OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. – Eleven undergraduates from the University of Mississippi spent their winter break visiting Washington, D.C., to study the inner workings of the United States government.
Students in Assistant Professor Jonathan Klingler’s Pol 391: Applied Politics course met not with candidates but with the people who make it possible for them to run for office, including campaign organisers, members of think tanks, staffers, media liaisons, and chiefs of staff and administration for current and former presidents, senators, and members of Congress.
According to Klingler, the goal of the Study USA course is to help students make connections in the nation’s capital and to provide them with an opportunity to see how the theory they learn in class is applied in the real world.
Klingler remarked that students “really got to see the whole spectrum of working in Washington, from the most political campaign jobs to agency work and lobbying.” Having the opportunity to put what they learn in the classroom into practise is extremely beneficial for students.
The BGR Group, a nonpartisan lobbying firm, and former governor Haley Barbour worked together to assemble a diverse group of speakers from a variety of fields to address the class, as noted by Klingler. Most of them have degrees from Ole Miss.
Many people don’t realise how many Ole Miss graduates are employed in the nation’s capital, he said. By linking our D.C. network with our undergraduates in Oxford, the university is making a tremendous resource available to our students and providing them with an excellent opportunity to launch successful careers.
According to John Bruce, head of the Department of Political Science, this course “gives students an opportunity to experience the many roles they may play in politics and to see the variety of jobs in the field.” Companies in the classroom have hired or offered internships to several former students.
A large number of this year’s students have already applied for internships or full-time positions with the speakers, either while they were in Washington for the conference or upon their return home.
It used to be that going to law school was a prerequisite for studying politics, but Bruce notes that this is becoming less common. “There is a broader interest in political science careers among students. You get a more realistic idea of the range of career options available thanks to this class, where students hear from actual working professionals rather than politicians.
One of the most interesting things I learned on this trip was how well-connected the former staffers of Obama, Bush, and Trump are with each other.
At the moment, “there is a lot of toxic language associated with politics and coming out of politicians,” Bruce said. “I think it’s great that students have the opportunity to go see politicians in action and see that they’re good people even when they disagree. These aren’t actors in some MSNBC or Fox News drama; they’re real people.