Alum Spotlight: Nate Jewell (BA '16)

“I have always been interested in serving something greater than myself,” said Nate Jewell (BA ’16). 

Jewell, who joined the Air Force upon graduating from the Batten School in 2016 was always drawn to the idea of public service, but it was not until his undergraduate studies at Batten coupled with joining ROTC that he realized he wanted to pursue a career in the Air Force. 

“When I arrived at UVA, I already knew that I wanted to work in public service but did not know in what capacity,” said Jewell. 

“Along with joining the Batten community, I became involved in ROTC, which once that was on my radar I was better able to define my interests.” 

But it was the Batten School that allowed Jewell to turn his public service aspirations into a tangible reality. 

“I saw Batten as a practical way to get into public service, and also be employable,” said Jewell. “Even if I did not do ROTC, I knew that Batten would allow me to pursue my passion for public service and eventually make a career out of it.” 

Joining both Batten and ROTC proved to be a gamechanger for Jewell. The shared sense of mission that underpinned ROTC appealed greatly to Jewell’s public service sensibilities, and Batten was a further complement to those interests providing the requisite tools and knowledge when it came to public policy and service. 

“I appreciated that people were willing to make sacrifices in their lives to serve others,” said Jewell.

Jewell has been on active duty in the Air Force since March 2017. On his decision to join the Air Force, he credits Steve Hiss, director of Student Services and Alumni Engagement for his encouragement and assistance.  

“I did an internship between my third and fourth year, which Colonel Hiss helped arrange,” said Jewell.

It was during this time that Jewell realized the possibilities available to him upon completing his ten-year commitment to the Air Force. 

“My internship, which took place in Arlington, Va. involved doing nonprofit advocacy work,” said Jewell. ” It was during this internship that we would often go to Congress where we would express the needs of the Air Force but usually from a different angle.”

During this time, Jewell and his fellow interns toured offices of the members of the House of Representatives on the Armed Services Committee. 

“We were talking with military legislative assistants, and I discovered that a lot of them had backgrounds in aviation, or had either served in the Army or the Navy,” said Jewell. ” It seemed to align with my own future goals of public service and seemed like a pretty rewarding position that could later transform the way I would serve my country, but in a non-military capacity.” 

Looking back on his time at Batten, Jewell believes that the School’s rigorous approach to teaching leadership and policy continues to provide insight on a daily basis, allowing him to make connections with the current political climate and how that affects policy—the military is no exception. 

“A lot of people in the Air Force, have engineering backgrounds, so they have a more technical approach to things and have less background in politics and policy,” said Jewell. “I have this great background in politics and awareness of a variety of policy issues as well as their history, which has proved invaluable during my time in the Air Force.”  

For Jewell, the courses on Comparative Policy History and Introduction to Public Policy, which was taught then by Craig Volden, left a lasting impression demonstrating to him why an education in both leadership and policy is essential to a future career in public service—whether that career is with the military or working directly within the federal government. 

”The Comparative Policy History course really sticks out to me in my memory of Batten courses,” said Jewell. “It revealed to me where we came from as a nation.”

For Jewell, an in-depth understanding of how policy choices continue to affect our culture and society today remains crucial to his own understanding of today’s policy landscape. 

“What I appreciated about Volden’s course was the analytical side of it—which revealed to me how policy was tied to more than just politics, but also the data analysis, social sciences, and humanities.”  

On his plans post-Air Force, Jewell remains interested in a career in the defense industry, whether that is with the Air Force, in Federal government, or in the private sector. Without a doubt, public service will continue to figure in Jewell’s career. 

Nate Jewell is a 2016 graduate of the Batten School’s Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Leadership program. A native of Culpeper, Va., Jewell has been an active duty member of the United States Air Force since 2017.