We Are Liberal Arts: Politics, preparation, and Potomac Summer Institute
In this new video, we see how the Potomac Summer Institute, created by associate professor Joseph Ura, has positioned itself to provide hands-on political experience for Aggies who are ready to become leaders in Washington D.C.
By Alix Poth ’18
The next generation of our nation’s leaders aren’t only built inside a classroom; rather, they’re established as they gain hands-on experience of what leadership actually looks like. The Potomac Summer Institute (PSI) has positioned itself to provide that exact encounter for Aggies who are ready to become leaders in Washington D.C.
Joseph Ura, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, learned about American politics as an undergraduate at George Washington University in Washington D.C., and desired to give Aggies that same type of firsthand participation.
“I wanted to make an educational program for undergraduate students to get a handle on what the practice of politics is like in D.C.,” Ura said. “The goal is to connect what students are learning in the classroom with people who are actually doing that job.”
The PSI is designed to be the stepping stone for Aggies to go from studying political science to pursuing careers in public policy and service. Students fly to Washington D.C. to spend seven days in Capitol Hill participating in both classroom based learning and traveling around the city to meet with people working in different areas of public policy. Elected and appointed public officials, government staff members, lobbyists, journalists, and scholars meet with the students throughout the week.
“When you take a diverse group of students from across Texas, have them spend a week in Washington talking with people from both sides of the aisle, from all parts of the policy making process, they come out in the end that much more prepared to have those conversations,” Ura said. “They identify a place for themselves in the process of leading this country forward.”
“The goal is to connect what students are learning in the classroom with people who are actually doing that job… It makes them that much more prepared for those conversations and for leading the country forward.”
Political science students in the College of Liberal Arts are uniquely equipped to launch into the world of public service: according to Ura, the exceptional faculty of the department approach politics from a variety of subfields and are eager to share that with students. A background in political science prepares students for a wide variety of careers in D.C.
Bill Flores ‘76, Representative for 17th District of Texas, knows of the strong presence of Aggies in the nation’s capital. “If you look around congressional staffs up here, you’ll find probably 200 aggies that work on Capitol Hill, at least,” he said.
Former student Bethany Irvine ‘18 is one such Aggie who currently works in D.C., and credits the PSI for providing a life changing opportunity during her undergraduate years at Texas A&M.
“Without the Potomac Summer Institute program, I don’t even think I would be here,” Irvine said. “It provided me a leg up in my career, but also allowed me to network, meet people, and make Aggie connections up here in D.C.”
Dialogue in our divided country can seem difficult now more than ever. Students need the tools and the background to engage with these challenges, which is precisely what is provided in the study of political science and epitomized in the PSI.
“Potomac Summer Institute is the capstone of equipping students,” Ura said. “It makes them that much more prepared for those conversations and for leading the country forward.”