Ready for Impact
Cam Morales (Batten ’22) still remembers visiting Washington, D.C., for the first time as a child. Taking in the city’s historic sites with his parents, he recalls a distinctive energy in the air. Even then, he knew it was the place he needed to be.
“There was this sense of sheer power,” Morales said. “You could feel it. All the history—everything. I was so intrigued just walking around. It felt like such a dynamic place.”
The nation’s capital was certainly a far cry from Glenview, Illinois, the comfortable Chicago suburb where Morales grew up. There, even for a first-generation American son of Colombian parents, things tended to unfold in a more predictable way: excel in high school, attend a traditionally elite Catholic university, and become a doctor or lawyer.
Morales subverted that path. Today, he’s one of a handful of students pursuing a master’s in public policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy with support from a Batten Family Scholarship, which seeks to attract the brightest future policy leaders to the school’s unique graduate program.
It wasn’t always going to be this way. While Morales managed to find his way back to the district to enroll as an undergraduate at George Washington University, he initially selected the pre-med major, a decision that honored his father’s successful career in medicine. The choice, it turned out, was ill-conceived.
“I’d be sitting there in anatomy class surrounded by skeletons in this clinical setting thinking to myself, ‘This isn’t for me. I need engagement with people and with the community,’” he said.
With support from his parents, Morales changed his major to international affairs, a pivotal choice that set him on the path to where he is today. Once settled, he thrived in Washington’s bustling political climate, gaining experience in the worlds of policymaking and legislation through internships on Capitol Hill and at various government relations practices.
After graduating from GWU, Morales quickly landed a job at renowned international law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, where he worked as a public policy specialist, lobbying on behalf of Puerto Rico statehood, renewable energy, and key community development initiatives. While the work was immensely satisfying, he felt like something was missing.
“D.C. was a challenging environment at the time,” he said. “And what was clearly lacking was genuine leadership. That expedited my decision to come to Batten, where I knew I’d not only learn more about policymaking, but also about leadership and how it works.”
Indeed he has. Since beginning his studies, Morales has embraced the school’s unique approach, examining policy challenges through a multidisciplinary lens and learning how to maximize public good through ethical decision-making.
He’s looking forward to using what he learned to return to Washington, D.C., to make a positive impact. And while one might assume that means running for elected office, for Morales, the more potent option lies in serving on a congressional committee as a policy advisor or legislative assistant.
Meanwhile, he’s making the most of his time at Batten, where he feels a sense of honor in knowing he was selected as a Batten Family Scholar.
“I still vividly remember finding out,” Morales said. “I got an email telling me I’d been accepted and that I’d be receiving the scholarship. I immediately called my parents and told them I’d be moving to Charlottesville in two months. I’m so glad I did.”