May 25, 2019  

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Southern Miss Student Selected as Navy Legislative Fellow

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Ernest “Tony” Gonzales

Ernest “Tony” Gonzales has always shown a keen interest in government, and this fall he’ll have the opportunity to be in the middle of it all, serving as a 2017 Navy Legislative Fellow for the Navy’s Office of Legislative Affairs in Washington D.C.

Gonzales, a doctoral student at The University of Southern Mississippi and a cryptologic technician, senior chief petty officer for the United States Navy, is one of only 15 servicemen from across the United States selected to participate from the Navy.

Primarily opened to mid-ranked naval officers, 2016 marks the first year the LEGIS Fellows program was made available to senior enlisted members like Gonzales, currently ranked as an E-8. He is the only senior enlisted member selected for the fellowship.

A highly competitive and limited program, the Navy Legislative Fellows (LEGIS Fellows) provides an annual opportunity for naval officers to broaden their experience and knowledge in the operations and organization of Congress while enhancing the Navy’s ability to fulfill its role in the national policy development process.

During the selection process, a board composed of captains and commanders representing various divisions in the Office of Legislative Affairs – Senate, House, Programs and Legislation – interview prospective applicants based upon their individual performance, promotion potential, academic and subspecialty qualifications, needs of the Navy, and availability for follow-on assignment. 

“I am very excited about the opportunity to contribute to the U.S. legislative process,” said Gonzales. “Even to this day, I’m pursuing my Ph.D. with the international development program and that ties into politics real closely. Just the fascination with U.S. legislation has kind of never left me.”

Gonzales is pursuing a doctoral degree in international development (IDV) at Southern Miss while teaching U.S. Government at Pensacola State College as an adjunct faculty member in Pensacola, Fla., where he is stationed.

According to Southern Miss professor Dr. Joseph St. Marie, the entire international development doctoral program is very happy that one of their students has been chosen to participate in the LEGIS Fellows program. 

“Tony has been in the IDV program one year and has brought his experience and depth of knowledge to our already diverse group of students,” said St. Marie. “We feel that Tony will make an excellent addition to this prestigious program and will bring the knowledge he has gained in our program to his new assignment.”

Even though the program will be a total shift from his Navy training, Gonzales is looking forward to participating in the program. During the 14-month fellowship, which begins Nov. 1, Gonzales and other LEGIS fellows will complete a variety of projects, including drafting legislation and organizing committee hearings. Fellows will also serve on the staff of a senator or congressman who sits on one of the various Armed Services committees in Congress.

“It really will be a lot different than what my normal day job would be, but it falls in line quite well with the program I’m in, in the international development program,” he said.  “A big take away from it is being able to not only see the process firsthand, but to be a part of it. Being able to draft legislation or read and provide guidance on the various bills is exciting.”

The international development doctoral program at Southern Miss is dedicated to examining the related fields of international development from an interdisciplinary perspective while providing students with exceptional research, analytical and writing skills. Faculty members have a complementary range of academic disciplines and talents reflected in curriculum and research teams of economic development, political development/security studies, and social/cultural development.

For more information about the international development doctoral program at Southern Miss, visit or call 228.214.3240.