff in meeting those challenges. Stennis Fellows meet periodically over a twelve-month time frame, and they examine issues of their own choosing. For example, the Stennis Fellows of the 109th Congress, who completed their fellowship in 2006, studied partisan polarization in Congress.
The program invites nationally and internationally renowned experts to meet with the Stennis Fellows and stimulate their thinking. While learning from these outside authorities is a unique opportunity, the primary benefit of the program is the learning and relationship building that takes place among the Stennis Fellows themselves.
By working together to set their own learning agenda and deliberating with each other throughout the fellowship, the Stennis Fellows form strong bonds of friendship. These new relationships benefit the institution of Congress by more fully opening the lines of communication between Republicans and Democrats as well as between House staff and Senate staff. The trust established in the fellowship carries over in a positive way to the legislative process itself.