For students who strive to enter education, public policy, or non-profit spaces to make a positive impact, Veronica (Ronnye) Stidvent, former Chancellor of Western Governors University (WGU) and current President of Stidvent Partners, proves that it’s possible.
After graduating from UT Austin and earning a law degree from Yale, Stidvent served at the White House under George W. Bush for five years. She then returned to UT as the Director for Politics and Governance for the LBJ School of Public Affairs where she spearheaded the development of the department of Business, Government, and Society and founded a Hispanic leadership initiative within McCombs, Subiendo. After her time at UT, Stidvent served as Chancellor of WGU Texas and now works as President of Stidvent Partners.
Amidst all her work, Stidvent still finds time to come speak to Canfield Business Honors students in their Business Lyceum class on an annual basis. During her visit, Stidvent outlined her career path and answered questions from Canfield Business Honors students. She said her career played out quite differently than she imagined. While she had always seen herself practicing law, opportunities came her way and she took advantage of them.
“The shifts in my career were all serendipitous. My whole life I had really planned on being a litigator – that’s what I wanted to do, but opportunities came my way, the first one, of course, being the opportunity to go work in the White House,” Stidvent said. “Suddenly I was in the policy track and not so much into a purely legal track. I’m glad I took on (these opportunities), but I couldn’t have foreseen them.”
Stidvent said she enjoys coming back to UT because of the students she gets to interact with during her visits. As a guest speaker for Business Lyceum, she values the opportunity to both provide advice to future leaders and learn from the very students she advises.
“I really enjoy (coming to speak). The students ask such great questions and it makes me think. I walk away for several days trying to come up with more in-depth answers in my head, so it’s been really fun (to visit)” Stidvent said. “I also just like the opportunity to come back to my alma mater. I love the opportunity to talk to really smart students who are enthusiastic and engaged and ready to change the world.”
Stidvent’s advice for students who want to enter into law or policy is to learn to understand and empathize with both sides of every issue. She said to practice this while engaging with the world, whether it be through newspapers, magazines, or social media. As a student, she involved herself in Texas Orange Jackets, The Liberal Arts Council, and The Daily Texan, all of which allowed her to practice her dual approach to decision-making and argumentation.
“I urge all students to really learn to argue both sides of any issue,” Stidvent said. “Whether it’s a business decision, whether it’s a legal issue, or whether it’s a policy issue, understanding both sides will help you reframe your thinking. It will help you sharpen your own argument and it will help you understand the other side.”