Federal Executive Institute

Federal Executive Institute

The Federal Executive Institute (FEI) is an executive and management development and training center for governmental leaders located on a 14-acre (57,000 m2) campus near the center of Charlottesville, Virginia, less than a mile from University of Virginia.

FEI offers values-based leadership development opportunities through an "interagency residential learning experience" which emphasizes "personal growth as well as professional growth."[1] Programs are designed specifically for public sector senior management.


The Federal Executive Institute was founded in 1968 "to endow the career leadership levels of the Federal government with the capacity and motivation to bring proactive change to a huge enterprise."[2]


In the 1950s, the federal civilian workforce was larger than it had ever been. Millions of workers had been hired to manage the programs of the New Deal in the 1930s, and more still were brought into federal service to manage the American mobilization during World War II. However, the United States had not implemented any kind of education programs to prepare federal executives to manage this expanded workforce. As a result, the Society for Personnel Administration published a proposal for a "federal staff college" in 1953.[3] Early ideas for senior executive education were based on military models, specifically the military staff colleges which were used to prepare officers for assignments in the upper ranks, specifically as admirals and generals. The United States military had a long experience of organizing and training millions of men and it was believed by many that a similar model of continuing education should be applied to civil servants, to prepare them for more senior assignments.[4] The first step towards the creation of such a federal staff college was taken in 1958 when Congress passed the Government Employees Training Act. The act established several precedents that became central to the formation of the Federal Executive Institute. First and foremost, it cleared the way for the establishment of an executive training center funded by its own revenues, rather than by congressional allocations. This allowed FEI freedom of maneuver and sheltered it from political storms. Second, the act gave agency directors the authority to determine how much money they would spend on executive education and where they would send their executives to be trained. This encouraged FEI to remain tied to the senior executives it was founded to serve because they constantly had to market themselves to federal agencies. Finally, the act paved the way for interagency training. Interagency interaction would become one of the hallmarks of FEI, where senior executives from various backgrounds and agencies would live and learn with each other for weeks at a time. However, it would still be approximately 10 years before FEI was founded. In the meantime, federal executives furthered their education primarily through the Brookings Institution. Additionally, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) founded two Executive Seminar Centers. The first was founded at King's Point, Long Island in 1963 and the second at Berkeley, California in 1966. Even with these centers, Chairman Macy wanted more to be done. He wanted to create an institute for those civil servants who had reached the pinnacle of their careers, the "supergrades." These people could not be motivated by further promotion and would only attend the institute in order to improve their own work and the work done by their organizations. Therefore, in August 1966[5] the CSC completed a proposal for a center for advanced executive study to be called the Federal Executive Institute.[6]

Creating the Federal Executive InstituteEdit

Following President Johnson's speech, John Macy designated James Beck to coordinate the creation of the Federal Executive Institute. Beck visited potential sites for FEI including Colonial Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, the Walter P. Chrysler Estate, and Charlottesville, Virginia. The site needed to be near a university which the faculty could partner with, a location where courses could be held and executives housed, and be within driving distance of Washington D.C.[7] In addition to a location, the FEI needed a director. Chairman Macy was able to convince Frank Sherwood, who was teaching at the University of Southern California, to come to Charlottesville as the first director of the Federal Executive Institute. Macy chose Sherwood to be the FEI's first director because he wanted someone "with academic credentials who understands something about adult learning and adult education, who had a substance of understanding about problems of the Federal executive gained through academic research and study, someone with academic status and thus able to attract staff and deal with the University of Virginia."[8] He wanted someone who could turn his vision of a university model within the federal government into a reality. Macy and Sherwood worked exceptionally together and the two soon formed a partnership that shaped the foundational years of FEI.[9] Both agreed that FEI should have an Advisory Board. The FEI Advisory Board provided FEI with supporters placed throughout the government who knew about FEI's mission and the unusual way it operated.[10] When the Civil Service Commission (CSC) began leasing the Thomas Jefferson Inn, the facilities were in a state of disrepair. Though the exterior had been maintained, leaking pipes and other problems created many maintenance projects that had to be completed in a very short period of time. To help accomplish this, most of the hotel staff was kept on and became the initial FEI staff. Along with other workers, they were able to complete the most necessary repairs and prepare the facility for the first class in October 1968.

The First Session at FEIEdit

The first session at FEI began on October 13, 1968. Fifty-three executives were in attendance. All were from within the federal government and all but two were supergrades. The session lasted eight weeks, a period intended to take the executives away from the office long enough to allow them to "look seriously at themselves and their careers and to consider what changes they needed to make for the future." The curriculum was heavily based on John Gardener's book Self-Renewal and emphasized the ability to adapt and change over technical knowledge.[11]

The emphasis on change and adaptability was a product of the times. The initial FEI faculty had witnessed many changes in American society in the last decade. As a result, they believed that any attempt to prepare executives for the future was too big a gamble, since it was impossible to accurately predict what the future held. Instead, they wanted to prepare America's "civilian generals" for the future by teaching them how to adapt with change and harness it to accomplish their agency's primary mission.[12] To ensure that FEI remained innovative, Macy and Sherwood only contracted faculty for short periods, ensuring that fresh personnel and ideas were always being brought to the Institute.[13] Although self-development was an important part of the original FEI curriculum, Macy believed it should be one of several intellectual and learning goals that executives pursued while at FEI.[14] Macy and Sherwood intentionally created a learning environment that was learner focused. Individuals were allowed to tailor their experience to their needs and chose which courses they would take to supplement the main programs.[15]

One of the major problems Macy identified in federal civil service was that most executives ranked GS-13 or higher had no experience outside their own agencies.[16] It bothered John Macy that the majority of federal executives spent most of their career in one department or even in one bureau. He wanted talented people to gain experience outside what they already knew. So he designed FEI to encourage executives from different agencies to get to know each other and what each person's agency did, furthering an understanding of the functions of government across the workforce.[17] The founders of FEI intentionally created a casual atmosphere to encourage the executives to mingle with each other and learn more about different government agencies. Executives were given nametags with names and agencies, not positions or rank, to encourage a feeling of equality rather than one of hierarchy among the executives.[18]

FEI within the Civil Service CommissionEdit

When it was founded, FEI was placed outside the mainstream CSC bureaucracy. The FEI Director reported directly to the CSC Chairman, an unusual relationship for such a small institution. Macy created this relationship so that FEI would be as independent as possible while remaining part of the government. He and his successor, Robert Hampton, ensured that this relationship was preserved. However, when Alan Campbell became Chairman of the Commission and the CSC began transitioning into the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), FEI became part of OPM's larger training program, the Center for Leadership Development.[19]


  • Frank Sherwood (1968–73)
  • Chester Newland (1973–76)
  • Thomas Murphy (1976–79)
  • Patrick Conklin (1979-79) Acting
  • Robert Matson (1980-80) Acting
  • Chester Newland (1980–1981)
  • Robert Matson (1981–82) Acting
  • Robert Matson (1982–87)
  • Michael Hansen (1987–92)
  • Patrick Conklin (1992-92) Acting
  • Dee Henderson (1993–94)
  • Curtis Smith (1994–1998)
  • Barbara Garvin-Kester (1998–2003)
  • Thomas Towberman (2003–2007)
  • Joseph Enders (2007-07) Acting
  • Kevin Marshall (2007–2009)
  • Joe Kraemer (2009–2011) Acting
  • Curtis Smith (2011–2012) Acting
  • Suzanne Logan (2012–present)



Today the Federal Executive Institute is part of OPM's Center for Leadership Development. FEI operates five programs of leadership development: Leadership for a Democratic Society (LDS), the FEI SES Leading EDGE Portfolio, Custom Executive Programs (CEP), Open Enrollment Courses (OEP), and the Center for Global Leadership (CGL). Programs, workshops, and courses are designed and administered by a team of federally employed faculty and staff. In addition, all programs are supported by adjunct faculty representing a wide spectrum of expertise.

Leadership for a Democratic SocietyEdit

The four-week "Leadership for a Democratic Society" (LDS) program improves the leadership skills of senior career federal government executives to enhance their individual performance and the performance of government agencies. The program focuses on four themes: personal leadership, transforming organizations, policy in a Constitutional system, and the global context for executive action.

LDS offers federal executives a residential learning experience. Traditional sessions last four weeks while applied learning sessions consist of a two week period at FEI, three months back at the executives' home agency, and another two weeks at FEI. This program was designed to solve the issue that many interested executives are unable to take four weeks away from work.[21] The maximum enrollment is approximately seventy executives per session, but FEI will often see up to 750 executives complete the LDS program per year.[citation needed]

In addition to an intense curriculum based on Constitutional values, LDS offers a personal approach to leadership development. By incorporating 360-degree assessments, inventories of strengths and areas for improvement, and constant feedback from peers and facilitators, participants are led to a larger picture of self-awareness. Executives learn in Leadership Development Teams (LDTs) which are smaller discussion and peer consultation groups that include guidance from a professional facilitator. In addition, interagency networking is encouraged and fostered throughout the program.[22]

The Leadership for a Democratic Society program also includes a wellness track. All participants complete a comprehensive health risk appraisal to include blood lipid profile and fitness assessment and nutritional counseling. Executives are provided with the opportunity to take fitness classes in the mornings before breakfast and during the midday break as well as during the open hours when the fitness facility is available for individual exercise. In addition, smaller breakout sessions and seminar focusing on specific health and wellness topics are offered during the program. FEI offers on-campus gym facilities as well as a volleyball court and a swimming pool.

Custom Executive ProgramsEdit

In addition to LDS, elements of FEI focus on consulting and specific organizational needs within federal agencies. FEI offers open enrollment courses throughout the year in areas such as: collaborating across organizational boundaries, emotional competence, and strategic leadership. FEI also offers custom designed programs which can be constructed to respond to an organization's specific needs.

FEI has worked with such agencies as: USAID, NOAA, NAVAIR, FAA, Department of Defense, Internal Revenue Service as well as the Army Senior Leader Development Program, the Defense Senior Leadership Development Program (DSLDP) and the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency in the Government.

Open Enrollment ProgramsEdit

FEI also offers more than two dozen open enrollment programs to federal executives at the GS15 and Senior Executive Service (SES) level. These multi-day courses span a wide range of topics relevant to executive leaders including those which focus on individual skill development as well as organizational enhancement.

Center for Global LeadershipEdit

FEI is a founding member of the Global Leadership Consortium with the Graduate School, USDA, and the National Academy of Public Administration to support federal agencies in developing leaders who can excel in the global environment. A variety of programs are offered that enhance executives ability to think and relate globally in their leadership approach.

Related programsEdit

FEI is part of the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and falls under OPM's HR Solutions organization which functions as OPM's services and consulting division for all U.S. Federal agencies. In addition to FEI, HR Solutions has educational facilities in Shepherdstown, West Virginia (EMDC) Denver, Colorado (WMDC). FEI also provides Briefing Programs for Senior Executive Service (SES) members and Schedule C (Administration) appointees.


  1. ^ Novotny, T.W. What's So Special? An Introduction. The Public Manager Vol.28 No.1 Spring 1999. Pg 4.
  2. ^ Sherwood, Frank et al. The Early Years of the Federal Executive Institute (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010) 3.
  3. ^ Sherwood, 8.
  4. ^ Proposal for a Federal Staff College
  5. ^ Sherwood, 9-10.
  6. ^ Sherwood, 7.
  7. ^ Sherwood, 38-40.
  8. ^ Anderson, Peggy. "Federal Executive Institute: Special School for the Super Grades." Government Executive, May 1969:58-61.
  9. ^ Sherwood, 41.
  10. ^ Sherwood, 43.
  11. ^ Donald Nuechterlein. "FEI at Twenty: a Personal Retrospect." Bureaucrat. (Washington D.C.: National Capital Area Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration, Spring 1988) 21.
  12. ^ Sherwood, 58.
  13. ^ Sherwood, 58.
  14. ^ Sherwood, 13.
  15. ^ Hall, T.B. Rocky Top, Rocky Road, Solid Rock: Thirty Years of Intellectual History at the Federal Executive Institute. Diss. Virginia Tech, 1998. Falls Church, VA: 41.
  16. ^ Sherwood, 10.
  17. ^ Sherwood, 33.
  18. ^ Nuechterlein, 21.
  19. ^ Sherwood, 28.
  20. ^ "Directors of the Federal Executive Institute". Center for Leadership Development. Center for Leadership Development. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  21. ^ Hall, 78.
  22. ^ Hall, 111.

External linksEdit