Ross Baird

Ross Baird

College ’07

“The very best faculty don’t train you to be great students. They prepare you to be great world leaders.”

Politics major, Jefferson Scholar and president of the Class of 2007, Ross Baird came to U.Va. intending to study classics. Those plans changed when he took Professor Stephen Innes’ course on the American Revolution. Innes roused Baird’s interest in politics, pointing out that civic engagement was the key to the American Revolution’s success. “It was one of the best courses of my life,” says Baird.

A chance meeting with Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics, led Baird to the center’s Youth Leadership Initiative, which in turn inspired him to found the Georgia Project for Civic Engagement — a program that involves high school students in politics in Baird’s home state. Sabato also helped Baird pursue scholarships and grants to support his travel research to examine voter turnout in the United States and Europe. Baird says enthusiastically, “My mentors here have really developed and nurtured my interest in politics.”

Hoping to foster a similar experience for other students, Baird founded the “Second Year Dinner Series,” which brings faculty and students together over casual meals. “Every University of Virginia student who has a transformative experience,” he explains, “can point to a few mentors who made that possible.”