Batten Student Highlight: Ellie Stombres (BA '24)

Ellie Stombres

As we enter our last week of classes, it seems fitting that we highlight someone who has truly made the most out of her time in Batten, Ellie Stombres (BA, 2024). Holding diverse roles as Batten Undergraduate Council President, Lead Admissions Ambassador, and Congressional Intern, Ellie offers a diverse array of insights and lessons. Throughout this engaging conversation, we delve into her immersive role within the Batten community and her seamless transition from campus leadership to Capitol Hill. She shares the highlights of her internship with Senator Tim Kaine, offering a firsthand glimpse into the world of policy and public service. Now, as she embarks on the next chapter of her life (cheffing it up in London!) we’re grateful for her invaluable insights and advice, which will undoubtedly continue to inspire future Batten students. If you’re interested in pursuing a Capitol Hill internship, becoming more involved in the Batten community, or holding leadership positions on grounds, Ellie is the person to listen to. 

Q: What is your position on BUC and what are your responsibilities?

A: I have served as Batten Undergraduate Council President for the 2023-2024 year. On the official end, I led the BUC executive board team as we planned large events such as Batten Builds, the largest school-wide volunteer day at UVA filled with a panel of local policy leaders and service projects in the community, the Policy Ball, our annual social semiformal for undergraduate Batten students, and the Rotunda Dinner, a celebratory dinner and award ceremony for our fourth year students.

In an unofficial capacity, the BUC president has many responsibilities including answering any and all questions from peers about what is going on in Batten, outlining graduation events, organizing study sessions, planning smaller social events (like trick-or-treating on the lawn), representing Batten in University settings, and serving as a liaison between administration and students. Being BUC president in essence is about facilitating community and connections, which was such a blessing because it helped me build relationships with so many students, faculty, and staff. I feel extremely connected to Batten, which is making graduating and leaving this community especially bittersweet. 

Batten Builds group 2023
Students participating in Batten Builds 2023

Q: What is your role in the Batten Admissions Office and what are your responsibilities?

A. Over my time in Batten, I have also had the opportunity to work as a Lead Admissions Ambassador for the Undergraduate Admissions Office. As a Lead Ambassador, I have served as a panelist in admissions information sessions, represented Batten at major fairs, held office hours, worked application workshops and admitted-student events, participated in Days on the Lawn, and served as a resource for all things Batten for UVA students. 

The thing I have treasured most about my time as a Lead Ambassador was the mentorship role I got to take on for prospective, incoming, and current Batten students. It was amazing to help students see if Batten was a good fit for them, tell them about Batten life, advise them on their applications, and simply talk about being a UVA student and what I have learned during my time here. It is always rewarding to see so many familiar faces in both the 2025 and 2026 Batten cohorts from my interactions and relationships as Lead Ambassador. Additionally, it didn’t hurt that Anne (Anne Carter Mulligan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions), always had snacks for me in her office whenever I got hungry while studying at Garrett.

batten admissions ambassadors
Batten Lead Admissions Ambassadors 2023; Ellie is on the right. 

Q: Where did you work last summer/what was your most impactful internship experience? What was your official position title?

A: Last summer I worked as a Congressional Intern in Senator Tim Kaine’s (VA) D.C. office. My internship was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, inspiring me to stay in the world of public service forever. The most impactful experience I had while working in Senator Kaine’s office was my role in helping with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Each day, I helped the policy team compile a database of all the proposed amendments to the NDAA (more than 1,000 amendments) and collect information on the amendments, including who proposed the amendment, what the amendment did, whether or not the amendment was previously introduced as a standalone bill, and other important details to inform the senator on how to vote. It was a masterclass for me as a young policy student to watch the development of a major authorization act and how the staff handled the legislative process. I left my internship with a deep knowledge of the intricate and confusing parliamentary procedure Capitol Hill staffers need to know because of my work on this bill.

Q: What were your main responsibilities at your internship and the projects you got to work on? What did a day in the life look like?

A: I live in the Northern Virginia area, so my commute each day was very familiar to me. I rode the orange line metro to Capitol South everyday, often running into friends from Batten also interning in the D.C. area for the summer. My walk from the metro station was nothing short of amazing. I got to walk past the Capitol and Supreme Court everyday as the decisions for Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Counterman v. Colorado were released. This is one of the best parts of working for the federal government: there were always protests, tourists, and media frenzies to observe. 

When I got to the Russell Senate Office Building, I always had an array of different tasks to carry out. I would answer phone calls from constituents, fill out casework requests, write memos on important policy issues (such as Ozempic and the Mountain Valley Pipeline), deliver letters and documents to other offices, and give tours of the Capitol to constituents. During breaks, my coworkers and I constantly got coffee at Cups, the coffee shop in Russell, or frozen yogurt in the Dirksen cafeteria. After the day, I would either go explore D.C. with my coworkers, get food in Arlington (I recommend El Pollo Rico), or go home to visit with my family.

Q: What are some highlights from your time working there? Most impactful things you got to work on/people you got to meet?

A: My internship was particularly special due to my close access to policy work and the staffers on Kaine’s staff. I felt like I was actually contributing to the team, rather than being a fly on the wall. Every week, we got to join the staff meetings, have intern specific Q&A sessions with staffers of all levels and Senator Kaine himself, and carry out real projects that made a difference in the policymaking process. I felt confident in asking questions, asking for jobs and building relationships with the staffers (who were more than eager to help us on our journeys and tell us their own stories). I learned so much by simply asking staffers questions and observing how the office functioned. I felt very welcome and comfortable, and know that I can reach out to any of them if I need help navigating the job hunt process on the Hill in the future. 

Another one of my favorite parts of my internship was my intern coworkers. Although the internship only lasted two months, I built lasting friendships with my peers and a network of like-minded, intelligent, extremely hardworking individuals. We not only worked on policy assignments, developed tours of the Capitol, interviewed members of the staff and got lost in the halls of the Senate office buildings together, but we also played in Senate staffer pickleball tournaments, toured D.C. museums and genuinely hung out in our free time. 

students with senator kaine
Senator Tim Kaine (center) 2023 summer interns; Ellie is 4th from the right.

Q: What inspired you to take on this position? Any specific classes or Batten professors?

A: Growing up, my father worked as a congressional aide and served as a local city councilman and my mother worked at a nonprofit therapeutic riding farm. Public service was always at the center of my career aspirations and I was very familiar with Washington D.C. Once I got to UVA, Batten furthered this interest, especially in relation to Capitol Hill and the reality of policy work. At Batten, Professor [Gerry] Warburg in particular encouraged me to work on the Hill and to develop my interests. He not only guided me on what offices to consider and prepared me to intern, he also graciously allowed me to join his Congress 101 masters student class after my internship to further my skills. 

Q: Any advice for Batten students as they begin or continue their internship search?

A: My biggest advice would be to lean into the career services team, your professors and your peers (both still at UVA and alumni). Most of the internship search comes down to knowing what the office is looking for and reliable connections. Many of my friends and I found internships through connections we made at Batten and UVA. You would be surprised how far friendship can get you in the workforce.

Q:  What skills and lessons from your time in Batten helped you be successful in your position?

A: MEMO. WRITING. The skills that we learn in Batten, especially memo writing and policy analysis, are exactly what was expected of me as an intern. I felt incredibly well-prepared to take on policy work in a professional setting. 

Q: How has this position informed what professional pathway you want to pursue after Batten?

A: This internship solidified my love for public service. Even though I am not working on the Hill immediately as I leave UVA, I know that I will want to come back at some point in my career. My mentors in Senator Kaine’s office and Batten inspired my path towards taking some time off to attend culinary school abroad at the Le Cordon Bleu in London and eventually attending law school with a focus on public interest law. As I study for the LSAT and prepare for my next adventure, I will keep a possible future as a legal counsel in a congressional office in the back of my mind. Thankfully I have lots of time to figure out how I will get there.

Q: What are you most excited for in your final weeks at UVA and in the Batten School?

A: In my final weeks at UVA and in Batten, I am really just trying to soak everything in. I’ve been spending lots of time in Garrett and on the lawn, trying to enjoy the beautiful grounds while I can. Most of all, I am going to miss the people, so I’m spending every moment I can spare with those who have made Charlottesville home for me in the past four years. 

Garrett Hall at Sunset

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