Connor L. Eads

Education:

  • B.A., Government, Hampden-Sydney College, May 2019

Hometown:

  • Chesapeake, Virginia

Career Interests/Skills:

  • Natural Resource Security; Environmental & Renewable Energy Policy; Education Policy; Risk Management & Compliance; Policy Research; and Data Analysis.

Agency Rotations:

  • Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR)
  • Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
  • Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM)

What is your educational background and what made you pursue those majors, degrees, etc.?

Political science has always been the cornerstone of my academic interests. Stemming from my brief experience with high school debate, I gravitated towards political issues and understanding their implications on others. When I arrived at Hampden-Sydney College, where I received my bachelor of arts in government, I was exposed to the subtle complexities of law and public policy. I initially focused on first amendment driven matters and identity politics, thinking that my end goal would be to pursue law school. However, the courses I took on rural poverty and environmental policy redirected my attention and shaped my passion for solving public issues. I specifically was driven to environmental policy because the implications of implementing these policies directly impacted how I would live my life in the future—how could I fly fish for the native Virginian brook trout if their populations become stressed from warming rivers and streams? How could public policy be a tool for solving these problems? The education will not end there, as I hope to pursue a master of public policy (MPP) in the near future.

Why did you pursue the Virginia Management Fellowship? Why are you drawn to public service?

The Virginia Management Fellowship was fundamentally what I hoped to pursue post undergraduate studies—I wanted to establish my career in government, but simultaneously further my understanding of public policy. The program delivers on both of these components and offers much more. The program allows for a fellow to not only work at three state agencies during the two years, but it also provides the fellow with direct and indirect education from programs such as the VPSL or the countless executive leaders in Virginia who serve as mentors. Personally, I valued the opportunity to directly work on complex “wicked problems” that persist at state agencies and, at the end of a rotation, offer substance that these agencies can utilize to address them.

My dedication to public service began at Hampden-Sydney College. I wanted to serve the student community and bring ideas that would enhance the experience of attending the college, so I served in several executive leadership roles. This concept of stewardship stuck with me as I extended a helping hand and applied it in both my volunteer service and internships. However, when it came to applying to the program, I was drawn to serving the public in this capacity for two reasons. First, fellows would directly contribute to enhancing operations via our agency reports. Secondly, fellows would learn the leadership and management strategies to effectively lead in future roles in the public sector.

How has your educational background helped you in your agency rotations?

Hampden-Sydney holds high on a pedestal the rhetoric program. To speak and write both persuasively and effectively, has been used almost daily. Often times, the fellow is tasked with projects or subjects that he or she might not be entirely familiar. Therefore, the ability to articulate problems, despite not having prior experience, is indispensable. I have worked on a wide array of projects such as marketing and communications plan for an invasive species weeks to regulatory review for the Real Estate board’s policies to presenting on modernizing inventory management software. Prior to these projects, I had not worked in any of these fields, let alone take a class in them. So despite not having a post-graduate degree or the experience, my studies at Hampden-Sydney equipped me with the rhetorical skills and intellectual curiosity for the work I would perform at my agency rotations.

If you could offer a piece of advice to students pursuing a career in public service, what would it be?

I would advise anyone pursuing a career in public service to first genuinely consider different areas you would not initially pursue. Familiarize yourself with as much as you can before you decide to hone your skills in a specific area. I would not have found my interest in education had it not been for my rural poverty course at Hampden-Sydney. I walked into that course with the understanding that it would solely concern poverty, but left with a much broader understanding of how problems can be interconnected. Though you might not pursue that field, you will have a much broader understanding of how complex problems are in the public sector. While pursuing these different fields, think critically about what skills you enjoy utilizing—are you exceptional at budgeting, do you enjoy writing policy, or do you take to mitigating risk and emergency management. Regardless of the area, each agency universally has budget analysts or risk management officers, so once you find the skills you enjoy using you can then identify what area you wish to utilize them.

 

“Before the Fellowship” is part of an ongoing series on the VMF blog where current Virginia Management Fellows answer questions related to their educational and career experiences prior to starting the fellowship.

 Connor Eads is a Virginia Management Fellow currently working at the Department of Human Resources Management (DHRM).