Practical experience in DC for HCM Tower Scholars

As the intern season rolls around and many students frantically scramble to find a position that will lend itself to valuable practical skills, we take a look at some of the unique opportunities offered to SMU students that provide that essential leg up post-graduation. For students in the SMU Tower Scholars Program, a selective minor in Public Policy and International Affairs, such opportunities to interact in the professional sphere are abundant.

Each cohort is provided an opportunity to travel to Washington DC in their junior spring semester and work alongside influential policymakers on the ground. The 2019 cohort hit DC last week, mingling with plenty of high profile professionals as they looked at policy regarding technological evolution, and most specifically focused on the potential use of artificial intelligence (AI) within the banking sector.

“It was an incredibly valuable experience for me not only because I was able to learn more about what we’re studying in class, but also because I was really exposed to DC culture and was able to have a great time bonding with my cohort,” Highland Capital Management (HCM) Tower Scholar member Destiny Rose Murphy said.

The group met with elected officials, think tanks, SMU alumni, and government agencies from Sunday through Wednesday. Experiencing the policy world first hand, and tackling some of the roadblocks legislation often presents on the ground in DC gave students knowledge that will directly translate to the professional world.

With AI as the policy focus, the cohort saw an interesting conflict between security and privacy.

“Many AI technologies provide for added security as long as one is willing to give up some aspects of their privacy, and this is particularly important in the banking industry,” Kelsey Shipman, another HCM Tower Scholar, explained. “I found this balance to be continuously discussed and incredibly interesting throughout our stay in D.C.”

The Tower Scholars Program is unique to SMU and was established in honor of the late John Tower, former Republican US senator for Texas and leader of the well known Tower Commission. The commission investigated the failures of the NSC in the Iran-Contra scandal during President Reagan’s second term. Much like SMU as a small prestigious institution, the Tower Scholars Program has essentially embodied the mantra of something small packing a big ‘punch.’ The small cohort of 10 students per graduating class provides a well organized, interconnected program that is tailored to each student, allowing for a firm grasp on not only political theory but also a comprehensive understanding of what policy really entails on the practical level.

The Tower Scholars program frequently hosts open invitational events on a vast range of policy topics, bringing in many distinguished keynote speakers. So be sure to keep an eye out, you don’t want to miss the memo!

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