Funding Washington Fellows for the Emerging Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs


Category: Giving

People appear as blurs walking in the lobby of the Baker Center

Georgiana Vines had encounters with Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr. (for whom the Baker School is named) throughout her journalistic career. Vines developed an interest in politics and journalism as a student, even successfully running for a campus-level office, and it launched a career that carried her to the Knoxville News Sentinel. She retired after decades of service as associate editor in 2005 and still regularly contributes a political column to the newspaper.

“I’ve always enjoyed trying to figure out what’s going on in government,” said Vines. “It’s easy to get into the weeds but sometimes in the weeds is where it’s all happening.”

She established a scholarship in her name that assists undergraduate students interested in those political weeds who participate in Baker School programs, with preference for journalism majors. Most often it aids Vols enrolled in the school’s Washington Fellows program, a two-week immersive course in Washington, DC.

“Scholarships are crucial for providing access so students can participate,” said Director of Undergraduate Studies Jon Ring, who leads the program.

“It’s a heavy dose of public policy content, with students learning eight to 12 hours a day from experts and DC-area professionals, but the biggest takeaway is their increase in confidence,” added Ring. “One of the things we emphasize is that students feel empowered to be in rooms that otherwise seem exclusive. We build students up to jump from earning their degree to meaningful positions.”

I gained a lot of confidence in my career plans, and it opened doors to internship opportunities.

– Lauren Eckley (Class of 2024)

Lauren Eckley (Class of 2024) attended the program in spring 2023 and can testify to such newfound confidence.

“As someone who rarely gets the opportunity to travel, the Washington Fellows program allowed me to observe a major city and meet impressive leaders and alumni working in the nation’s capital,” said Eckley. “We toured the Capitol Building, explored famous museums, and networked with prominent people working in our chosen career paths. I gained a lot of confidence in my career plans, and it opened doors to internship opportunities.”

Makaela Webb (Class of 2024) participated in the program with Eckley and gained new tools for her future.

“My experience widened my perspective on the number of resources available to help me plan for my future,” said Webb. “I also learned so much about Senator Baker during my time in DC. He believed in doing the right thing, regardless of party politics. I hope to do the same as I pursue my own career. I plan to run for local office one day and practice constitutional or immigration law.”

Eckley and Webb participated in the program thanks to the Georgiana Vines Scholarship, and Vines knows how significant such support can be.

“As a student, I worked during college to help my parents pay tuition,” said Vines. “When I lectured at UT, I came to understand how much financial need concerns students today, so I established this scholarship to assist students pursuing careers like mine and because of my connection to UT and the Knoxville community.”

The Baker School will welcome undergraduates for degree programs beginning in fall 2024, and scholarships will make that possible as the Vines scholarship has for multiple Washington Fellows.