About the Meriwether Lewis Institute


Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Thomas Jefferson was faced with the decision of who to trust to lead the expedition westward.  He chose Captain Meriwether Lewis, a native of Albemarle County and one of his personal aides.  Lewis was just 29 years old.  Along with his close friend William Clark, Lewis led a resoundingly successful transcontinental expedition,  losing only one member of his crew to appendicitis.  The Expedition – and its leadership – was widely praised as a crowning achievement of Jefferson’s presidency.

In founding the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson envisioned a new kind of university, one dedicated to educating leaders in practical affairs and public service rather than for professions in the classroom and pulpit exclusively.  The Lewis Institute aims to develop young leaders like Meriwether Lewis, equipping students with the tools they need for effective leadership both on the University’s Grounds and beyond.

A New Approach to Self-Governance

Student self-governance has been a part of the University of Virginia since its earliest days. Today’s students take this core value to heart, and it remains a foundational part of their UVA experience. The Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership is a multiyear fellowship program that equips students for a lifetime of leadership. Participating students benefit from life-changing experiences right here on Grounds. The Lewis Institute bolsters student self-governance by equipping students to take on roles as leaders and innovators while on Grounds. Students give back to the University in meaningful ways, embracing this experience as a training ground for citizen leadership.


The MLI Program aims to develop a network of citizen leaders who will be empowered to pay forward what they learn through the program to their respective communities.


The Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership at the University of Virginia is a multi-year leadership initiative that prepares students for a lifetime of leadership and service at the University and beyond. The program brings together a diverse cohort of scholars who will take the skills, resources, and relationships they gain and:
1.   Share them with their networks to create a stronger, more inclusive culture of student self-governance at UVA.
2.   Become more knowledgeable and effective partners for change at the University and beyond.

Key Program Elements

The Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership at the University of Virginia is a multi-year fellowship that prepares students for a lifetime of leadership at the University and beyond.  The Institute brings together a diverse group of U.Va. students for a 2.5-year immersive leadership experience.  Each cohort of Lewis Fellows is comprised of 30 students selected in the fall of their second year at the University.  The program has three key elements:

Students in a class


Participants are selected for the program in the fall semester of their second year and begin by enrolling in a course in the Batten School called "Leadership in Practice" (LPPL 4225) in the spring semester. In preparation for their project-based summer program, this three-credit course will focus on advancing students' current skills and help them to develop new leadership competencies. LPPL 4225 approaches will be used to leverage current and future leadership experience. Weekly Case Conferences well help students give and receive constructive feedback on an abundant of leadership experiences. Students will be well prepared take on leadership roles within their organizations after taking this course. The course will be taught by Tim Davis, a professor in the Batten School. He is known for teaching the Resilient Student and Resilient Teams course at the University.

Students eating on a porch

Summer Program

In the summer between their second and third years, the Fellows stay in Charlottesville for a five-week program where they learn various leadership skills (covering topics like public speaking, budgeting, presentation skills, and interpersonal dynamics). Experts from across the University and real-world leaders from various sectors lead workshops and share their perspectives with the Fellows. The Fellows also have the opportunity to meet with deans and other leaders from across the University to discuss the challenges the University faces and how student leaders can help. The Fellows work on a group project throughout the four-week program, presenting their work to a diverse group of University stakeholders in the final week.  All costs of the summer program are covered for the students, including room, program costs, and a stipend for completion.

Program Calendar

Students in a group on the Lawn

Meaningful Engagement

The third part of the program, happening in the students’ third and fourth years, offers the Fellows the opportunity to apply what they've learned to key University issues. Fellows participate in independent and small group projects aimed at improving the University which they began developing over the course of the summer program and flesh out with the help of assigned University mentors over the course of their third year. This allows Fellows to creatively design a project that will positively impact the UVA community. The students work with MLI staff, their mentors, and other University leaders to implement their meaningful engagement projects. By leveraging their acquired knowledge from the summer program and courses completed during their MLI experience, students generate distinctive ideas that will have a profound impact on the University community.

Learn More

Professional Staff

Julie Caruccio

Julie Caruccio
Assistant Vice President for Research on the Student Experience

John Cheney
John Cheney
Interim Chief of Staff and Assistant Dean of Students
Students in front of Brooks Hall
Marcia Pentz-Harris
Associate Professor of Commerce
Rakeem Walker
Rakeem Walker
Program Coordinator