This past fall Kasey S. Pipes, former George W. Bush speechwriter and presidential historian, was on campus to serve as the expert-in-residence for the Inside Politics program. He mentored 15 students with majors ranging from sociology to Spanish to music performance. Programming included a multi-day experience in Washington, D.C., a semester-long research project, and classroom discussions.
Since Inside Politics began in the fall of 2009, Pipes has introduced students to professionals such as U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, Fox News commentator Juan Williams, Sarah Palin campaign advisor Tucker Eskew, Politico senior editor David Mark, and lobbyist Scott Corley of Monument Policy Group, who formerly served as Microsoft's director of federal government relations.
"This opportunity to work with people who make and push policy every day was really valuable," said Sierra Hartlaub '12, who is double-majoring in political science and globalization studies. "It made the idea of a career in politics a lot less ‘out there' and a lot more tangible."
"The whole point is to merge the college experience with the real-world experience," agreed Pipes, whose own experience includes being chief author of the National Republican Party Platform in 2004. "Students learn a lot in their classes, but we take people inside Washington to give them the other side of the story. What is it really like to be a staffer on Capitol Hill or at NPR or a K Street lobbyist firm? This is the kind of experience most college kids never get." Especially helpful, he said, are students' encounters with Gettysburg alumni, such as former White House Counsel and 9/11 Commission member Fred Fielding '61 and Jamie Fleet '02, former staff director for the Committee on House Administration.
"It's a great thing to see these kids interacting with so many powerful people and realizing they could do it too," said Pipes, whose own career trajectory included an early internship in Ronald Reagan's office. "Washington is a town of elevators. If you can just get your foot in the door as an intern or something else, it can lead someplace exciting in a hurry."
John Carney '12 certainly hopes so. He plans to follow law school with a Congressional staff job and then work his way up. "I want to enter national politics. My ultimate dream is to become an elected official," the political science major said.
Hartlaub, who already volunteers at her Congressional representative's office in western Maryland, has similar goals: "I'd love to be on the Hill for a couple of years. I want to make a difference." To maximize Inside Politics' impact on students' futures, the EI works closely with the College's Center for Career Development.
As the EI's Norris Public Policy Fellow, Pipes not only led a trip over Fall Reading Days to meet professionals in Washington but also visited campus monthly. He led classroom sessions and mentored Inside Politics students as they developed projects incorporating academic research and first-person interactions with political professionals.
The combination worked well for Hartlaub, who studied how environmental policy is formulated, or, as she put it, "why some issues receive lots of attention and others don't." The news media are of course part of the answer. "The timing was perfect when I met Juan Williams," she said, referring to the commentator who spoke on campus this fall shortly after losing his position at National Public Radio in the wake of controversial comments concerning Muslims. Meeting other professionals deepened her understanding of additional variables in the political equation: lobbying and grassroots activism.
Hearing about the system from the inside was equally valuable for Carney, who described his research focus as "how interest groups, lobbyists, media, and public opinion affect U.S. government policy on the Middle East." For Carney, meeting a lobbyist like Corley, a campaigner like Eskew, and a media professional like Williams underscored that policymaking isn't "all about politicians and Congressional aides. There's this whole other side." Carney also valued the nonpartisan nature of Inside Politics: "It wasn't a lesson in Republican or Democratic positions, but did a good job in presenting facts. It was very good at separating those two things."
As the fall semester ended, Inside Politics students presented summaries of their research projects - ranging from the effects of social media on political campaigns to the advocacy strategies that national service organizations use in seeking resources - at a symposium at the EI's Washington office.
Hearing the reports was retired Air Force Gen. Carl W. Reddel, Ph.D., executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. Reddel - an expert on Russia, observer of missile destruction there under the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, and former head of the Air Force Academy's history department - also spoke to the students, focusing on Eisenhower's unique combination of unemotional rationality and passionate commitment to American ideals. Reddel also speculated about how Eisenhower might view today's culture of security, especially in relation to the military-industrial complex about which he warned in his 1961 Farewell Address. Reddel is a former chief executive of the EI and a former Public Service Fellow at Gettysburg College's Center for Public Service.
Pipes said he centered the classroom portion of Inside Politics on Eisenhower's "counterintuitive" political responses to the 1957 desegregation crisis at Little Rock Central High School, which balanced the deployment of Army troops to protect African-American students with carefully measured rhetoric. "Eisenhower wanted to turn the volume down, not up," Pipes said. "He wanted to use just enough volume, because any grandstanding would inflame passions. This isn't the game theory of political science, but a real-world application of politics. You have to know your audience, the situation, and the stakes, and come up with a strategy that works." Pipes's book, Ike's Final Battle: The Road to Little Rock and the Challenge of Equality, was an Amazon.com national bestseller in 2007.
As an Eisenhower scholar, Pipes said he is especially excited to work in the EI's campus office, located in the white-columned Washington Street residence that Dwight and Mamie shared while he commanded a tank training camp just before World War I. "I always say that at the EI, I sense the presence of the past," said Pipes. "You need to experience the people and the community that the president knew, and not just his papers." Eisenhower certainly knew Gettysburg: After his presidency, he retired to a farm that is now part of the Gettysburg National Military Park, and he became a trustee of Gettysburg College, where he wrote his memoirs in what is now the Eisenhower Admissions House.
This past fall was Pipes' second stint as an Inside Politics expert-inresidence. He plans a third during the spring semester of 2011. As the semester unfolds, Inside Politics students will maintain their tradition of blogging at http://eisenhowerinstitute. posterous.com.
"Interest in the Inside Politics program is strong and growing," said EI Director Jeffrey Blavatt '88, who credited the generous support of the Norris family, Cathy '90, Joan (Wachob) '60, and Thomas '60. "Students see the value of what we're trying to do. We're taking an interdisciplinary approach to public policy and leadership, and we're combining it with real-world experience and personal connections. Inside Politics is really the liberal arts in action."
"I would absolutely recommend this program to other students," Carney said. "I've already told friends and fraternity brothers about it."
"I looked at the Inside Politics program when I applied to Gettysburg," Hartlaub said. "I don't think I could have had this experience anywhere else."
The Eisenhower Institute (EI) was established to honor the legacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower and serves as a center for leadership and public policy.
With offices in both Washington, D.C., and in the historic Gettysburg home on North Washington Street at the edge of campus, once occupied by Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, the EI combines top-level dialogue among policymakers with a premier learning experience for undergraduates.
In addition to Inside Politics and a myriad of other programs, the EI each year names Undergraduate Fellows who develop leadership skills and increased understanding of public policy by serving on the EI's College Advisory Council and participating in events on campus and in Washington.
The EI also appoints experts-in-residence, working academics who conduct research on public policy, leadership, or the Eisenhower era. They also help shape programming. For example, 2010-11's Environmental Policy Fellow, U.S. Naval Academy political science Prof. Howard Ernst, led a program called "Troubled Waters: Environmental Policy and the Chesapeake Bay." It gave a select group of students the opportunity to explore policy concepts and the bay's environmental problems. The group also interacted with the environmental policy community in Washington.
Similarly, journalist and political analyst Jennifer Donahue is presenting "Women in Politics" this spring semester. She appears frequently on TV shows like MSNBC's Hardball and ABC's World News Tonight, is quoted in publications such as the New York Times and Huffington Post, and was a Harvard Institute of Politics resident fellow during the 2008 general election.
The experts-in-residence include the College's Harold G. Evans Professor of Eisenhower Leadership Studies, who holds the position for a one- to three-year term. The current Evans Professor is Eileen Stillwaggon of the Department of Economics. She has conducted research in Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America and has published extensively on the economics of HIV/AIDS in Africa and Latin America.
For more about the EI, visit www.eisenhowerinstitute.org.