Policy Research Fellows Program

2019 Spring Semester 

Fellows from Santa Clara University Law School gathered for an orientation luncheon with Secretary and Mrs. Panetta, Institute professors and visitors from Santa Clara University .

The semester began on January 11 at the Panetta Institute with an orientation luncheon attended by the new fellows, Secretary and Mrs. Panetta, Institute professors and representatives of Santa Clara University.

The Fellows Program was created in the spring of 2006 in collaboration with the Santa Clara University School of Law.  Since then, eighty-seven law students have completed the program. The course of study was formulated by Secretary Leon Panetta and focuses on how public policy issues can be addressed by parties of competing interests and ultimately develop into consensus solutions acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans.

“Essentially, we are teaching the fellows the art of governing,” says Secretary Panetta. “They do research on both the Republican and the Democratic positions on major national issues and then develop a consensus on what compromise would look like.”

Each of the six fellows did their in-depth research on the following topics:

  • Elaine Chou — CYBER-SECURITY/Regulation of social media.
  • Joseph Eisenberg — FOREIGN POLICY/Withdrawal from Syria, Involvement versus Isolationism
  • Sharon Morales — IMMIGRATION REFORM/Enforcement, Legalization, Employer Regulations, Worker Rights
  • Maritza Ponce — SOCIAL POLICY/Legalization or Limitation of Abortion Rights, Regulation of Abortion and Political Realities of the Issue.
  • Jared Renteria — HOUSING/Establishing Affordable Housing and Addressing Homelessness — the role of government and the private sector.
  • Erica Skeels — DISABILITY POLICY/ Enforcement Challenges of the Americans With Disability Act, Benefits, Reasonable Accommodations and Enforcement.


“It is not an exaggeration to say that the Fellows Program changed my life. The program was tough yet exhilarating, especially in light of the volatile political climate. Honest policy discussions are critical to our democracy.”

                          — Marinna Radloff, Policy Research Fellow, 2017

The Panetta Institute, in collaboration with the Santa Clara University School of Law, created the Policy Research Fellows Program in the spring of 2006. The dean of the school of law selects highly qualified second, third and fourth-year law school students to serve as fellows at the Panetta Institute.

The most recent cohort of law students began their studies at the Institute in January.

Participants work on site at the Panetta Institute in the many-faceted program, gaining first-hand experience and instruction in policy research and assisting the Institute with research and analysis on issues relevant to its work and mission.

One of the 2015 fellows, Tori Anthony of Santa Clara School of Law, described the fellowship as providing “the rare opportunity to understand how to develop a solution to major policy issues, and to learn the qualities and principles needed to be a successful leader in any area.”

Michael Fritter, a 2017 fellow, commented: “The program’s focus on consensus-building in politics and policy is critical in light of the current political climate. As I pursue a career in public service, I have no doubt I will use the lessons that I learned at the Institute in addressing the world’s major issues. I have faith in our future because of programs like this. Thanks for teaching me the ‘worthy fights.’ ”

“Dr. Kezirian’s and Dr. Banks’s lectures were some of the best lectures I ever had the privilege of attending. I also  appreciated the practical advice from Mr. Keeley and the opportunity to practice real-world presentation challenges with Mr. Daniels.”

— Mallory Barr, Policy Research Fellow, 2017 

Topics include the national budget, bipartisanship, youth civic engagement, national service, energy, immigration, international relations and national security, cyber and healthcare.

Fellows work under the direction of Secretary Panetta and Panetta Institute staff, including lecturers and professors Sonia Banks, Fred Keeley, William Daniels and Richard Kezirian.

In addition, each Friday, fellows attend a reading seminar and discussion led by the Institute’s policy professor and other Panetta Institute lecturers. The overall goal of these Friday seminars is to introduce fellows to the major writers and the most significant academic literature that is covered and discussed in the Institute’s following three master’s courses: Money, Media and Politics; Legislative and Executive Politics and Policymaking; and Budget Policy. Four to five weeks are spent on each course.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty discusses the law and politics with Institute fellows

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty discusses the law and politics with Institute fellows

Another former student said, “It was a pleasure to hear the accomplished speakers that came to the Institute and participate in candid discussions with them.”

Thus far, seventy-nine students have completed their semester of service and received academic credit for their work.

Thanks to a generous Santa Clara University School of Law alumnus, up to four matriculating, selected Santa Clara University School of Law students can receive reimbursement for travel each semester for participating in this Fellows Program.

Please contact us for more information.