SIG’s Forty-Year History
by May K. Chiang and Michael Ortiz
In the winter of 1963, two Stanford students, Jamie Hunter and Armin Rosencranz, started an unpaid summer internship program in Washington, D.C. with members of Congress. The idea originated with Jamie Hunter, a recent graduate of Yale and a Stanford law graduate in 1964. According to the Stanford Daily and the Stanford Alumni Magazine, Hunter was encouraged by his grandmother to establish a program offering opportunities to Stanford students to gain valuable experiences and knowledge by interning with members of Congress. Hunter approached Stanford Alumni Association Director Bob Pierce and Associate Director Julia Hirsch (’60) for advice. They provided office space and support. Hunter then approached the student body president, Armin Rosencranz, who decided to travel to Washington with a ticket purchased by the ASSU. After a week of knocking on Congressional doors, Rosencranz was able to arrange summer internships with five senators, including Frank Church (’47), Lee Metcalf (’36), and Phil Hart, and with nine U.S. Congressmen. Some of the internships were paid, although most were not.
In March 1963, with support from Director of Development Richard L. Balch, Vice President for Finance Ken Cuthberston, the Stanford Alumni Association, and a $4,400 grant from the William T. Grant Foundation of New York, the group, then known as Stanford in Washington, became the first such program on the West Coast. The internship program expanded rapidly. Within three years, more than 100 students participated in internships in Washington, Sacramento, and San Francisco.
The organization was renamed Stanford in Government (SIG) in 1966, when California State Representative Tac Cravens added the Stanford in Sacramento state/local fellowship program. At its founding, SIG was run entirely by students, with a chairperson and nine committee directors. SIG also received assistance from an advisory board of students, alumni, and faculty. By 1984, SIG was not only recognized for its internship program, but also its campus programming. Members hosted forums, debates, and symposia with faculty and government officials; organized a list of public service internships; promoted Stanford applicants in Washington, D.C.; provided grants from alumni for students who would otherwise be unable to accept an unpaid internship; secured Washington housing through alumni, house-sitting opportunities, and Georgetown University apartments; and sponsored social and educational opportunities in Washington, such as alumni barbeques, happy hours, and speaking events. Through the work of the SIG’s Public Policy Forum, a diverse group of distinguished people have spoken at SIG events throughout the years. Speakers have included Vice President Walter Mondale, Senator Alan Cranston, Ralph Nader, Senator Eugene McCarthy, Senator Joseph Biden, Senator Paul Tsongas, Lt. Col. Oliver North, Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Attorney General Janet Reno, Jack Valenti, Speaker Newt Gingrich, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, and Tibetan Monk Palden Gyatso.
In the early 1980s, SIG participated in the ASSU Special Fees election and received a $20,000 appropriation from the student body. However, in the following years, SIG faced several financial and institutional challenges. The first arose when the Stanford Alumni Association, which had housed SIG for many years in Bowman House, urged it to find another home. Then, the major donor who had funded SIG for the past twenty years became concerned about the lack of sustainable funding for the program. Fortunately, Stanford President Donald Kennedy had just hired Catherine Milton, with whom he had worked in Washington, D.C., to evaluate public service and community service on campus. When Milton began her inventory of Stanford’s public service programs in 1984, she interviewed members and friends of SIG, including the major donor, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, and alumni. While she encountered concerns with SIG’s uncertain financial situation as well as the organization’s ability to support internships, she considered SIG to be critical to the Stanford public service community and would be vital to a future public service center. “I felt it was really important to keep SIG alive and to encourage students to continue with the kind of work they were doing, not only on internships in Washington, but to continue to bring speakers to campus who would stimulate interest in public service,” Milton said. She also added that “running an organization is good preparation for students.” Although Milton’s public service report supported SIG’s mission of student involvement in local and national service, she also believed SIG needed to be reorganized and invited it to be one of the three founding student groups of the new Public Service Center in Owen House in 1984.
While many SIG members, alumni, and friends, including Scott Reisch (’86, JD ’88), Chuck Ludlam (’67), Leslie Hecht (’85), and Anna Jackson (’85), supported SIG’s rebirth as part of the new Public Service Center, there were many challenges to launching the project – especially financial obstacles. In 1985 SIG was not awarded ASSU Special Fees funding, which significantly affected the organization’s ability to host campus events and provide internship support. Fortunately, under the leadership of SIG Chair Scott Reisch, SIG received the necessary signatures to put SIG back on the Special Fees ballot for the subsequent year. For SIG and other groups in the Public Service Center, a generous endowment from the Haas family made a new home possible for Stanford’s public service community in 1989, the Haas Center for Public Service.
Support from the Public Service Center provided SIG with many opportunities to strengthen the organization. First, SIG began working with formal advisors. Jeanne Wahl Halleck, currently an administrator for Stanford in Washington and the John Gardner Fellowship Program, came to Stanford in 1983 and agreed to serve as an advisor to SIG. Halleck formerly served as a staff director for a presidential advisory committee and had extensive experience working in numerous Washington organizations. In 1996, Suzanne Abel, the Haas Center’s director of external relations, joined Halleck as a SIG advisor. Abel had previously served as the founding director of a Mendocino County museum and also had significant experience both in Washington and internationally. The guidance and wisdom of Halleck and Abel have truly contributed to SIG’s success and sustainability over the years.
SIG’s relationship with the Haas Center and its advisors also lent support to SIG’s fellowship program. Summer fellowships in Sacramento were added in 1986 and the first international fellowships in Stockholm and Budapest began in 1991. Fellows continued to be placed in the upper echelons of public policy making and governance – fellows worked on the formation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Watergate and Nixon’s impeachment, Taiwanese constitutional reform, and public health in developing countries. The internship placements are impressive on their own, but the careful selection of students for these internships continues to reinforce SIG’s reputation for excellence. Comments from one fellowship office exemplify the reputation: “SIG fellows are steady, conscientious, show a willingness to learn, and a sustained interest. Many of my colleagues share my same opinion.”
As SIG began receiving university and private funding for fellowships, its advisors at the Haas Center and influential friends of SIG helped coordinate donor stewardship and outside funding. Today, SIG offers more than 30 fully funded fellowships each summer in local, state, national, and international positions. Thanks to fellowship fundraising efforts during the years by staff, faculty and students, most SIG fellowships are now endowed.
Throughout SIG’s history, faculty and friends have provided constructive advice and valuable input. As SIG began fully funding its fellowships, expanding the fellowship program to include international opportunities, and strengthening its campus programming efforts in the 1980s and 1990s, many distinguished faculty offered extraordinary support. Of particular importance is the advice given by Chuck Ludlam, former Counsel to Senator Joseph Lieberman. Ludlam, a two-time SIG intern, continues to assist SIG in numerous ways. In recognition of his generous support, SIG’s office in the Haas Center is named the Chuck Ludlam Room.
Stanford in Government: Forty Years of Influence
by Chuck Ludlam (SIG intern, 1965 and 1967)
Seated next to Secretary of State Dean Rusk at a briefing that summer day in 1967, I wondered how he would respond to the question that was consuming me. As organizer of the briefing, one of six that Stanford in Government held with Cabinet members that summer, I faced a complicated situation. Rusk was the leading Administration defender of the Vietnam War. As early as 1964, I had turned strongly against the war and had organized an anti-war protest at my Stanford graduation several weeks earlier. I saved my question for last: “In Vietnam, isn’t the United States taking sides in a civil war and acting like a colonialist?” Rusk glowered at me, responded perfunctorily, and stomped out of the room. Mine was a fair question and his, a dismissive response. It was one of those encounters that made a lifelong impression on a lowly intern. I felt powerful and relevant, feelings that have led to my 32-year career in government and public policy and my boundless gratitude to SIG.
Over the past four decades SIG interns have had thousands of such encounters. We cannot measure what these experiences have meant — for the interns, the government, and Stanford — but we suspect that the cumulative impact has been profound on all three fronts.
In its 30th year in 1994, I organized a gala reception at the home of Senator Jay and Sharon Rockefeller here in Washington. It’s time to celebrate again the manifest and multiple contributions SIG has made to our world.
SIG has found that exposing students to the fascinating nitty-gritty of the political process — warts and glories — encourages some of them to invest a lifetime in it and most to be more effective citizens. Politics is much stranger than fiction; it’s a game driven by massive and conflicting forces, and it can be profane, fair, venal, idealistic, maddening, inspiring, pedantic, and even hysterically funny. Some interns recoil in horror, and others find it human and manageable. Only by immersion in it can students choose their point of view.
Immersing students in politics and government has been SIG’s strategy since its founding in 1962-63 by Jamie Hunter (LLB ‘ 64) with a $4400 grant from the William T. Grant Foundation. That first summer it placed 14 students as interns on Capitol Hill and “downtown” with the agencies and lobbying groups in Washington. Since then, approximately 100 Stanford students have served as interns, mostly in Washington, but many in Sacramento and now overseas. SIG’s annual budget is now $150,000, of which 53% comes from endowments and every summer it awards 30 fellowships (a minimum of $3,000 per student), including 13 international fellowships. The cumulative total number of fellowships over the years is in the hundreds. In a typical year on campus, SIG sponsors several dozen public speakers and similar programs on campus, attended by thousands of students. It helps students secure internship placements and organizes an extensive program of speakers and events during the summer. SIG has a reputation on campus for providing superb and non-partisan service to the student body. And it has the potential for even greater accomplishments.
For early interns who had to navigate the turbulent 60s, SIG was critical in providing a constructive focus for our anger. My story is illustrative. I grew up in San Marino, California, a right-wing John Birch Society stronghold. Ignoring the Kennedy allure because of my parents’ political bias, I sported an “I Miss Ike/Hell I even miss Harry” bumper sticker on my Mustang. I was involved in politics but only at the high school level. This introverted world died my freshman year at Stanford on Big Game weekend when President Kennedy was assassinated. A decade of bitter public debate — cultural conflicts and divisive public policy between generations and throughout the nation — tore the country apart. SIG and the 60s gave me a mission: to fight for social and political change on the inside, not from the barricades.
My first encounter with SIG was in the winter of 1964. SIG controlled a bank of internships that it dispensed to Stanford students. My application was summarily rejected; SIG didn’t accept sophomores. Undeterred, I recruited my grandmother to place me in an internship with the Republican Congressman she’d helped to elect. SIG then permitted me to join its summer program. We summer interns watched enthralled as the Great Society and the Voting Rights Act sailed through the House of Representatives in what was perhaps the most dramatic legislative session in our nation’s history. While students throughout the country took to the streets, and became increasingly radicalized and alienated, SIG challenged its interns to plunge into the government decision-making process.
This immersion taught me the lesson that’s governed the public service careers of many SIG interns: Politics works in America. This was confirmed for me the summer of 1967 during my second SIG internship in the House. My roommate was a close friend of Al Lowenstein, who had taught at Stanford in 1964 and was a legendary champion of liberal causes. Al visited us often that summer as he attempted to recruit someone to run against President Johnson in the Democratic primaries. When he finally persuaded Senator Eugene McCarthy to run, many of us went Clean for Gene — reverting to 50s-style attire to mollify the voters in the conservative early primary states. One of the happiest moments of my political life was sitting in a McCarthy campaign office in Milwaukee’s Polish ward, shocked but ecstatic to hear Johnson drop out of the race. We believe, with some justification, that we were personally responsible for ending his Presidency.
Through the 60s tumult — the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, Martin Luther King’s and Hubert Humphrey’s speeches on campus, the election of anti-war activist David Harris as our student body president, the Trips Festival, Haight Ashbury, the Fillmore and Jefferson Airplane, Barry Goldwater, the March on Selma, the Tet offensive, the King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, the Chicago Democratic Convention, and Kent State — SIG’s influential message was consistent: Burrow into the political power structure.
SIG’s influence survived Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush, the end of the Cold War, Newt Gingrich, welfare reform, supply side tax cuts, recessions and booms, globalization, terrorism, and the wars in Iraq. The message was always the same: It’s not someone else’s problem. You can make a difference. Get involved.
SIG’s influence has survived the distracting crosscurrents of political strife, promoting civic involvement as the alternative to cynicism and apathy. In a country that was founded on opposition to autocratic rule, it’s no surprise that many Americans enjoy eviscerating politicians and public servants. So SIG’s mission is difficult: encouraging talented students, who have many more lucrative job options, to enter public service; to fashion effective solutions for America’s and the world’s seemingly intractable challenges; and to take the everyday risk that they and their efforts will be subject to vituperation.
Now, in the early years of the 21st Century, we’re facing new threats: The imminent retirement of 55% of the highest-ranking Federal civil service managers, just as we face critical new homeland security and terrorism challenges. Again, SIG’s programs might help to supply the next generation of civil servants.
During the decade of the 80s, SIG faced its own challenges, experiencing several near-death experiences. Fortunately, these crises turned out to be blessings in disguise for both SIG and Stanford. The first arose when the Stanford Alumni Association, which had housed SIG for many years, urged it to find another home, while SIG’s anonymous donor, who had single handedly funded SIG for twenty years, was concerned about the lack of sustainable funding for the program. He gave an ultimatum — unless other sources of funding and support were found, he would no longer fund the program at the end of the year. In a case of perfect timing, Stanford President Don Kennedy — a former government official who valued public service — had just hired Catherine Milton, with whom he had worked in Washington, D.C., to develop a strategy to promote public service/community service on campus. Catherine is the acknowledged Mother of Stanford’s massive public and community service infrastructure. She also established the Corporation for National and Community Service in 1993 in Washington, giving the nation the same infrastructure.
I was already intensively involved as a mentor to SIG when its existence was put in jeopardy. Catherine and I teamed up and worked together to find SIG a new home and stable funding. In her report to the Stanford President on public service, she argued that SIG should not only be “saved,” but should become a foundation of a new public service center at Stanford, a recommendation that led directly to the creation in 1984 of the Public Service Center in Owen House and in 1993, the Haas Center for Public Service. The idea was to tap the student energy and commitment and match it with inspired teaching and leadership by people like Catherine. SIG might not survive on its own, but it could thrive in this haven.
This partnership has worked and the Haas Center has transformed Stanford’s public and community service profile. The Center now has an annual budget of $2.3 million. The Haas Center staff, especially Catherine Milton, Tim Stanton, Nadine Cruz, Jeanne Halleck, Suzanne Able-Vidor, and now Leonard Ortolano, nurture SIG and a hundred other student public and community service programs. The dedicated staff provides continuity and perspective to harness the students’ enthusiasm. Because of its central role in promoting careers in public service, SIG is one of only two programs on campus that the Haas Center officially sponsors. During the fundraising for the Center, I thought it unwise to take anything for granted. Even though it had the strong support from Catherine and Don with their Washington experience, I realized that in the future support might change; therefore, I funded an office in the new building dedicated solely to SIG.
Another superb program, the John Gardener Fellowship Program, was established in 1983 as part of these interrelated projects to honor one of the most beloved and respected University Alums, John served as Health, Education and Welfare Department Secretary under President Johnson and founded Common Cause and Independent Sector, two influential public policy advocacy organizations, and the White House Fellowship Program. The Gardner program has now placed 120 Stanford and Cal students in year-long fellowships in Washington and around the world.
Another threat to SIG’s future arose as the university decided to establish an academic program in Washington DC. Catherine had originally made a recommendation in her report for such a program and two SIG students, Leslie Hetch and Anna Jackson, volunteered for several semesters to help develop recommendations that eventually went to a faculty committee. Some wanted the University to “take over” the functions that SIG provided; instead, Catherine and I were able to design the campus we see today, the widely acclaimed Stanford in Washington Program. Students study at the Bass Center while interning on the Hill and with the agencies and then SIG interns take over the campus during the summer. The synergy between SIG and SIW enhances both.
SIG soon faced another challenge. Its new funding source, grants from the ASSU starting in 1985, was suspended when graduate students voted down the entire student fee assessment program in a low turnout election. SIG limped through the next year until the fee assessment program was reinstated, leading us to launch a series of very successful endowment campaigns to fund SIG, protecting it against these shocks. Twenty-three of SIG’s thirty fellowships are now endowed and the endowment of its international fellowships will shortly be completed. SIG is now set to launch a new $2 to $3 million campaign to endow its extensive public speaker and events programming — a prestigious “naming” opportunity. As one would expect from a program led by effective student politicos, SIG has always maintained excellent relations with the University’s Office of Development, which finds SIG an attractive cause to pitch to donors.
SIG has enriched the Stanford community in the nation’s capital. The fact that there are over 7000 Stanford alums in Washington is certainly due in part to SIG. Alums are organized to serve as mentors to aspiring Stanford public servants, and provide housing during the summer. In the 70s and 80s I organized many whitewater rafting trips for the Stanford Club on the Potomac River (Potomac fever!) to fund stipends for the SIG summer program coordinators. SIG interns are routinely invited to many Club events and events held at the Stanford in Washington campus.
Through the years SIG has weathered classic crises that reflect the passions of politics. For example, in the early 80s SIG interns held an off-the-record meeting with a high-ranking official of the Reagan White House who had made, they believed, an offensively sexist remark. The interns were outraged and determined to “out” the official in the most embarrassing possible way. We knew that SIG interns would know all too well how to do this. I persuaded them that they were bound by the ground rules for the meeting and that they had no right to jeopardize SIG’s standing and programs. Out of respect for SIG, they backed off.
SIG is responsible not only for starting my career, but also for influencing me to venture beyond public service in Washington and join the Peace Corps in Nepal in the late 60s. The SIG and Peace Corps experiences, plus extensive travel in the Third World, have enabled me to see that our political system is the most effective, decisive, open and substantive in the world. This understanding accounts for the fact that I’m still working on the Hill — where so many of the staff are in their mid-20s and last only a few years — and not yet jaded by the political process. I’m now focused on crafting a strategy to close the $72 trillion funding shortfall for Social Security and Medicare, fashioning an industrial policy to secure the medical countermeasures we need to respond to a bioterror attack, and setting the terms for this Century’s overriding reality, the economic and political competition between the United States and China. And to complete the circle, my wife — also a former Peace Corps Volunteer — are planning to “reup” as volunteers in Africa. SIG’s influence continues.
SIG’s greatest influence on the University and its students is the same as it’s been on me: Its optimism. SIG’s optimistic premise is that our society will be led, generation after generation, by capable, idealistic, and inspired public servants. It’s an honor for me and the Hass Center staff to be associated with SIG. The thirty or more SIG student Presidents with whom I have worked, and many other SIG leaders, are among the brightest and most effective people I’ve ever met. We rarely know their political affiliations; it’s just not important in comparison to SIG’s compelling non-partisan civic mission.
SIG’s ambition for the next forty years should be to extend its influence to the very foundation of the Farm. In contrast to Harvard and Yale, Stanford has yet to fully apply its academic acumen to the great public policy debates of the day. The Hoover Institution provides a model for what should be more pervasive at Stanford — academics immersed in and leading the myriad battles that will shape our future. Establishing a John Gardner School of Public Policy modeled on the Kennedy School of Government would enhance Stanford’s relevance. Every department at the University should offer public policy fellowships — engineering students can focus on science policy and art students can focus on funding for art in public spaces. Stanford could fund grants or make annual awards to academics who publish the most timely and influential reports on social or economic policy issues. SIG could assemble a consortium of high tech trade associations and Stanford Park firms to host an annual conference — call it the Frederick Terman Summit after the Stanford-based founder of Silicon Valley — focusing on the interconnections among entrepreneurs, technology firms, academia, and government. It could bring retired Congressmen and Senators to campus for extended stays; establish a National Advocacy Center and Clearinghouse for Public Policy Internships; and maintain the definitive national website on internships and public service careers. Stanford and SIG could found their version of the Cambridge Union Society, the oldest debating society in the world, and endow annual lectures on social policy/poverty or East-West issues. If Stanford is destined to be the richest university in the world, then it has obligations to the world that exceed its current grasp.
America’s future will be determined in large measure by America’s ability to extend our influence to the East, combining the power of Stanford’s greatest innovation, Silicon Valley, the ultimate bastion of the individualist, with the endless possibilities of Asia’s multitudes. It is natural for Stanford to take the lead on the myriad public policy issues that will make this possible.
In doing all of this, Stanford will continue to build on SIG’s 40 years of leadership and service to generations of Stanford students and alums. Congratulations SIG. Well done. And thanks.
Chuck Ludlam (BA ‘ 67) has served as the principal alumni mentor to SIG and many generations of Stanford students. SIG’s office at the Haas Center is named the “Chuck Ludlam Room.” He was one of 100 alums to receive the Centennial Medallion in 1991 for his service to the University. He had funded 25 summer fellowships and his dad, Jim Ludlam, has funded 20 more. For 20 years he gave a lecture at Stanford on “how to get a job/internship in Washington.” He served for 26 years as counsel to the White House, Senate and House Committees, and the Federal Trade Commission, and 7 years as the principal lobbyist for 1000 biotechnology companies. He is retiring in June of 2005 and his wife, Paula Hirschoff, and he are rejoining the Peace Corps to serve in Senegal. They both served as Peace Corps Volunteers in the late 1960s, Chuck in Nepal and Paula in Kenya.
 Originally named “Stanford In Washington,” the program was renamed “Stanford In Government” in the 1970s when it began to offer internships in Sacramento as well as Washington. This left the “Stanford in Washington” moniker available for the University’s campus in Washington.