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Looking Back, Looking Forward

When Gerald Warburg 74S is asked about his new position at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, he refers to college founder Thomas Jefferson. “Jefferson’s vision of the university was to train the men and women who are going to run our democracy, and we don’t want to change that,” he says.

Warburg was appointed professor of public policy and assistant dean of the school in January. The Batten School was established in 2007 with a $100 million gift from Frank Batten, Sr., founder of the Weather Channel and University of Virginia alum. 

Starting at a fresh program has rekindled Warburg’s Hampshire memories. Warburg enrolled early in Hampshire’s existence, years he describes as opportune. “Here was a school where I wouldn’t be at war with the administration, with the institution,” he says. “I could be a partner with an institution that was still evolving and hadn’t defined all of its rules. I wanted to be part of defining the parameters of a new education.”

Warburg studied educational policy and law at Hampshire. For his Division III (senior) project, he wrote a thesis on the history of court cases improving education, “a Constitutional law analysis of how you can use the courts to promote progressive educational causes,” he says. 

After earning his master’s degree in international relations from Stanford in 1979, Warburg began a distinguished career in politics, acting as an advisor and lobbyist. He worked for many years as a member of the House and Senate leadership, on such issues as nuclear nonproliferation and anti-apartheid legislation. He subsequently worked as a lobbyist for schools, hospitals, and corporations.

Warburg envisions the Batten School as a venue for students to be immersed in public policy. “We want to establish a strong foundation for a school that focuses on leadership. It’s practical, experiential, and hands on,” he says. “We want to equip people to be effective advocates, not analysts, for public policy.”

To Warburg, the Hampshire experience informs his philosophy for the Batten School. “Our pedagogy at the Batten School at the University involves hands-on experiential learning through student-designed research, internships, and field work as advocates for public policy,” he says.

“At Hampshire, as a student in pioneering classes, as an elected member of Academic Council, and later as a board member, I was part of the creation of a new school with new approaches to old problems—while benefitting from traditional (Five College) allies with resources,” he says. “The parallel to building Batten School is striking.”

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