Since 2004, professor Donna McLean has been introducing undergraduate students to the inner workings of the D.C. policy scene through the Washington Leadership Program (WLP). This May, after 18 years leading the program, McLean will retire from Indiana University.
Since WLP’s inception, more than 700 students from IU Bloomington and IUPUI have spent a semester studying and interning in D.C. and many credit McLean for making their program experience special and formative. Joel Riethmiller, BSPA’05, one of McLean’s first WLP students, interned with former Indiana congressman Baron Hill in 2004. Today, Riethmiller is the founding partner for a D.C.-based government affairs firm.
“The Washington Leadership Program opened my eyes to new career opportunities and lifelong friendships. Donna was the consummate guide on how Washington works. I can unequivocally say that I would not be where I am today without Donna and WLP,” said Riethmiller.
Inside the classroom, McLean brought policymaking to life by drawing from firsthand experience. Before forming her own consulting firm, McLean, a transportation policy expert, held different senior positions within the Department of Transportation, served as a professional staff member of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, and worked in the Office of Management and Budget. She also regularly used her connections to bring in senior-level guest speakers to lecture on different policy topics – a highlight for many WLP-ers.
McLean’s steady presence helped students navigate the transition to Washington even through government shutdowns, challenging presidential transitions, and the COVID-19 pandemic. To honor her service, former students—including Riethmiller—and others have created the Donna McLean Washington Leadership Program Scholarship. Those wishing to support the endowed scholarship may make a contribution online, which will help O’Neill students with financial need participate in WLP.
Ushering in a new administration
Adjunct instructor Brian Volsky will step in to lead WLP following McLean’s retirement. No stranger to the program, Volsky is an IU alumnus who spent his WLP semester interning with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Japanese Affairs.
Like McLean, Volsky brings plenty of firsthand experience to draw from in the classroom. As a senior investigative counsel with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), Volsky reviews allegations of whistleblower retaliation, administrative misconduct of senior officials, and other areas focusing on broad or systemic issues within the agency. Previously, Volsky was the director of the Whistleblower Protection Unit at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s OIG. A Harvard Law graduate, Volsky also spent several years as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he advised on export control and sanctions law and represented the Bureau of Industry and Security in administrative enforcement actions under the Export Administration Regulations.
Any undergraduate student at IU Bloomington or IUPUI interested applying to WLP can learn more about the program on the WLP webpages.