Spring 2021 Fellow
Barbara Comstock has three decades of leadership and management experience in the state and federal government, the media, and the private sector. She has worked closely with senior political, media, public relations, and a wide range of business, commerce, technology, and defense leaders, on a bipartisan basis, throughout her career. She currently is a senior adviser at Baker Donelson focused on technology issues.
Barbara was first elected to Congress in 2014 to represent Virginia’s 10th Congressional District serving two terms. Barbara served on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, the bicameral Joint Economic Committee, the House Administration Committee, and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.
In her freshman term she was selected as the Chairwoman of The Subcommittee on Research and Technology on the Science Committee because of her depth of experience in this area. She authored and passed “The INSPIRE Act” to promote STEM careers for young women, the Better Pain Management through Better Data Act, and promoted additional funding for science agencies within her committee. She also authored and passed landmark anti-sexual harassment legislation in Congress and secured continued Metro funding every year she served in Congress. Barbara was named as one of the “Top Ten Most Effective Lawmakers” in the 115th Congress by the Center for Effective Lawmaking. She also was rated one of the most bipartisan legislators in Congress. Prior to serving in Congress, Barbara was elected for 3 terms in the Virginia House of Delegates (served 2010-2014).
In 2013, Barbara founded “The Young Women’s Leadership Program” for young women in high school an
Course: A Woman in the Arena: From Intern to Congresswoman
Being a woman “in the arena” – in public service and politics is a privilege that is rewarding, frustrating and inspiring. It’s a people business – serving, organizing, listening to, learning from and leading people to improve our communities, our country, and the lives of our neighbors as well as people we will never meet all around the world. Public service allows us to see wrongs in the public square and work to right them and build coalitions to do so.
This course emphasized that though politics has historically been a man’s world, today’s women should and must take their rightful place in the halls of power and decision-making. For many young women who want to work in politics, it begins with a clear path. This course focused on the variety of jobs and opportunities available throughout government service and the political landscape and how these positions allow a woman in the arena to advance the issues and causes they care about. Each class focused on a job area such as internships, entry level jobs; congressional staff or counsel; agency staff, campaign staff, etc. We discussed and matched students’ interests and skills to various jobs through our invited guests, which included Members of Congress, state officials, campaign managers, members of the press, and other senior officials, as well as my experiences working with a variety of officials, agencies, and campaigns as an intern, staffer, counsel, advisor, and as a candidate. Our guest lecturers demonstrated the variety of opportunities and career paths for all – regardless of their background or political leanings – to be engaged in the important work of public service and politics and to find your “why” and the issues or efforts that students can impact in the arena and how best to succeed.
Spring 2021 Semester Recap
Callie McAdams, a sophomore majoring in Political Science, said this about her experience in Barbara’s course:
“We had speakers who talked about their experiences working in politics from all aspects. We specifically had an emphasis on the struggles women face while entering the male-dominated industry of politics. I gained a lot of information about what it’s like to work in politics, especially as a woman. I was able to meet a lot of inspirational figures, even though it was virtual. I gained a lot of role models that I can base my future experiences off of, especially [from] Barbara Comstock herself, [who] is such an inspiration to me. My favorite part was when Donna Edwards came and spoke; she was such an inspiration and my favorite speaker. If you haven’t taken a Fellows class, I would definitely recommend it.”
See what Spring 2021 Fellow Barbara Comstock said about her experience at USC’s Center for the Political Future in this video highlight.