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As part of its effort to attract a diverse community of students to graduate study in public affairs, the LBJ School launched a new program in the summer of 2006 for a selected group of undergraduate students (generally in their junior year) from Texas colleges and universities.
The inaugural class of the Inman Summer Scholar Program (ISSP)—which was funded by the Inman Foundation and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation—came to Austin for a six-week program designed to help them explore careers in public service and prepare for graduate work in public policy studies, while also acquiring college credits that were transferable to their home institutions.
By emphasizing ethnic and cultural diversity in selecting students to the program, the School strives to better reflect the increasingly diverse populations in both Texas and the United States because our policy makers and leaders should reflect the constituencies they serve, said Admiral Bobby R. Inman, who is the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair in National Policy at the School and the founder of the Inman Foundation.
"The reality is that the LBJ School has not attracted the numbers of very able minorities to study at this institution to match the needs in society," said Inman, adding that the ISSP will continue the process of identifying qualified and interested minority students.
Program participants enroll in two academic courses offered by the LBJ School: Quantitative Foundation for Public Policy and Global Issues in Public Policy. The courses are designed to introduce students to the world of public policy and to give them important skills that most graduate policy programs expect of their applicants. The coursework also provides an opportunity to get acquainted with LBJ School faculty and with the environment of a graduate policy school. Each of these areas of instruction is important in preparing students for the challenging academic environment of courses in public affairs and management. They also received practical experience by taking site visits to the Texas State Capitol and Austin City Hall to interact with state and local officials.
"In many ways, the summer leadership program provides a reality check for students [by] giving them a sense of what kind of analytic skills they are expected to have, such as quantitative analysis," said Professor Pat Wong, an associate professor at the LBJ School and coordinator for program.
"Most students appreciated the assessment of their graduate ability," Wong said.
Central to the program were the LBJ students and alumni who volunteered to act as mentors for program participants. Mentors provided information and advice about career opportunities, graduate program options, the graduate school application process, guided them through the graduate school experience, and personally connected with them on a number of mutually relevant topics. The School hopes that the mentor relationship will continue even after the participant returns to his or her home institution and for the School to continue to connect participants with faculty for advice as needed.
Mentor program coordinator—and a mentor himself—LBJ student Hector Morales said that he felt the benefits of the mentoring were evident.
"By the end of the program [the participants] understood and got it. They were speaking like policy makers," Morales said.
Jennifer Castillo, an undergraduate student in government and political communication and Mexican American studies at The University of Texas at Austin, agreed with him. Her mentor, Sarah Gomez, an LBJ School Alumna from the Class of 2006, provided her with both a connection and perspective from which to consider the opportunities a degree in public affairs had to offer.
"Sarah was definitely a good role model," Castillo said. "I needed a Latina for a mentor because I was able to connect. The program gave me lots of confidence that I could be successful in graduate school. It really helped me learn more about public policy and the impact of legislation. It was a reality check," said Castillo, who plans to apply to the LBJ School once she has finished her undergraduate education.
Inman Scholars Program participants receive additional consideration if they choose to apply to the LBJ School—in part due to the advanced and rigorous academic training they receive from distinguished LBJ School faculty.
An important component of the LBJ School is the leadership preparation it provides students. As part of the program, the LBJ School's Center for Ethical Leadership conducted a series of workshops that included practical discussions on ethics and leadership issues. Professor Howard Prince, clinical professor and holder of the Lloyd Hackler Endowed Chair in Ethical Leadership and director of the LBJ Center for Ethical Leadership said that the School's commitment to the program is strong.
"You cannot just say you want diversity or say that you want to instill leadership. You have to invest time, money, and resources into doing it. The LBJ School is serious about living out the democratic values of our founding documents. We are intentionally making this happen," Prince said.
The lead coordinator of student recruitment activities is Megan Murphy, Manager of the LBJ School's Office of Student Affairs and Programs. Looking forward, the Inman Scholars Program is undergoing an outcomes evaluation in order to make improvements for next year. This year was highly successful, and the measure of that success was the wonderful feedback received from participants. "They felt the program was rigorous and challenging. It was a real world experience that gave participants the confidence that they are ready for graduate study," said Murphy.
For more information about the Inman Scholars Program, Summer 2007 program, contact the Office of Student Affairs and Programs at 512-471-4292 or email at email@example.com.