Spring 2014 IE Public Policy Pre Grad intern and Kuhn Scholar, Cortney Sanders, received the 2014 J. J. “Jake” Pickle Citizenship Award. Originally from Houston, Cortney feels blessed and honored to have been selected and added to the legacy, as J.J. Pickle himself championed for civil rights. A Government and African and African American Studies major, Cortney has been involved in a number of organizations: political action chair for Black Student Alliance, member of the Liberal Arts Council and active in “Hook the Vote.” She is also the project coordinator for the Ghana Study Abroad Program, Students in Partnership with Ghanaian Development.
While sitting in a UT classroom, she became aware that other students came from more privileged backgrounds, and that made her feel like she had to catch up, but it also made her realize that she had the opportunity to work hard and make her voice heard. On October 10, 2012, Cortney was a student representative for the Fisher v. The University of Texas case. She was the point person for the filing of an amicus brief in favor of UT with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for the Black Student Alliance. Before traveling to Washington DC for the hearing, Cortney penned an op-ed, “Building a Campus That Includes Everyone,” for the Daily Texan. The op-ed focused on the importance of diversity on campus and in future careers; she reminded readers about UT’s history of exclusion and how the University put in place a policy for inclusion that should not be taken away. Cortney’s experience in the Fisher case designed a pathway for her to work full-time as an intern for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Workforce (as part of the prestigious Archer Fellowship program). In addition, she was featured by the Business Insider as one of the “17 Most Impressive UT Students.”
Cortney notes that the IE program has been beneficial: “The IE Pre Graduate Internship and Kuhn Scholar Award have been a life changing experience. Under the supervision of LBJ professor Angela Evans, I am exploring my career goals, academic goals, and personal goals in public service. I am conducting research that will allow people to better understand tax and economic development policy. I also am assisting with a research project on past presidents of the national Journal for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Throughout the semester I have attended Dr. Evans’ course on public administration and accompanied her to a Public Policy Conference in Washington DC. I am grateful for the IE program because it has allowed me to gain a proper understanding of graduate school for public policy.”
Cortney credits various mentors for her academic and leadership success. Among these are UT Government professors Eric McDaniel, Tasha Philpot, Sean Theriault, and Bryan Jones; Government Advisor Jo Anne Huber; and UT staff members Brenda Burt, Cristi Biggs and Kyle Clark. She gives special thanks to her now-deceased grandmother who encouraged her along the way.
This May, Cortney will be participating in the Ghana Study Abroad Program. She plans to take a year off from studies to prepare for graduate school and gain further work experience in public policy. In five years, Cortney sees herself in Washington, DC, working in economic development or education.
* The J. J. “Jake” Pickle Citizenship Award is an endowed student award created by the University Unions Advisory Council in 1999. It is presented annually to a UT student “whose cumulative, notable contributions to campus life over a period of time exemplify the high standards of leadership and service that were the hallmarks of the life and career of Congressman J. J.”Jake” Pickle.” The recipient receives a check for $5000, a certificate, and an autographed copy of Congressman Pickle’s autobiography, Jake.