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Former FBI Director James B. Comey ’82 to co-teach course on ethical leadership

  • Convocation speaker:
    Convocation speaker:  James B. Comey '82 speaks at the university's 2009 Opening Convocation ceremony. The W&M alumnus has remained closely connected to his alma mater throughout the years. Starting this fall, he will co-teach a course on ethical leadership for the university.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Former FBI Director James B. Comey ’82 will teach a three-credit course on ethical leadership for William & Mary starting this fall.

With an appointment as an executive professor in education, Comey will co-teach the course with Drew Stelljes, executive assistant professor of education and assistant vice president for student leadership, during the fall 2018, spring 2019 and summer 2019 semesters. Offered through the W&M Washington Center, the course will meet primarily in the center’s classroom in Washington, D.C., and once at the W&M School of Education in Williamsburg, Virginia, with that session being live-streamed back to students in the nation’s capital.

“Jim Comey is among William & Mary’s most distinguished alumni,” said W&M President Taylor Reveley. “Over the years, he has been deeply committed to his alma mater. He understands to the core of his being that our leaders must have an abiding commitment to ethical behavior and sacrificial service if we are to have good government. Our students will benefit significantly from his experience and wisdom.”

Drew StelljesStelljes will work with Comey to administer online discussion and research paper components of the three courses. He will also conduct multiple lectures and discussions and prepare students for classes with Comey by teaching them background information on the subjects to be discussed. Students in the course will use historical texts and contemporary critical theory to “map historical narrative and contemporary dominant leadership paradigms with leadership in public policy and citizen engagement,” said Stelljes. The students will also be prepared to develop and articulate sophisticated analyses of contemporary relationships between leadership education and democratic engagement in America, he added.

"I am thrilled to have the chance to engage with William & Mary students about a vital topic — ethical leadership,” said Comey. “Ethical leaders lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or the partisan, and with a higher loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth. Building and maintaining that kind of leadership, in both the private sector and government, is the challenge of our time. There is no better place to teach and learn about it than the W&M Washington Program."

Students receiving priority in enrollment for the course include:

  • Undergraduates who are enrolled in the W&M Washington Center’s fall 2018 and spring 2019 DC Semester Program and its 2019 DC Summer Session can take the course as an elective in addition to their required program.
  • Graduate students, with students in the W&M School of Education’s Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership program receiving first priority because of the program’s emphasis on leadership studies
  • Undergraduate students minoring in educational studies

As space allows, other students at W&M may also enroll in the course, provided that they are able to travel to Washington, D.C., for the sessions to be held there.

Comey graduated from William & Mary as a double major in chemistry and religion. He has held a number of senior leadership positions in and out of government, including U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, the second-highest position in the U.S. Department of Justice, before taking the helm of the FBI in 2013.

Throughout the years, he has remained closely connected to his alma mater, speaking at its Opening Convocation and Charter Day ceremonies and receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree from the university in 2008. He was a member of the W&M Alumni Association Board of Directors and served as its vice president from 2009 to 2011, the same year he was honored as W&M Law School’s Carter O. Lowance Fellow in recognition of his public service. He has also spoken with classes of W&M Study in DC students consistently since 2006, including hosting three groups at the FBI while director. In 2014, Comey received the Alumni Medallion, the William & Mary Alumni Association’s highest honor.

More information about the course and the DC Semester Program can be found at