Imagine sitting in the White House Situation Room with the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Advisor, White House Chief of Staff and the President of the United States. Everyone is discussing North Korea and the Sony hack, all advising the President on foreign policy. This is what the nine Tower Scholars on campus did Wednesday afternoon.
Well, the students didn’t actually go to the Situation Room in Washington, D.C. But, they did sit in a mock version at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Each of the nine students played a role to advise the faux “President,” or their professor. This was their final exam for a policy seminar course.
“This program gives you real life experience,” sophomore Luxor Brothers said. “We’re sharing ideas and getting different opinions, just like how policy decisions are made in the real world.”
The Tower Scholars program is brand new, with its first class of nine scholars joining the program as sophomores this year. The program focuses on real-world policy-making experience and is open to students of all majors. Currently, the Tower Scholars include a pre-med student, an English major, and a communications major.
“We [the scholars] have definitely grown closer over this semester,” sophomore Sara Jendrusch said. “We discuss assignments and collaborate for things like this simulation. We even have a Group Me.”
Students can only apply for the Tower Scholars program as sophomores, and then only 10 students are selected with the idea of creating a diverse group in mind.
“We want diversity because this is how policy is actually made,” professor Diana Newton said. “You take in all these varying viewpoints and determine the best course of action.”
The policy seminar class is just the beginning for these young scholars. During their junior year, the group will spend the spring semester working on a specific policy issue in Washington, D.C. Half of the group will collaborate with the State Department and the other half will work with the Department of Education. The scholars will be led by an SMU professor and an actual policy practitioner.
“What I love most about the program is that you get to study political science without just the theory,” sophomore AJ Jeffries said. “You’re actually applying these ideas to real, concrete issues.”
During their senior year, the Tower Scholars will be sent out into the Dallas community. Each scholar will have a real policy issue to tackle on their own, but also with the support of the group.
“The classwork is definitely challenging,” Jendrusch said. “But it is also insanely rewarding.”