Katie Fanz, a rising senior from Richmond, Virginia, double-majoring in national security and foreign affairs and Russian, will represent Virginia Tech as one of 25 students selected statewide for the 2019 Governor’s Fellows Program.

The program offers a select group of students the opportunity to experience state government firsthand by working under cabinet secretaries and alongside staff in the governor’s office.

“I’m honored to be selected as a Governor’s Fellow,” said Fanz, a student in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “I’m excited to be able to gain an inside look at how our state government runs and get to know all the people that make it happen on a day-to-day basis.”

Through the program, Fanz will participate in a two-month, full-time assignment in the office of Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. Her duties will include researching and writing bills, shadowing the secretary and his staff at meetings and events, and working on other assigned projects. Governor’s Fellows also participate in daily brown-bag lunches with administration officials and take field trips across the commonwealth.

Fanz has been passionate about national security since her days as captain of her high school debate team, where she learned to analyze and argue foreign affairs issues.

“Debate challenged me to discard my personal and political biases so I could have a truly analytical standpoint on issues affecting our country,” she said. “I hope to enter the field of national security so I can make a difference by gathering valuable information and resources for the U.S. and foreign allies from the inside out.”

Her reason for double-majoring in Russian is even more personal. Fanz’s two youngest siblings — Marina, 13, and Yuri, 10 — were adopted from Russia, inspiring her to become fluent after they joined her family eight years ago.

“To live with people who grew up with so much less in a completely different culture was eye-opening,” she said. “In addition, Russian is an important critical language to study and one that’s becoming increasingly crucial in world events.”

Fanz, who’s been on the Dean’s List every semester since enrolling at Virginia Tech in 2017, said her experiences at the university have been invaluable in preparing her for her future career.

Last year, she worked on a research team with the Hume Center for National Security and Technology to help develop and improve weapons sensor technology and defensive cyber-capabilities on a project for the Marine Corps.

In spring semester 2019, Fanz studied dark web analytics under political science Assistant Professor Eric Jardine. As part of her coursework, Fanz conducted classified research that she will present this summer to intelligence agencies in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do groundbreaking research, learned to think like an analyst, and write extensive briefs on emerging world events that will prepare me for future jobs,” she said. “The professors in the national security and foreign affairs program are really student-centered and prepare us to succeed in our respective fields. I feel like I get a whole picture of what’s going on in the world, the diversity of every country, and how the decisions we make in the U.S. influence and impact other countries.”

Fanz is actively involved in college life. She works as a peer career advisor at the Smith Career Center on campus, where she helps students with resumes, cover letters, internship and job searches, and mock interviews.

“It’s rewarding to be able to help your peers grow in professional competency areas and see them succeed in finding jobs and internships,” she said. “And the tight-knit community makes it a joy to come to work every day. I’m so grateful for (assistant director of career and professional development) Liz Wilson, my boss, who was crucial in helping me attain the Governor’s Fellowship and has been there every step of the way, encouraging and helping me in my federal job journey.”

Fanz also is a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and its philanthropy committee. In addition to her fellowship in state government this summer, she’s working weekends as a scheduler for a freight company.

“I am extremely grateful for all the wonderful friends and support systems I have made at Virginia Tech,” she said.

Written by Marya Barlow