Spencer Stanfield (’13) was, by his own admission, maybe too involved on campus during his days at CNU. On top of his coursework as a government major and psychology minor he was deeply involved in CNU’s thriving Greek life, a resident assistant, member of four honor societies and directed the local efforts of Virginia21, a national voter awareness organization. “I used to get made fun of for being in too many things,” he laughs. However, it was Stanfield’s role as a scholar at CNU’s Wason Center for Public Policy that awakened in him a passion for public service, culminating in an internship at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Of particular interest to Stanfield are issues surrounding homelessness and low-income families – deeply personal as he was raised by a single mom. “My interest in politics really stems from wanting to help other families and children,” he says. After CNU he enrolled in Georgetown University’s graduate program in American government, where he tackled a semester-long homelessness advocacy project that culminated in his master’s thesis. At OMB, he tracked government progress in combating homelessness and other issues and monitored changes in policy and funding. “My internship allowed me to develop a more concrete background and create more effective proposals for continuing to combat this issue in society,” Stanfield says.
Reporting directly to the president, the OMB coordinates the efforts of departments across the government to implement administration policies. It’s a number cruncher’s dream, though not one without energy. “It may not sound like it, but the OMB is actually an incredibly exciting place,” Stanfield says. “There wasn’t exactly a typical day; one day things were a little slow, and the next I was staying late to collect information from agencies running behind on deadlines. Sometimes I was glued to my computer running data, and other times the president would come into the lobby to sign a copy of the budget. It was a whirlwind.”
He recounts the thrill of seeing his work distributed throughout various government departments. “Every now and then I’d put together some language and documentation, only to see it pop up a few minutes later in my inbox after it was sent to every agency in the federal government,” he says. “It was nerve-racking at times, but I was incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work on such important subjects, in arguably one of the most important places in the world.”
Stanfield can retrace his steps from the Eisenhower Office Building back to CNU, where he immersed himself at the Wason Center. Directed by Dr. Quentin Kidd, Vice Provost and Professor of Government, the Center produces unbiased and nonpartisan research and information about public policy issues facing Virginia and about citizens’ views on those issues. “When I became a Wason Center scholar, I had the privilege of working alongside Dr. Kidd,” Stanfield says. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had a mentor who is nationally known for his work in the field.” Indeed, as the Wason Center’s profile has risen, its polls and research are increasingly cited in national media outlets, including The Washington Post, NPR, Bloomberg News and others. The Center’s reputation even preceded him at Georgetown, where he graduated in 2014. “Simply having worked with Dr. Kidd was impressive to some of my professors.”
“Students are able to understand political science differently when they do research of this kind,” Kidd says. “The experience opened doors for Spencer that simply wouldn’t have been opened in other ways.” Kidd adds that the opportunity students have at CNU to partner with faculty on real-world projects, amplifies classroom lessons in remarkable ways. “When you see that your work has real meaning and application in the world it means so much more,” he says. “You’re actually doing it, and that helps students understand things more substantially, more wholly.”
Envisioning a long career for himself in the nation’s capital, Stanfield sees himself as a policymaker or consultant – even holding elected office someday. “I enjoy putting my effort into tangible policy results,” he says. “My dream would be to draft or lobby for policies that increase programs and funding to help the disadvantaged segments of our population. To me, serving the greater good means helping those less fortunate than yourself.”