Tower Center offers new scholars program

SMU boasts an impressive array of scholars and honors programs to challenge, reward, and enlighten students during their four years on campus. The John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies will be one of the newest to introduce a scholars program to the community. One of its most unique aspects, however, is the absence of monetary scholarship.

With an aim for a “longer-lasting impact” than simply offering courses and lectures, Professor Diana Newton, one of the creators of the Tower Scholars program, explained that the end result for the scholars will be outstanding first-hand experience working in the real world of public policy.

This means working for some of the biggest entities in the Dallas area to identify and solve a serious policy issue.

“The intention is to give the Tower Scholars an education in policy making and real-world policy issues,” Newton said.

The scholars program will open for sophomore-level application in the fall of 2014, with an estimated 10 students to ultimately be invited to the program. The highly-selective nature of the program allows the scholars to be sent out into Dallas, where they will be educated on a current policy issue faced by a company.

“Getting a chance to have a real client…they would be tasked with a policy problem that entity is actually facing,” Newton explained.

Scholars will not be left on their own to solve their policy
issue, however. One unique aspect of the program will be coming back to
campus for the semester to work weekly not only with faculty, but with a consistent
policy maker week-to-week, creating a stronger mentorship than a rotation of lecturers would.

When giving a student the same responsibilities as a professional in the
field of public policy, students need to be able to “be thrown into a
project, be good to go, and serve as a functioning colleague from the
get-go.”

Professor Chelsea Brown, co-creator of the program, said that applicants will need more than just an interest in public policy.

Brown explained that “there’s that third area that’s really hard to
quantify” when students want to know how best to prepare their
applications for success, and she said it’s “people skills.”

“We want really professional students that we can confidently send out into the marketplace that we know have a base level of skills and a certain level of professionalism,” Brown said.

The ideal layout for the program emerged from Newton and Brown spending “a year looking at best practices all over the country,” including those at Princeton, Stanford, and Duke, among others.

Having combined the best aspects from the programs that bring the highest success rates, the Tower Scholars program is one that Newton said “goes far beyond traditional political science.”

The program encourages all majors to apply. Brown explained the scholar program “is not going to create additional hours,” and will instead compliment a student’s major. Understanding public policy is something that can be essential in every career field.

“[Students] will be able to look at their area of study with…a more global perspective…and understand its implications in the real world,” Newton said.

Brown added that the program will graduate students who “understand the bigger picture” and “know the political implications” of policy decisions within any business.

“[Scholars] will walk out of here with [their] degree and a professional network that is really something above and beyond your standard student network,” Brown said. “They have something that is really a step above with people you can call, people you can mentor and people you know.”

The Tower Center will hold information sessions for interested applicants throughout the fall semester.

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