Missouri State University
Political Science Blog

Summer Visit Day Brings the Heat and Ice Cream

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Pam Sailors, Dominiece Hoelyfield, and George Connor

Three happy people meeting prospective students and their families on Summer Visit Day 2015. Pam and George represent the College of Humanities and Public Affairs and Dominiece represents Multicultural Programs. A pleasure to meet students who are ready to be inspired (Click for Inspiration). Thanks for the ice cream Bart!

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Fredrick Doss Says That You Take PLS 103 Seriously (and I didn’t pay him)

Fredrick Doss graduated in 2012 and is a Legislative Assistant for Missouri State Representative Michael Butler. Prior to his work for Rep. Butler, Fredrick worked for Rep. Brandon Ellington and the late Rep. Rory Ellinger. Before working in the Capitol, Fredrick worked for Park University in Kansas City. He also serves as a part-time political consultant and served as Director of Finance for MO House Democrats Inner Circle Political Action Committee.

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And these are his own words – Take PLS 103 Seriously

Let’s be honest, most of us Political Science superstars could pretty much ace this class without even showing up, and believe me I did a fair share of not showing up to class. Although you probably should show up, you know, just in case. But I didn’t realize the value of my Missouri Government class (PLS 103) until I landed in a government job. Never before has the legislative process meant so much until I had a job where my boss relied on me to know just about everything there is to know about it. No really, everything.

I’ve been working in state government for about two years now as a legislative assistant in the Missouri House of Representatives. A significant portion of what I do is administrative stuff such as, answering the phone, answering email, or updating the calendar. However, there are also a lot of times where I become an advisor of sorts. I’m sure everyone believes our legislators are the smartest people out there right? I mean really, who are we kidding?! While our legislators are pretty smart in their fields, most of them are unfamiliar with government and the legislative process. Legislators come from all walks of life. They’re farmers, lawyers, realtors, insurance agents and even taxi drivers (I promise I did not make that up). What I’ve come to discover is that they rely a lot on their legislative assistants to point them in the right direction a lot when it comes to doing their jobs. This is where PLS 103 comes in handy.

I spend a lot of my time tracking bills that come through committees that my legislator sits on. I read most, if not all, of the bills prior to their scheduled hearing, and often make notes for my boss in the margins. These usually amount to “This is ambiguous”, “this should be more specific”, “Republicans will latch on to this”, “this could make for a good talking point”, and sometimes the infamous “drafting error?” I also jot down questions I think they should ask, or questions I think other legislators might ask. If there is anything that Political Science at Missouri State teaches you better than any other school in Missouri, it’s to think critically. So take advantage of every opportunity to sharpen those skills.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right, PLS 103. I guess the easiest way to explain would be to tell a story, so here goes. I remember my first veto session in September of 2013. I was sitting in on a conversation with some new and returning legislators about a bill that would probably get brought up for an override on the first day of the session, and in the middle of the conversation I was asked, “How many votes does it take to override out of both houses?” I remember not knowing the answer, and straight up guessing, yeah it happens. I answered, “109 in the House and 23 in the Senate I believe.” Of course I took out my phone and double checked myself while no one was looking (thank God I was right), but I remember thinking that how is it possible that a room full of elected officials didn’t know the answer to such a simple question. Furthermore, they just assumed I was right! No one even thought to question it or double-check. This is the case more often than not. We are asked all kinds of questions about Missouri Government, and we’re just expected to know. Such as how our state budget is financed, how exactly do we pass a budget (it takes 13 painstaking bills by the way, all of which have to be voted on individually), how can I add an amendment onto a bill, how long does the Governor have to sign a bill once it’s truly agreed and finally passed?

This has been the case with not only legislators, but with constituents, lobbyists and special interest advocates. The common denominator when it comes to answering any of their questions is PLS 103. The day I took that shot in the dark guess on votes during veto session had to have come from PLS 103. I mean honestly, where else would I have heard it? I remembered we learned not only the basics, but the fundamentals of Missouri government, and it has kept me in the know every day. Many of the other legislative assistants, and interns have had to simply learn by doing or asking others. Missouri State’s Political Science department is one of the few that does a good job in the area of Missouri Government, so take PLS 103 seriously.

P.S. Please do an internship!!!!! The capitol is flooded with University of Missouri and Truman interns every year, and while those are fantastic institutions (wink), it would be lovely to have some MSU students representing our university each spring.

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Patrick Scott Takes Public Affairs On Vacation

Dr. Patrick Scott, Professor of Political Science and MPA Program Director, spent a portion of his summer vacation in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee. During the second week of June he traveled to Johnson City, Tennessee to volunteer with a nonprofit organization, the Appalachian Service Project (ASP). Their work involved putting in a new floor in a home for an elderly man who was stricken with polio from a young age.

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Founded in 1969, ASP deploys over 17,000 volunteers annually to repair the homes of more than 650 low-income families across five states in Central Appalachia. The mission of ASP is to see substandard housing in Central Appalachia eradicated by providing volunteer service opportunities to make homes warmer, safer and drier for families in need. ASP operates year-round service centers in four states—Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia—that help provide safe, affordable housing for low-income residents.

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Thomas Ringenberg Named Congressional Fellow

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BIG congratulations to Tom Ringenberg for being accepted into the American Political Science Association’s Congressional Fellowship Program – APSA. Following in the footsteps of over 2,000 alumni, including such luminaries as Vanderbilt’s Bruce Oppenheimer and Florida’s Larry Dodd, he joins the “oldest and most prestigious congressional fellowship.” A Kansas University PhD, Tom was most recently a one-year instructor in the department of Political Science at Missouri State University. In August, he begins full-time teaching at Rockhurst University in Kansas City.

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Dr. Dan Ponder Reflects on his Jefferson City Internship

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Dr. Daniel E. Ponder, is the L. E. Meador Professor of Political Science and Director of the Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship Drury University. He received his B.S. in Political Science in 1989 from Southwest Missouri State University and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Vanderbilt University in 1994. He served as an assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs from 1993-2000, and then as an associate professor at UCCS from 2001-2006. Dan teaches courses on American politics, the presidency, Congress, Constitutional Law, and statistical methods. He is the author of Good Advice: Information and Policy Making in the White House, which was a nominee for the Neustadt Prize. Additionally, he has written several published book chapters, articles, and essays in journals such as Presidential Studies Quarterly, Congress and the Presidency, Political Science and Politics, and International Journal of Public Administration.

Recently, Dan reflected on his undergraduate studies at Southwest Missouri State.

When I was an undergraduate at (S)MSU, I was having difficulty deciding what to do with my life. If the St. Louis Cardinals were not to come calling (and there was no evidence of that) I spent a lot of time wondering how I could best put my deep interest in politics to work both for the greater good and for myself (we have to earn a living, right)? I considered everything from being a civil servant to journalism, from being a lawyer to lobbying, or maybe consulting. After I got a job in the political science department as a work study student, I began to consider another career option–that of a college professor. I got to see first hand how professors went about their work, the creativity they employed as they chose from a nearly infinite number of fields and topics from which to choose, write, think, and teach.

But my career plans did not fully solidify until the Spring 1988 semester, when I was selected to participate in an internship program in state government in Jefferson City. There I saw how politics (yes, politics) was made. I saw legislation formed, proposed, accepted and rejected. I saw the relationships that were sometimes steadfast, often fluid, and nearly always creatures of expediency. I think the thing that most intrigued me was when I compared what I saw on a day-to-day basis with what the literature and the textbooks told me to expect. Naturally, as one would hope, most of it was spot-on and it was probably the same as what I would think a bird watcher does when she spots a particular species of bird and identifies it in a book. But what was even more interesting was seeing how things happened that were not well covered in books. I saw a lot of lawmaking go on in the committee rooms and the floor of the House; but I also saw a lot that was made outside the committee rooms, in the hallways, over lunch or dinner, at receptions (as the legislative assistant to a powerful budget committee member, I was actually lobbied at one of these events), often with plain talk or strong armed tactics. I saw how context mattered and shaped outcomes, I saw intra-party bickering more so than inter-party arguments, and much more. In short, I saw how politics worked. I briefed the media on a welfare-to-work bill, and helped actually craft a bill that reformed the juvenile justice system. All of this was heady work for a 21 year old kid. I was intrigued. Still, the experience helped me decide that I did NOT want to be a politician after all, but rather further solidified my desire to go to graduate school, get a PhD, and as my professors at (S)MSU did, think, write, and teach about politics. I felt it was in the classroom helping people think through problems (and having them help me think through them too!) that my passion lay.

And that is precisely what internships should do. Yes, if you do a good job you can get a good line on your resume’ and hopefully a great recommendation letter and some contacts. All of these are integral to the internship experience. But they can also help you clarify your career goals in the first place, shaping what you want to do, how you want to do it, and even how you can get there. Now, as a professor I have directed internship programs in Colorado and now back here in my hometown. I am now the Director of the newly established Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship, and one of the things that center does is to support Drury students as they embark on internships. Right now, we direct internships mostly for students interested in going to Washington, DC, but we are trying to get more students from southwest Missouri involved in state government and intern in Jefferson City.

I encourage you to find an internship and do what you can to make it work. From my years watching interns in Colorado and Missouri learn and grow, as well as my own personal experience, I can almost guarantee that an internship will help you in all the ways you thought it would, and in many ways you didn’t!

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Dr. Dennis Hickey Drives a Delorean to London

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Master of Global Studies Program Director, Dr. Dennis Hickey, presented “Back to the Future: U.S. Security Ties With Taiwan” at the Second World Congress of Taiwan Studies at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and the Center for Taiwan Studies. The Center provides an unrivaled program of advanced interdisciplinary courses on Taiwan’s society, culture, politics, language and economics and hosts both European and International conferences each year. Tis year, Dr. Hickey presented a paper in a series in which authors revisit their most important work in the light of recent developments and research findings.

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Johannes Demarzi – Scholar, Athlete, Attorney

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When Johannes Demarzi was a student, he truly was a scholar athlete – the only Political Science major ever named to the NSCAA/adidas Scholar All-America First Team. Upon completion of his BS degree in 2009, Johannes enrolled in law school graduating in 2012.

After practicing law on both sides of litigation, plaintiff and defense, Johannes is currently practicing in the area of venture capital finance – more specifically fund formation in the recently booming market for private offerings of securities for small companies looking for seed-round investments. With the rest of his time, he is a Project Manager for GUSTIN (GUSTIN).

Offering frank advice to pre-law students, Johannes suggests not attending law school unless someone else pays for it, or, it’s a top tier law school. The legal job market is such that the job opportunities for young practitioners is more favorable for those graduating at the top of their class and especially those from top tier law schools. The market will likely improve, but today, it is still a gamble that may put graduates in serious debt, leaving them no choice but to pursue careers that compensate highly, with little consideration for personal fulfillment. If you are still motivated to attend law school, he provides some solace by emphasizing that law school offers a terrific education that focuses on problem-solving and strong analytical skills, which serves applicants well when applying for many diverse positions, even those that don’t contemplate the practice of law.

He also stressed the ability to network, suggesting that MSU require a networking class, enabling graduates to tap into their social circles, family circles, and beyond in order to get a foot in the door. While generally important, he emphasized the need for law students to fully engage in the alumni networks developed at schools like Mizzou, Kansas, and Arkansas. Even before law school, Johannes encouraged students to develop and hone networking skills by joining clubs and taking part in internships.

While Johannes did take a break from soccer after a short stint in England, he has managed to find his way back to the pitch as a midfielder for the San Francisco City Football ClubSFCFootball

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It’s A Small World (with big airport)

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MGS Director, Dr. Dennis Hickey, ran into alumni Kevin Fuchs at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last week.

Kevin is starting a new job at his alma mater, Zuyd University, in the Netherlands (Zuyd). He will be an Alumni and Recruitment Officer for the Faculty of International Business and Communication and will be recruiting students nationally and internationally, and in charge of alumni contacts. Zuyd is a Magellan Exchange partner (Magellan).

Kevin first learned about Missouri State University because of the Magellan student exchange, which brought him to Mexico while he was an undergraduate studying at Zuyd.

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