Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A College Student's Guide for First-Time Voters

By Christina Lanier

College. For many of us, it’s the first time we’ll get to vote on a national (or even state) level. When you turn 18, you are given the opportunity to vote in all of the elections that apply to you- that means city, county, state, and national candidates want your attention. What does this mean for you?

It means you have a lot of information to process. Voting is easy- you stand in line and cast your ballot; or you fill out the ballot and put it in your mailbox to be sent off for counting. Voting is easy- knowing who to vote for is hard.

The first thing to consider is what is important to you. To start, avoid picking a party. We’re often implicitly told that the best way to go is to pick a side- Democratic, Republican, Independent, Tea Party, etc. Sometimes, though, you may find that what you have heard about a party or their members is not the full picture (it could be worse, or better!). Look at each party’s (and official’s) track record. Taking a deeper look at their ideals, history, donors, and future goals can help you decide which way to lean.

Keep in mind what issues matter most to you. Think about your family and your life and how political dogmas or laws have changed your life- for better or for worse. While you are looking through parties and members, keep an eye out for your big-ticket issues. It is okay if you can’t find anyone whose ideals align perfectly with yours- since we all have different life experiences, we are all going to have different political views.

Have you found a politician or party with whom you align? Look at who they support. Are they up for reelection? Or is there a candidate they endorse?  How do you align with the candidate they endorse?

Once you find sitting politicians whose ideals you support, it is a good idea to begin looking at big races- the national race for the presidency, for instance. In the United States, candidates will spend years on the campaign trail before the ballot box even opens. This long campaign period affords you, the voter, the opportunity to not only think long and hard about which candidate deserves your vote, but also how candidates evolve along their journey. Keep in mind how their rhetoric changes- divisive issues can make or break politician, and so can changing opinions on those issues.

One easy mistake is to let the race slip on by. Don’t let that happen! Stay informed- watch your candidates. Keep up with them on social media, television, newspapers. And keep up with your voting days, too. The last thing you want to happen is to miss the voting day after doing such extensive research! Many cities and states will post the calendar dates for each race on their website. When you find the dates, make calendar reminders.

Voting is easy.  Knowing who to vote for is hard.

Friday, November 13, 2015

My Archer Experience

By Blake Eaton

Back in 2012, when I still hadn’t decided which college I would call my own, I visited UT Dallas and learned about something called the Bill Archer Fellowship. When I heard that the UT system sent its best and brightest students all the way to Washington, DC, to learn about our government through first-hand experience, I knew that UT Dallas was the place for me, and I knew I wanted to be an Archer Fellow.

This past spring, I fulfilled that dream. As a Archer Fellow for the Spring 2015 semester, I met amazing students and future leaders from throughout the UT system. I learned from professors and guest speakers like UT Austin’s Dr. John Daly and US Senator John Cornyn. (I also met some amazing people not named John.) Through it all, I worked as an intern in the federal court system. I have enjoyed every minute of my time at UT Dallas, but I think I can say pretty definitively that my semester as an Archer Fellow was the best four months of my college career.

As an aspiring lawyer, the Archer Fellowship naturally appealed to me. Studying and working in DC opens doors that don’t even exist in Texas. Along with 39 other students, I lived just two blocks away from the Capitol Building, right in the center of the US government. In DC, politics was more than just an interest or field of study; it was a way of life. I suddenly found myself immersed in a world where everyone knew who the Speaker of the House was, what cases the Supreme Court was hearing, and more. Needless to say, DC residents take a bit more of an interest in politics than the average Comet.

I did not just spend my days wandering the city, though. The Archer Fellowship is not just a chance to leave Texas for a few months. Every student accepted as an Archer Fellow has to find a full-time internship in the DC area. That’s forty hours per week even ignoring the three classes each week! It might sound like a lot for the average college student—and believe me, it is!—but all that hard work is more than worth it. Interning full-time as an Archer Fellow gave me the chance to experience the working world. I learned new skills, built a professional network that will help me kick start my career, and added a pretty darn impressive new bullet point to my resume.

My Archer experience taught me lessons that will stick with me for a lifetime, but more than the details of judicial confirmation politics or the history of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, I think I will remember the friendships I made in DC. Living with 39 students from across the UT system (including more than a few fellow Comets!) turned us into more than just fellow students. Over just a few short months, we became a family. I’m sure we will all move on to amazing careers, but that common bond of the Archer Fellowship will remain.

If you’re interested in the Archer Fellowship, check out http://www.archercenter.org/ and keep an eye out for the next information session on campus. You don’t even have to be a political science major like me to become an Archer Fellow. We had everything from journalism majors to biology students looking forward to medical school. There’s something for everyone in DC. There’s plenty to love.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Discovering the Value of a Political Science Major

By Najib H. Gazi

Engineering. Computer Science. Pre-Med. Physics. Biochemistry. When coming to UT Dallas, that’s all I thought UT Dallas really had to offer. I may have chosen political science, but I did so with little to no hope that UT Dallas would truly offer me the resources I needed to make a splash big enough to get noticed in a job field filled with sharks. My belief was that only the skills I had could give me an advantage. However, my first couple of months have really shown me how misguided my perceptions were.

Orientation was the first time I had ever been on the UT Dallas campus, despite living in Richardson and Murphy for nearly all my life. I must say, (although I had never set foot on even one college campus to this point), the vast size of the campus, buildings, and classrooms were awe-inspiring. Already, UT Dallas had this aura to it. Yet, I still believed that engineers and techies were the only one who could truly take away the best it had to offer. The buildings associated with the social sciences didn’t have the same allure or grandeur as the other career fields. Even when the groups were split up to proceed to the more specified parts of orientation, EPPS had barely any kids. The more conventional sciences had already snatched the majority, and I already felt a sinking feeling about my choice of political science.

The first time that my perception about UT Dallas and social sciences in particular were challenged occurred as I scheduled my classes for the fall semester. All my friends in the conventional sciences ranted about how their advisors gave them little to no individual time, as they were simply overwhelmed by the vast amount of students they had. They had to put in their schedules on paper. Meanwhile, my scheduling session took place in a computer lab in Green Hall. There were 5 students during my time to schedule classes, and 3 advisors to help us. Rather than having to fend for myself, my advisor guided me through the entire process. She helped me pick the best classes, the best teachers, and the best timings. I easily had a great advantage over students based in other schools. At this point, I started to realize that my greatest asset would lie in the staff and faculty of EPPS.

Through the first couple of weeks of school, I started to learn more about my professors. My first class was with Dr. Euel Elliot, an Associate Dean with a large network of connections. The other professors I really found great value in knowing were Dr. Connell, and Dr. Sabharwal. Dr. Connell has done various studies in high level crime areas and has a wide network with law enforcement officials and criminologists. Dr. Sabharwal is an expert in Management, and has a multitude of connections in both the public and private sectors. Just in 3 classes my first semester in college, I already knew possible connections in so many different fields. From these experiences, I reiterate, the people of EPPS are the true asset that outmatch any other.

To conclude, while it may be that the conventional sciences tend to have the high enrollments, the school of EPPS gives its students an added value that cannot be measured. I would advise any student or potential student to get to know your professors, and be more than just a kid with a good GPA, but a student that builds a network to back that GPA. The faculty, staff, and student organizations have such a vast network that if one tries, there will always be an opportunity to achieve one’s goals.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

EPPS Grads Headed to Yale and Harvard law schools

Each year, EPPS graduates go on to prestigious law schools at universities across the nation. The 2015 graduating class includes two students who are going to Yale University and Harvard University law schools, ranked number one and two respectively by U.S. News and World Report:  We recently sat down with Theo Torres and Kyle Reynolds, both political science majors who graduated in May 2015, to find out the keys to their success. Read more

Theo Torres, UT Dallas Political Science Major
Yale University Law School

Theo Torres
What do you think was the key to your admission to such a prestigious law school?

 Beyond GPA and LSAT score, I think my musical background helped me in law school admissions. Throughout my time at UT Dallas, I've played in the school-affiliated orchestra, jazz band, and the classical guitar ensemble, in addition to a couple of independent groups. I like to think that those kinds of activities did something to convince admissions committees that I'm more than just a study machine. Additionally, I tried to balance this by crafting a compelling and credible narrative about my motivations to become a lawyer.

How did your pre-law experience here at UT Dallas help you?

I took part in lots of law-related extracurricular activities as an undergrad, each of which was helpful in its own right. The Innocence Project of Texas  class exposed me to real-world legal work, Moot Court sharpened my oral argument skills, and being secretary for the John Marshall Pre-Law Society acquainted me with some administrative and organizational know-how. The Pre-Law Advising and Resource Center was instrumental in helping me out with the actual application stage, both in terms of broad strategy and detail-oriented review, like proofreading drafts of my personal statement. I don't think I would have been remotely as successful without the help of Dr. Anthony Champagne and Anne Dutia. And, although he isn't formally part of the pre-law program, Dr. Douglas Dow helped out a ton as well. 

What do you plan to do after you graduate from Yale?

After law school, I would like to end up practicing criminal law in a public defender's office. My time with the Innocence Project of Texas here at UT Dallas really made it clear that it's what I want to do. That being said, I look forward to experimenting with other subfields in the clinical program at Yale.

Kyle Reynolds, UT Dallas Political Science Major
Harvard University Law School 

Kyle Reynolds

What do you think was the key to your admission to such a prestigious law school?

Every law school values different qualities. For Harvard, the most important admissions factors are exactly what you would expect: having a strong GPA and a very high Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score. That alone isn't enough, however. Harvard also places a lot of value on work experience - 75% of its entering class last year had been out of college for a year or more before starting law school. I believe it was a combination of these three factors that made me a successful candidate. My numbers were good, and the Archer Fellowship Program provided me with excellent full-time work experience in Washington, D.C.

How did your pre-law experience here at UT Dallas help you?

UT Dallas pre-law helped me in two key ways. The first and most important one was mentorship. Dr. Anthony Champagne and Anne Dutia have both been guides for me since freshman year. I can't overstate the value of their advice, in terms of both law school admissions and being a successful student at UT Dallas. The second way pre-law helped me was by providing opportunities. They host law school visits, sit-downs with successful alumni, and competitive advocacy programs like Mock Trial and Moot Court, all of which give students a picture of what being a law student or a lawyer is like. I recommend students take advantage of these opportunities before making the decision to apply to law school.

And of course, it goes without saying that UT Dallas' challenging coursework will be good preparation for the rigors of a law school class. The skills I learned here will help me hit the ground running at Harvard.

What do you plan to do after you leave Harvard?

For me, it is still a little early to decide on that. I can tell you that I plan to come back and work in the Dallas area if possible - I have come to love the city over the past four years. Right now the two main options I'm exploring are working for a large law firm as a litigator, or working for a U.S. Attorney's office as a federal prosecutor. I hope that my time at Harvard will shed light on which of those choices (if either) is the better fit for me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

All I Had to Do Was Say Yes

By Christina Lanier

I’m sitting in an office in Uptown. The view out the window isn’t terrible, but it’s not the one you see in all of the movies- I can’t see I-station or Chase, I can’t see Reunion Tower or the beautiful bridges. Nonetheless, I’m sitting here on this cloudy day, and I find myself staring at this view. I’m 25 minutes from the dorms where I’ve called home, or at least Google Maps says it’s 25 minutes (the actual trip is closer to 40 minutes with Dallas traffic). I’m 40 minutes from school, but I’m 12 hours from home.

A little over a year ago, I would have never seen myself here. I saw myself going to another school in another city, in another state. I saw myself spending every day in a classroom, praying that one day I’d have a view like this. I had put a deposit down at a school in my hometown of Atlanta and I was pretty happy with that choice. I didn’t apply to any Ivy Leagues because I couldn’t afford to go there. I didn’t even apply to any out-of-state schools for the same reason. I knew if I went to this school, I’d probably spend the rest of my life floating around the streets of Atlanta and to that I was ambivalent.

Up until a year ago, I had lived in one house my whole life. I had the same neighbors, the same friends, the same mailman, and the same boring suburban town that felt too cookie cutter to be real. I lived in a town that prided itself on small town values and ridiculous home prices- called itself the county’s “best kept secret” and even had kitsch
y signs everywhere to remind all the residents. When my father moved to Atlanta proper, I jumped on the chance to pack my life and take the thirty-minute journey with him.

I was happy, but I longed to get away. I longed to be more than just an Atlantan- just someone who lived in the same 20-mile radius until the day she died. So when I got a card in the mail from a university far away telling me to check out their scholarships, that’s what I did.

Like many high school students, I received plenty of mailings from colleges and universities around the country. I had given my address to the College Board for the PSAT and gave them permission to give that information to schools on my behalf. So, over the years, the piles of college cardstocks grew. I usually threw them away or recycled them when I could- after all, why keep a flyer for a school you can’t afford?

I knew I had settled. That was just a fact of life. I put a deposit down on a school that didn’t even think I was good enough for their competitive scholarship. When I found out I wasn’t going to be chosen, I felt trapped. I felt like I had chosen a school that did not even choose me. I started reading the college cardstocks, dreaming that one would have a line or two about fantastic scholarships for random students from states far away. I dreamed of late acceptances, but didn’t expect much.

UT Dallas was one of the schools that sent me cards. I didn’t think much of it the first couple times because I was still under the impression that I was a shoo-in for the scholarship at my first choice school. But when that reality quickly disappeared, UT Dallas appeared on the radar. I called the number on the card on the insistence from a Tex-pat teacher, who thought getting out of Georgia would be the best decision I would make.  Long story short, I applied that night and received my notification of a full scholarship within a couple days. All I had to do was say yes.

It was all such short notice for me. Here I was, about to graduate high school, and still making plans for my higher education. Everyone was already packing their things, heading to school. I had never been to Texas, and had no idea what to pack or how it would get there. I was a chronic planner lost in a sea of little certainty other than the fact I had a spot at a school 800 miles away.

Fast forward one year and here I am in this office in Uptown Dallas. I work for a national law firm at a local branch, where I file real paperwork for real cases. I’m not sitting in a classroom bored out of my mind. I spent 10 months taking classes I loved (for the most part) and doing extracurriculars I poured my heart into. I just finished an internship with a United States representative, and started another internship (with pay!) at this law firm with a decent view. I just received two scholarships from the Pre-Law Department, and wrote two reviews for The Innocence Project of Texas. I just finished my first year of college with a decent GPA and with fantastic connections.

A year ago, none of this would have been possible. Had I been more stubborn, had I not read my mail, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have met all of the fantastic professors and students I now call my mentors and peers. I wouldn’t have been in Mock Trial or Mediation. I wouldn’t have realized that I want to go to law school. But all of those things are my reality. All of those things happened because I read my mail, made a phone call, and because a school half way across the country had enough faith in me to have me here. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Here’s to the next three years.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Class Leads to "Aha Moments" Regarding Major, Career

By Vernicia Griffie

When I first made the decision to become a political science major, I did so because I wanted to see a change in the way the political happenings of the country were being relayed to the public. This has led to an increased sense of curiosity regarding the world around me and the workings of the American political system. This is why Dr. Champagne’s Civil Liberties Class was the perfect choice for me.

From the start of the semester, I’ve had an affinity for the Civil Liberties course. Reading through numerous Supreme Court cases and discovering the rationale behind the laws that I’m expected to abide by on a daily basis proved to be more of a fun thing to do than a daunting task. Although I found this enjoyable, I in no way expected it to be anything more than a class that I didn’t mind attending every other day. Instead, it became a medium that opened my mind up to understanding present day events and further reinforced my belief that political science is the right major for me.

The first “aha moment” the class presented me came with a discussion over what is considered constitutionally protected free speech. In order to help spur critical thinking, Dr. Champagne utilized an event from last year’s demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. This perfectly put the lesson into context. It amazed me that there was finally a conversation about that significant social event that dealt solely in fact – not emotion – as previous ones that I’d been exposed to had not. 

Fast forward to a month or so later, when news outlets were swarming over the story of an Oklahoma university’s expulsion of a student for his utilization of a derogatory slur while with his fellow fraternity members. I arrived to class without having much of an opinion on the matter, until we begin to discuss whether or not punishing the student for utilizing this type of speech was constitutionally sanctioned. It was then that my mind started to race, and I again began to notice how excited I become in the midst of factual, intellectual, and socially significant conversation.
I left class that day feeling a sense of increased passion for the major and career path I have chosen. 

These so-called “aha moments” have not only helped to reinforce my choice, but they also have shown me that I need to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity I have to be attending a university. With the knowledge I acquire while taking courses like this one on civil liberties, I will be able to one day become the type of journalist that is so desperately needed with these changing times – one that sticks to the facts and feeds the public the information that they need to know, as opposed to that fueled by emotion or personal feelings on the matter. I’m so anxious to take everything I can from the class this semester and use the aforementioned aha moments as a means to propel me to continue on this journey toward my future career.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An EPPS Senior Reflects on her UT Dallas Journey

By Vinni Anandham, EPPS Blogger

I can’t believe it! It’s been three years and it’s my last semester at UT Dallas as an undergrad. I knew I wanted to major in Political Science since I was a freshmen in high school, and in less than three months my dream of graduating with a degree in Political Science will be coming true! But now that I’m so close to walking across the stage to receive my diploma, I can say that while my degree had always been the goal and I will be proud of it, I know that it will not be the highlight of my years at UT Dallas.

I have gotten SO much more from UT Dallas than just a degree. I have gotten to work with Dr. Daniel’s staff that set the perfect example of an ideal workplace in my eyes. I have gotten to serve the student organizations of UT Dallas and watch student leaders emerge, creating 180 student orgs to 275 in just two years! I have been able to assist in planning some university events with the amazing people that dedicate every day to UT Dallas students. I have been encouraged by my peers to thrive in volunteer work that lead to being accepted into the Clinton Global Initiative University Conferences and actually shaking hands with former President Clinton! I have met professors and staff members who believed in my abilities more than I did to one day discover that they were right, when achieving success in Moot Court Tournaments. 

I have been given more than words could express in just one blog but meeting all of the people that made these three years so worthwhile, serve as the true “highlight” of my undergraduate experience.

If someone were to ask me to change something then most likely I’d say no because I believe that even the mistakes I made were crucial in order to gain all that I did. That being said, if a freshman were to ask me about something I did that they sh
ould make sure not to do then my BIGGEST advice to them would be “DON’T REFRAIN FROM GETTING INVOLVED!”

This is my advice to anyone who’s a student in an institution, but especially if you are a freshmen in college, don’t hide yourself in your dorm. Go get involved in clubs and/or greek life, find out what all your university offers, figure out the various resources offered there but just don’t go to class and straight back to your dorm. 

Since I played an active student leader role in high school, I thought that getting sucked into it again would decrease my GPA, but I was wrong. Freshmen year was my worst year in college, academically and socially because while I was lucky to have met a professor that encouraged me to become an EPPS blogger, and a few friends that got me involved in a club to volunteer, I did nothing but go to class and work. The only thing I showed real initiative towards was finding an on campus job and was privileged to work in one of the best offices on campus, learning from some of the most amazing women I have ever met. 

BUT, if I showed the same initiative towards other activities on campus, then I would have been able to do some other things I can no longer do because once you get into junior/senior year, you will find yourself with having free time. So show some initiative to explore your campus and find what suits you best! J       

Monday, January 12, 2015

EPPS Frosh Reflects on First Semester

By Christina Lanier, Class of 2018

Semester One: Check. 

When I started here at UT Dallas almost five months ago, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had never been to Texas let alone gone to a Texas school. I didn't know what to expect from the school, from the professors, from my peers. Looking back, I think I can say everything couldn't have turned out better. 

Over these last few months, I have met so many students and professors who have fundamentally changed the way I live my life- everyone here has something to offer. Everyday I am reminded that I'm surrounded by some of the brightest students in the nation and that they chose this place for some of the same reasons I did- to learn, to succeed in college and beyond. 

Even if the classes are way more challenging than I expected and the food is sometimes sub-par, I can say with absolute certainty that this school was the right fit for me. 

And that is what college is all about- finding the place and the professors that instill in you the desire to learn beyond what the tests may cover, to learn for the sake of knowing more and to have fun doing that. 

Now that the this first semester has come to a close, and as the class of 2018 begins to reflect upon that semester, I hope we all can say that we have found the right s
chool for us.

Semester One: check. Here's to seven more.