Batten Launches Inaugural Tadler Fellowship with Major Impact in Southwest Virginia

2023 cohort of Tadler Fellows
2023 Tadler Fellows (left to right): Savannah Hundley, Raegan Larussa, Sam Roche, (UVA-Wise Vice President Shannon Blevins is in green jacket), Ryan Strand, Sydnee Pottebaum, Christian Oliver-Smith, Donna Reynolds, Sophie McGinley, Garreth Hayden, Conor O'Donnell, Katharine Barbour, Christin Choi

The inaugural cohort of 12 Master of Public Policy Tadler Fellows will be working throughout the school year with rural community leaders reinvigorating local economies in Appalachia, learning about impact investing and applying innovative finance to support on-the-ground policy work. 


Thanks to a generous gift from University of Virginia alumni Richard and Donna Tadler, a cohort of Batten students are poised to make a big difference in the economic future of rural Southwest Virginia. The Tadlers have funded a year-long fellowship program for Master of Public Policy students who will work to support economic development partners in the region. The funding expands on the couple’s previous gifts that launched the school’s Impact Investing in Appalachia program in 2019 and endowed a Professorship for Entrepreneurship for Common Good. Combined, the gifts make the Tadlers the largest donor to the school outside of the Batten family, whose inaugural grant in 2007 launched the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. 

The Tadler Graduate Fellowship in Impact Investing offers an innovative educational opportunity for Batten students interested in issues involving rural policy and impact investing. In practice, this includes deploying innovative investment strategies made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. 

2023 Tadler fellows in Wise County

Through the fellowship, students have been paired with local government and non-profit organizations tackling a range of policy areas including rural economic development, education, healthcare, energy, a just transition to a carbon-free economy, and affordable housing.

Appalachia is a broadly defined cultural and geographic region stretching from New York to Alabama, comprising 13 states and 423 counties. 

 “The Tadler Fellowship comes at a critical moment for Appalachia, which faces significant public policy challenges. The inaugural cohort of fellows have the opportunity to provide transformational change for the region through their work with local government and economic leaders,” Batten Professor of Public Policy and Politics Christine Mahoney said. “It’s been wonderful to launch this fellowship with UVA alumni who have seen the power of the private sector and who recognize how we need policy leaders who can bridge the gap between effective local and state policymaking and investments from the private sector.”

The 12 graduate fellows will directly work with municipal administration officials, regional planners, nonprofit executives and other rural community leaders to build their capacity, secure external funding and help local economies thrive. For many students, the Tadler Fellowship represents an unprecedented learning opportunity to work on public policy issues they care deeply about. 

“I am most excited to better understand financial modeling and processes to build the capacity, reach, and accessibility of cross-sector investment. By working on place-based policy analysis, we will need to balance best practice with tailoring policy approaches to our specific communities," said Sophie McGinley, a post-graduate MPP and former city planner from Oregon. “I am also enthusiastic about leveraging local relationships for the potential to implement programs and policies that are able to live on past the fellowship’s duration and be carried on by our community partners.”

Before the academic year began, the cohort came together on Grounds and traveled together by bus to Wise County, VA where they talked with local economic development leaders from UVA-Wise and the greater region, met their clients and attended a Jeffersonian Dinner over three days. 

Tadler fellows Sophie McGinley and Savannah Hundley
Sophie McGinley (left) and Savannah Hundley

For one fellow, Savannah Hundley, traveling to Southwestern Virginia meant returning to the region where she grew up in a small community in the Appalachian Mountains. Hundley shared how her upbringing in the region led her to apply for the Tadler Fellowship. 

“My family has been personally impacted by the lack of development and infrastructure, lack of adequate healthcare and educational opportunities, and lack of quality jobs in the region. I have seen firsthand the living conditions and disparities the Appalachian region faces. This background has made me passionate about trying to address the issues the region faces and learn more about possible policy solutions. The Tadler Fellowship offers a unique and rare opportunity to do this and give back to a region that has been largely ignored and exploited in the past.”

Back on Grounds, the cohort of fellows engaged with experts on economic development in rural America, including representatives from The Brookings Institution, the White House Rural Partner Networks and two community development financial institutions serving the commonwealth – Virginia Community Capital and Appalachian Community Capital. The fellows will continue meeting with state policymakers and rural economic innovators throughout the school year. 

“The hands-on policy experience offered to Batten students through this program is phenomenal,” Batten School Dean Ian Solomon said. “Donna and Richard Tadler, both active and devoted alumni, are giving Batten students the opportunity to learn about and apply innovative finance-focused policy solutions that will foster economic growth for some of Virginia’s most at-risk and underfunded communities. We are incredibly grateful for their generous gift.”

For more information on the Tadler Fellowship please contact:

Batten Professor Christine Mahoney
Director of the Tadler Program on Impact Investing

Tadler photo - southwest virginia

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