Political science professor Joe Ura and 19 students recently participated in the second-annual Potomac Summer Institute at our nation's capital.
by Allen M. Junek ‘18
Recently a group of 19 political science undergraduates from Texas A&M University and their professor Joe Ura boarded a plane to the nation’s capital to learn about the great American pastime. No, not that one, the other one: politics.
“I like to think of politics in terms of baseball,” Ura said. “There’s the reporters, who are the commentators; the players, who are the politicians; and then the analysts, people who try to figure out what makes the curve ball curve. As a political scientist, I’m the latter.”
Serving as the hub of U.S. political action, Washington, D.C. seems a fitting destination for students to learn the American political process as part of the Potomac Summer Institute, a high-impact learning opportunity from the College of Liberal Arts. The trip, which is designed as a minimester course, lasted from May 20-27–giving students a full week of “spring training.”
“I wanted to create something that would be open the door for students to have an experience in Washington that might build on their interest in the American political process,” Ura, who was an undergraduate in D.C. at George Washington University, said.
So in 2016, Ura launched the Institute for any undergraduate student with a passion for the game. And, having successfully completed its second year, it appears that Ura has knocked it out of the park.
“The Potomac Summer Institute has by far been my favorite academic experience here at Texas A&M, and I would encourage any and all students to apply for it next year,” political science undergrad Christina Morrison ‘20 said.
During their stay, students met with Reps. William Hurd ‘99, Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke, Bill Flores ‘76, and Joe Barton ‘72; Sen. John Cornyn and his Chief of Staff Elizabeth Jafari ‘90; and Nancy Pelosi’s Chief of Staff, Robert Edmondson ‘07.
Ura was extremely impressed with his students during a question and answer session with Sen. Ted Cruz, during which they raised questions about recent legislation. Ura said delegates from other universities were lobbing softball questions at him such as where he likes to eat.
“[This] reflected well on our students and goes to show that our students are getting the kind of educational value out of the program that I wanted them to, in addition to just the whole experience of being there,” Ura said.
Though the bulk of the program is organized around meetings with congressional personnel, students were also given time to experience the sights and sounds of the capital. Students also met with several think tanks in the area, exposing them to the opportunities within the field of politics that don’t include running for public office. This resonated with Morrison.
“Through the Institute I made connections and gained a better understanding of how politics are ‘played out’ in real life,” she said.
Ura credits the success of the program, which he calls one of his most rewarding faculty experiences, to the College of Liberal Arts and Texas A&M’s Offices of Federal and Government Relations.
“I can’t wait to ‘take the field’ with students for many years to come,” Ura said.