Category Archives: Alumni

Batten Ball and Homecomings!

This year’s Homecoming Weekend events was truly an incredible way to celebrate the Batten School’s five year anniversary!  We kicked off the weekend with the Second Annual Silent Auction, which featured more than 30 donated items.  Students, faculty, staff and guests could bid on items such as themed dinners with Jill Rockwell (Belgian Bistro), Dean Harding (Chinese Dinner), Dean Warburg (Election Eve Prognosticators) or Professor Converse (Windy City Brunch); tickets to Bruce Springsteen; a Baseball Package with Howard Hoege; golf and dinner for 4 provided by Keswick Hall; multiple raffles from Duo and Harris Teeter; and so much more.  The auction itself raised over $3,000, almost three times the amount raised last year.  After the Silent Auction, we transitioned into the Batten Ball portion of the night with the delightful jazz band playing fun, upbeat songs that everyone was able to dance to. A huge thank you goes to Katharine Meyer for helping with catering for the event and to Jill Rockwell for finding donors and helping generate ideas. Thank you to Kaycie Gillette-Mallard for all of her work helping find donors and setting up the silent auction and Batten Ball, and Victoria Catanese and Emily Laser as well. Batten Council could not have put on such a successful event without all of your help!

Accelerated MPP Class of 2013

Following Friday’s events, the Batten Council hosted a Homecoming Tailgate on the terrace next to Garrett Hall!  We had AMAZING food catered by Rhett’s BBQ and enjoyed the gorgeous fall day.  Overall, planning these events was extremely worthwhile, everyone had so much fun over the weekend!

– Post by Amanda O’Malley, MPP’13


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October 23, 2012 · 12:03 pm

Catching up with Monica Gray, Class of 2009


1. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to since you graduated?

After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for an issue advocacy and political consulting firm called GMMB. Focusing on global health, I worked on projects to help clients such as the GAVI Alliance increase the access of lifesaving vaccines to infants and children in poor countries.

GMMB gave me the opportunity to work on some amazing causes and with some incredible colleagues, but I found that I missed directly interacting with people in my community. So in my free time, I started a video blog called “What’s Hard About It?” With video camera in hand, I began conducting woman-on-the-street interviews on a variety of topics. Centering on a “What’s hard about…” theme, I’ve asked dozens—if not hundreds—of people questions ranging from “What’s Hard About Being a Taxi Driver?” to “What’s Hard About Being Gay?” Through making these videos and posting them online, I discovered that I loved meeting people from all walks of life and sharing their stories. What began as a hobby led me to set up a small production company called MG Films, with the aim of informing, entertaining, and giving a voice to people who might not otherwise be heard. You can check it out on Facebook here.

As I learned more about online journalism, I became especially intrigued by the power of social media. So when I heard of an opening to head up social media efforts at UVA’s Miller Center – a job that would combine my growing interest in new media with my background in public policy – I jumped at the chance. Based at the Center’s Washington office, my new job allows me to add historical perspective to the 2012 election for all of our Facebook and Twitter audiences.

Outside of the Miller Center, I’m hosting a series at the National Press Club called “Social Media 4 Social Good,” which highlights how policy leaders are leveraging social media to make real and positive social changes in the world. The series premiered in February and my first guest was Aaron Sherinian, vice president of Communications and Public Relations at the United Nations Foundation. You’d be amazed – or at least I was – at the smart and innovative ways the UN Foundation uses social media to help improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

2. What are the most valuable skills you learned in Batten and how are you using them today?

To be honest, I haven’t run a regression since Professor Moore’s Econometrics class! That said, the greater appreciation for hard data that I gained at Batten has proven helpful in ways that I could never have anticipated as a student. Even with seemingly non-statistical work such as producing videos, I’m confident reading through policy reports as I conduct background research for films. While creating a “What’s Hard About Thanksgiving When You’re Homeless?” video, for instance, I was able to pull a number of key findings out of dense reports by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This knowledge helped me present the big picture context for stories with homeless interviewees.

Batten also introduced me to the study of leadership, which I continue to find very interesting. Just recently, a Washington Post article on Woody Allen’s leadership style randomly reminded me of Lincoln and our reading of Team of Rivals in Professor Hitz’s class. Leadership is not a topic I sought out in my pre-Batten days, but since graduating it has remained a favorite of mine, for both practical and inspirational guidance.

Finally, and perhaps the most valuably, I left Batten with a sincere curiosity of how policies impact people at the grassroots level.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your current and upcoming film projects?

I’m currently working on a “What’s Hard About Occupying DC?” video, which will be released in March through

I’m also looking forward to the second installment in the “Social Media 4 Social Good” interview series at the National Press Club on April 3, where I’ll be interviewing Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (I’d love for Batten and UVA students to attend the event and/or submit questions for Mr. Ross. Admission is only $5 – please shoot me a note at or on Twitter @MonicaNGray for more info.)

4. What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to be a full-time journalistic activist. I would love to travel the world, telling the stories of everyday people and the issues they face. However, I would want to report on more than mere facts. Instead, I would also want to identify exactly where policies were breaking down and advocate for the needed changes to be made. If I was covering a story on a failing school, for instance, I would not simply report abysmal graduation rates and share facts about ineffective education policies in the abstract, as is sometimes done in op-eds and political speeches. Rather, I’d want to share the direct insights of the people on the ground to help identify exactly how policies are falling short and then push for the implementation of practical solutions. I’m not sure if such a job exists, but I guess that’s why they call it a dream job.

Post by Vanessa Orco

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Batten Policy Career Conference


Batten will be hosting the inaugural policy career conference – “Building Public Servants” – on Friday, March 16 in Garrett Hall.  The keynote speaker will be Clare Seelke, from the Congressional Research Service, who will be speaking about U.S.-Mexico relations. Following a session on the federal hiring process, there will be 5 concurrent roundtables on: work-life balance, life on the hill, opportunities in international development, education policy, and nonprofit networking. Throughout the day, there will be opportunities for networking and the chance to do mock interviews with real employers. For Batten MPP students, there is also the chance to have an interview for an actual internship position with Ms. Seelke at the CRS.

Batten alumni will also be back, including: Sean Callahan (2011),  Hannah Green (2010), Meredyth Haas (2010), Morgan Ramos (2011), and Molly Schmalzbach via Skype (2011).

Pre-register for this event here!

Post by Mary Drach

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Filed under Alumni, Professional Development, Students

Brandon Gould, Class of 2009, Returns to Batten

Brandon Gould, a member of the Batten School’s inaugural class, returned to Grounds last week with the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). Gould represented IDA at the 2011 Diversity Career Fair on Wednesday, November 2 and gave a presentation to Batten students the following afternoon in Garrett Hall Commons. He highlighted the many career and internship opportunities available for Batten students at IDA, particularly those with strong analytic or statistics backgrounds and an interest in defense policy.

“Overall, I am extremely impressed with the continuing improvements—both to Garrett Hall and the MPP program—at the Batten School. When the first class enrolled in 2008, much of the program had to be built from scratch. In the span of four short years, the Batten School has simultaneously broadened its academic scope and crafted a unique identity within the public policy community at a very rapid pace. Today’s Batten School appears to be an exciting place with many opportunities for students to do interesting and impactful analysis on the critical issues of the day. I am proud to be an alumnus of such a dynamic institution, and I anticipate a bright future for the Batten School and its graduates.”

-Brandon Gould, Class of 2009

The Institute for Defense Analyses is a non-profit, federally-funded research organization that studies national security issues for the US government. Gould began his career with IDA in the fall of 2010 and works in the Cost Analysis and Research Division of the Studies and Analyses Center, located in Alexandria, Virginia. Genevieve Heckel (Acc. ’11) also recently began a career with IDA in the Joint Advanced Warfighting Division. Information on career opportunities with IDA can be found on their website.

Post by Rob Panos

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Filed under Alumni, Professional Development