In February, 20 students left Searcy on a trip hosted by the American Studies Institute to spend four days in Washington, D.C. Led by Dr. John Richard Duke, associate professor of history and executive director of ASI, and Lori Klein, associate professor of political science and public administration, these students were given opportunities to see firsthand what alumni are doing in the capital city.
Throughout the trip students were able to learn about careers in business, history, government and politics; witnessing the purpose of the American Studies Institute — to inspire lives of leadership by exposing students to people, places and ideas that have helped shape the United States.
While in Washington students visited the Smithsonian’s African American History and Culture Museum as well as the Rayburn House Office Building, speaking with Congressman Rick Crawford’s Chief of Staff Jonah Shumate (’02) and Legislative Director Ashley Shelton (’12), both University alumni. The group also met with leaders from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of State and Boeing Co. Students spent their free time visiting other museums, monuments and sites in the capital city.
In addition to seeing these locations, students spent one evening of the trip meeting with nearly 30 University alumni learning about the work they do in and around the nation’s capital. Among these were David (’92) and Carmen (’93) Bell, Lance (’94) and Toria (’94) Boyd, and Joel (’88) and Lori (’18) Reed.
“Everyone in the room stood up and introduced themselves and talked about what they do,” said Duke. “We really gave students every opportunity to make connections with alumni — everybody from a member of the personal security detail for the secretary of state to a longtime accountant and executives from various business enterprises.”
The students ended the weekend at the church of Christ in Falls Church, Virginia. Jonah Shumate, whom they had met earlier in the weekend, led communion during the service. The group was inspired by seeing these two worlds, profession and church, come together.
The idea of this trip was originally proposed in 1952, the same year the American Studies Institute was founded. Duke says this trip was one of the first events discussed nearly 70 years ago, and they were excited to offer it to students this year at its original cost of $100. Additional funds were contributed by the American Studies Institute, the Clifton L. Ganus Jr. Distinguished Chair of History and Political Science, and an anonymous donation by an alumni family.
“I was very impressed with our students. The entire weekend they spoke about their goals, visions and what they thought and believed. … My hope is that this trip lets them know that there is a big world of opportunity they can pursue.”