Strengthening Policymaking.

The Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) Policy Fellowship program aims to strengthen the scientific and technical capacity of state government, private industry, and nonprofit organizations in the Commonwealth of Virginia by encouraging and equipping young scientists and engineers to be effective advisors for public policy.

COVES Fellowship Program

COVES Fellows

The challenges leaders face today—in such areas as health, climate, and security—are unprecedented in their scope, complexity, and urgency. All too often, however, decision- makers lack access to the accurate and impartial scientific and technical information needed to act decisively and wisely. The obstacle: a critical shortage of scientists and engineers with the necessary training to be effective policy advisors.

The Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine created the Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) Policy Fellowship program to help bridge that gap. Although many young scientists and engineers are eager to take a more active role in policymaking, the opportunities to gain the skills and experience to make meaningful contributions are limited during their graduate careers. Thanks to the fellowship, they can now have those opportunities.

The COVES Policy Fellowship program enables young researchers to spend 12 weeks during the summer months serving as science and technology advisors in legislative offices and executive agencies as well as with prominent Virginia companies and nonprofits.

The COVES Fellowship Experience

  • Fellows are current graduate students from universities across the Commonwealth and are selected based on career interests, desire to learn, and scientific integrity.
  • They are matched with offices involved in policy decisions based on mutual interests and the offices’ need for assistance researching policy proposals, drafting policy documents, or organizing policy meetings and events.
  • The program begins with a science policy bootcamp and orientation, which introduces fellows to the fundamentals of science policy and communications as well as governance and policymaking in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • In addition to their work in policy offices, COVES fellows are paired with a mentor from the Virginia Academy and participate in academy briefings, committee meetings, and an annual summit.
  • Fellows receive a summer stipend.
Introducing the Next Generation of Policymakers

Each year, we highlight the contributions of our latest COVES cohort and the achievements of COVES graduates who have gone on to careers in public policy. The publication of this yearbook is also an occasion to thank the growing number of government agencies, legislative offices, and nonprofits who host our fellows as well as the sponsors of the program.

The fellowship program has been carefully designed to ensure that both fellows and host offices gain maximum benefit from the experience. It is modeled after successful programs developed by such organizations as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

COVES Impact

The program has already had an impact. A quarter of the members of our first four cohorts are pursuing careers in policy.
Sandra Yankah
Sandra Yankah
Department of Health—Office of Health Equity
Norfolk State University

COVES 2020
Postdoctoral research associate at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy

Yezi Yang
Yezi Yang
Office of the Virginia Delegate Sally Hudson
Virginia Tech

COVES 2022
Doctoral student in geochemistry at Virginia Tech

Nikita Lad
Nikita Lad
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
George Mason University

COVES 2021
Doctoral student in environmental science and policy at George Mason University

Representative COVES Research Reports

Exploring the need for Basic Research support at Virginia’s Higher Education Institutions
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This project was undertaken to solicit perspectives from the Commonwealth’s constituents’ regarding basic research (BR) performed at public universities in Virginia as the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) was trying to explore the evolution of any current gaps and the potential need for state policy and/or legislation regarding public funding of BR at Virginia’s universities.

Meeting the Goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act Using Carbon Capture
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To reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), directs the State Air Pollution Control Board to adopt regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric generating units for the period of 2031 to 2050, with a goal of 100 percent carbon-free electric generation by 2045. In recent years, alternative CO2 reduction methods known as carbon capture have emerged that can accelerate achieving the VCEA carbon-reduction goals.

Meet the 2024 COVES Fellows

Yasasi Abeysinghe
Yasasi Abeysinghe
Joint Commission on Technology and Science
Old Dominion University
Laura Akesson
Laura Akesson
Senator Ghazala Hashmi's office
George Mason University
Jem Baldisimo
Jemelyn Baldisimo
Virginia Marine Resources Commission - Fisheries Management Division
Old Dominion University
Elizabeth Beyer
Elizabeth Beyer
Virginia Marine Resources Commission - Commissioner's Office
Virginia Tech
Bernard Boston
Port of Virginia
Norfolk State University
Kiara Brown
Kiara Brown
Behavioral Health Commission
Virginia Commonwealth University
Pavan Chaitanya
Pavan Chaitanya
Virginia Department of Energy
Virginia Commonwealth University
Zach Dawson
Zach Dawson
Virginia Department of Forestry
University of Virginia
Carreen de Cárdenas
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
University of Virginia
Synphane Gibbs-Shelton
Synphane Gibbs-Shelton
Virginia Bio
University of Virginia
Luke Goodman
Luke Goodman
Senator Creigh Deeds' Office
Virginia Tech
Julia Hsin-Ping Hsu
Julia Hsin-Ping Hsu
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
George Mason University
Kylor Kerns
Kylor Kerns
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
University of Virginia
Prianka Mandal
Prianka Mandal
Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services - Office of Recovery Services
William & Mary
Gates Palissery
Gates Palissery
Senator Lashrecse Aird's Office
Virginia Tech
Mark Schwartz
Mark Schwartz
Joint Commission on Health Care
University of Virginia
Mikala Simons
Mikala Simons
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Virginia State University

COVES Alumni

2023
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Mohammed Alrezq
Department of Planning and Budget
Virginia Tech
Nishat Ara Nipa
Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, Commercialization Division
University of South Florida
Shelita Augustus
Virginia Bio
William & Mary
Juli Dutta
Department of Conservation and Recreation
Norfolk State University
Zhenyi Huang
Department of Health, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity
George Mason University
Kaushal Kafle
Department of Education, Office of STEM and Innovation, Computer Science
William & Mary
Jasmine Lewis
Department of Education, Office of STEM and Innovation, Science
Virginia Tech
Sarah Morton
Joint Commission on Health Care
Virginia Commonwealth University
Geovani Muñoz
Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Office of Recovery Services (ORS)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Teri Ramey
Department of Forestry
University of Georgia
John Reilly Stiles
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
George Mason University
Thanh Nhan Duc Tran
Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Floodplain Management
University of Virginia
Dreon Wheatley-Owens
Office of the Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources
Virginia State University
2022
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Jennifer Bertollo
Jennifer Bertollo
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV)
Virginia Tech
Denise Daniels
Denise Daniels
Office of the Secretary of Education
Virginia State University
Frankie Edwards
Frankie Edwards
Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
Virginia Tech
Alissa Ganser
Alissa Ganser
Office of Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan
Virginia Tech
Xu Han
Xu Han
Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS)
George Mason University
Nathan Holland
Nathan Holland
Port of Virginia
Old Dominion University
Alie Lepp
Alie Lepp
Virginia Marine Resources Commission
University of Virginia
Kyle Liam Mason
Kyle Liam Mason
Office of the Virginia Senator Ghazala Hashmi
Virginia Commonwealth University
Elena Meyer
Elena Meyer
Department of Environmental Quality
University of Georgia
Nicholas Minster
Nicholas Minster
Virginia Biotechnology Association (VBA)
George Mason University
Lacee Savage
Lacee Savage
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)
Christopher Newport University
Amit Seal Ami
Amit Seal Ami
Joint Commission on Science and Technology (JCOTS)
William & Mary
Casie Slaybaugh
Casie Slaybaugh
Virginia Board for People with Disabilities
Virginia Commonwealth University
Hazel Sun
Hazel Sun
Department of Forestry
University of Georgia
Yezi Yang
Yezi Yang
Office of the Virginia Delegate Sally Hudson
Virginia Tech
2021
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Adele Balmer
Adele Balmer
Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee
Virginia Commonwealth University
Janey Dike
Janey Dike
Division of the Chief Clinical Officer, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
Virginia Tech
Isis Garcia-Rodriguez
Isis Garcia-Rodriguez
Office of Recovery Services, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
Virginia Commonwealth University
Chelsea Gray
Chelsea Gray
Office of Virginia Delegate Rodney Willett
George Mason University
Tara Illgner
Tara Illgner
Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS)
University of Virginia
Homa Jalaeian Taghadomi
Homa Jalaeian Taghadom
Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources
Old Dominion University
Nikita Lad
Nikita Lad
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
George Mason University
Sunil Manandhar
Sunil Manandhar
Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPA)
William & Mary
Margaret Nagai-Singer
Margaret Nagai-Singer
Virginia Department of Forestry
Virginia Tech
Kelsea Yarbrough
Kelsea Yarbrough
Office of Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan
Norfolk State University
2020
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Ryan Chaban
Dominion Energy, Public Policy Department
William & Mary
Sarah Hall
Sarah Hall
Virginia Biotechnology Association
Virginia Tech
Nicole A. Jefferson
Nicole Jefferson
Office of State Senator Ghazala Hashmi
Virginia Tech
Erin Robartes
Erin Robartes
Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources
University of Virginia
Nick Walker
Nick Walker
Department of Conservation and Recreation, Dam Safety
George Mason University
Sandra Yankah
Sandra Yankah
Department of Health—Office of Health Equity
Norfolk State University

Institutional Support

Academic Support

Many of the Commonwealth’s universities support the Virginia Academy’s operations as well as the COVES Policy Fellowship program.
  • George Mason University
  • Norfolk State University
  • Old Dominion University
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia State University
  • Virginia Tech
  • William & Mary

Industry Support

The COVES Policy Fellowship Program is fortunate to have industry support from the following organizations:
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries
  • MITRE
  • Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation

Become a COVES FELLOW

Have you thought you could make a difference by applying the knowledge you’ve gained as a scientist or engineer to the pressing challenges facing society? The Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) Policy Fellowship program will give you firsthand exposure to how policy is made at the state level, helping you determine if this is a good choice for you.

COVES Application

There are standard components of the application (resume/CV and personal statement) in addition to the fellowship-specific portions (a one-pager on science policy in Virginia and a diversity statement). The science policy piece should consist of content similar to a one-page policy memo addressing a science-based topic, although I can take any format (memo, essay, etc.). It should be written for a non-technical audience. The National Science Policy Network and American Sociological Association have good examples of one-pelage policy memos.

The diversity statement should detail how your identity influences your interests in science policy. If comfortable doing so, you may also list your status as part of the application to be considered for externally funded positions. Externally funded fellows will have graduated from HBCUs and/or historically excluded communities. Available positions depend on participating sponsors.

2024 Fellows: Important Dates & Application Links
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COVES Information Session
December 4, 2023, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.
APPLICATION DEADLINES
February - March 15, 2023
(varies by university)
George Mason University
December 11, 2023
Virginia Tech
December 10, 2023
University of Virginia
December 15, 2023 (submit to: covesfellowship@vasem.org)
Virginia Commonwealth University
December 11, 2023
Old Dominion University
December 11, 2023 by 11:5 p.m. (submit to: graduateschool@odu.edu)
William & Mary
December 11, 2023 by 4:00 p.m. (submit to sgglos@wm.edu)
Norfolk State University
December 8, 2023 by 11:59 p.m. (submit to: jedraper@nsu.edu)
Hampton University
December 15, 2023 by 11:59 p.m. (submit to: covesfellowship@vasem.org)
Virginia State University
December 12, 2023
COVES FELLOWS ANNOUNCED
January 15, 2024
HOST OFFICE MATCHING
April - May 2024
ORIENTATION & SCIENCE POLICY
BOOTCAMP IN RICHMOND, VA
May 23 to 24, 2024
FELLOWS BEGIN WORKING IN HOST OFFICE
May 28, 2024
LAST DAY OF FELLOWSHIP
August 16, 2024
FELLOW CONVOCATION
August 30, 2024
As a COVES Policy Fellow, you will:
  • Work together with public policy leaders as you use your expertise to develop solutions to pressing challenges facing Virginia/
  • Receive training, professional development, and mentoring from some of Virginia’s top scientists, engineers, and policy professionals.
  • Receive a minimum summer stipend of $9,000 and access to $2,000 in professional development funds.
COVES Policy Fellowship Forum

At the end of the fellowship, the Virginia Academy hosts a convocation to showcase the hard work and accomplishments of the fellows. The event is attended by COVES university partners, host offices, and experts across Virginia.

If you have further questions about the application process, please get in touch with us directly.