Research and Road Trips: Arkansas Political Science Association

by Kaitlyn Tyra

After two months of intense research and preparation, Brian and Christina were finally ready to present their work to professionals at the Arkansas Political Science Association’s Conference. The trip would include stops at three major cities, and many interesting sites along the way over a four-day period.

Day 1: Before the sun rose, the LEAP Ambassadors were off for yet another adventure. Hosted by Arkansas State University, the conference was located in Jonesboro, Arkansas. We set out on our journey Thursday morning and began our drive to Little Rock for some sightseeing.

Seven hours later (and thankfully right around lunch time), we arrived in Little Rock to grab some lunch at the Little Rock River Market.  Selecting from many cultures, we sampled a variety of cuisines such as Nepalese food, Asian, and Mediterranean. From there, we embarked on a tour to the Arkansas Historic Museum which had many exhibits, but we focused on the art museum portion.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Arkansas History Center, Little Rock

The museum had mostly regional artists from the Arkansas, but we didn’t mind as we took the opportunity to learn about the art collection of Gordon and Wenonah Fay. After numerous years of public service and supporters of the arts in both Arkansas and Tennessee, they moved home to Little Rock and donated their art collection so that others could enjoy their work too.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Arkansas History Center, Little Rock

Another fun way to explore Arkansas’s culture was to visit their State Capitol.

We were excited to check off another state capitol from our list as we headed over to the Arkansas Capitol.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Little Rock, Arkansas State Capitol

Previously, LEAP Ambassadors visited the Arkansas Supreme Court, but none of the current ambassadors had visited the Capitol itself. Interestingly, the Arkansas Legislature is part time (similar to Texas’s Legislature), but they meet for two months in odd numbered years and for approximately one month in even numbered years to set the budget. Arkansas only operates on an annual budget period, which requires the members to meet during even numbered years between their regular sessions to determine the state’s budget for the upcoming year. We visited both the House and Senate chambers, comparing Texas’s legislature and Arkansas’s legislature.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Little Rock, Arkansas State Capitol

One of the most surprising differences was the accessibility of the executive branch offices. In Texas, the governor’s office and the lieutenant governor’s office are much more hidden within the capitol and placed within tighter security measures. In Arkansas, both offices are easily accessible to the public and do not have additional security.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Little Rock, Arkansas State Capitol

Upon our initial arrival, we thought the outside of the building was dingy and gray. However, the inside of the capitol was covered in white marble and simplistically beautiful. We visited Bill Clinton’s portrait before heading off to the Clinton Library.

With only an hour before the museum closed, Ambassadors made sure to hit the highlights of the Clinton Presidential Library. We visited a replication of Clinton’s Oval Office…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Little Rock, Clinton Presidential Library & Museum

…where he had paintings by Childe Hassam and Norman Rockwell.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Little Rock, Clinton Presidential Library & Museum

We also visited the timeline of his presidency where visitors learn not only about his professional accomplishments, but some of the social aspects of the office. One of our favorite things about the Library was the building’s architecture.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Little Rock, Clinton Presidential Library & Museum

Designed by James Polshek, the library was designed to look like the Little Rock bridges and to mimic Bill Clinton’s campaign principle of bridging to tomorrow.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Little Rock, Clinton Presidential Library & Museum

The building has also received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum distinction, making it the first existing federal building to receive the honor. After making our way through the museum, we headed to dinner at a LEAP favorite, the Whole Hog Café. After enjoying mounds of BBQ, we decided to call it an early night to give Brian and Christina a chance to practice their presentation and get some extra sleep. We still had busy days to come!

Day 2: On our second day of the trip, we left Little Rock and drove two hours north to Jonesboro. When we arrived, we stopped at Sue’s Kitchen for a quick and light lunch before attending the first day of the ArkPSA conference. We checked in right on time and split ways for our first panel. Brian attended a panel on International Relations and Comparative Politics, while Kaitlyn and Christina attended a panel on American Politics: the U.S. Federal Courts in Review.  We then grouped back up and attended the second panel of the day on Public Administration and Policy. Again, our evening included preparation for Brian and Christina’s presentation the following morning.  Their hard work was soon to be rewarded with the capstone of their presentation.

Day 3: It was finally presentation day for Brian and Christina!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Jonesboro AR, ARKPSA

They were eager (albeit nervous) to share their hard work with the panel. The conference began early, but we were there earlier to prepare and get organized for the presentation.  The panel consisted of two undergraduate papers. One on the Powers of the Lieutenant Governor by Hunter Hall from University of Arkansas- Monticello and Brian and Christina’s paper on State Funding for the Arts. Both presentations proved to be great! Brian and Christina gave a concise introduction before giving background on the arts and explaining their study’s methodology. Their research compared the funding of the arts by state governments and the effects specific variables, such as education, income, party affiliation, and gender, had on the funding from state governments.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Jonesboro AR, ARKPSA

To do this, they collected data from all fifty states and then preformed a bivariate test based on their variables. They also addressed their next steps for the research and possible areas of improvement.

Once finishing their presentation, the panel discussant offered helpful feedback for both papers. Brian and Christina thought it was a beneficial experience as political science students to present research at the conference.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Jonesboro AR, ARKPSA

We attended a second panel of the day before attending the conference lunch and guest speaker presentation by US Representative Rick Crawford. Although he is not our Congressman, it was great to hear how passionate he was about his district, as well as, his knowledge of it, and his opinions on hot button issues like arming teachers with guns to protect against future school shootings. He also spoke of the political rancor of the nation and the importance of working around those differences. We enjoyed his lecture so much and we were lucky enough to take a picture with him!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Jonesboro AR, ARKPSA

With the close of Representative Crawford’s speech, we packed into the car and drove off to Memphis to visit the Brooks Museum of Art. When visiting an art museum, we always try to scout out recognizable artists. We made our way to the American and Contemporary Art galleries where we stumbled upon art by Thomas Hart Benton…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Memphis, Brooks Museum of Art

Georgia O’Keeffe…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Memphis, Brooks Museum of Art, Georgia O'Keeffe

and Josef Albers…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Memphis, Brooks Museum of Art. Albers

We made a quick trip through the rest of the museum before driving to visit the Lorraine Motel.

In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed outside a motel in Memphis.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Memphis, Lorraine Motel

The hotel has now been preserved as a civil rights museum and tribute to MLK. Although we did not have time to go into the museum, we paid our respects outside and read about the legacy of MLK.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Memphis, Lorraine Motel

We wanted to eat on the historic Beale Street before it got too dark and we had to make our drive back to Little Rock. We decided on Miss Polly’s Soul City Café in the heart of Beale Street. We enjoyed home cooked favorites of chicken and waffles and chicken fried steak.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Memphis

After finishing dinner, we observed the Memphis night life from afar as we headed back to Little Rock to begin our drive back home.

Day 4: Our final day of the trip consisted mostly of driving the seven hours back to Huntsville. To bring our trip full circle, we stopped at President Clinton’s childhood home on the way through Hope, Arkansas.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Hope AR, Clinton's Childhood Home

Although it was not open, it was interesting to see where Clinton’s life began before he started his career in politics. We reflected on our last few days and of our upcoming events this semester as we hurried back to Huntsville.

 

A Monumental Day in DC

By Kaitlyn Tyra

Ready for our next adventure, the LEAP Ambassadors eagerly awoke in Washington, D.C.! This visit to D.C. was motivated by the unveiling of a bust of Sam Houston by Elizabet Ney in the Ways and Means Committee Room, but we took advantage of the opportunity and started our trip off with sightseeing!

Our first stop was the National Mall. We began through the South side of the mall with the Jefferson Memorial. The morning air was cool and the city was still calm, as it was fairly early on a Saturday morning. We were amazed by the grandeur of the Jeffersonian dome and the simple elegance it displayed. We learned about Thomas Jefferson’s background in farming and architecture, and his role in founding the United States.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, Jefferson Memorial

We also enjoyed reading some of his most impactful writings which are engraved into the stone walls of the rotunda, while also just soaking in the beauty of the area.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, Jefferson Memorial

Following the walkway through the mall we traveled through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Korean War Memorial. In each was something to admire. The FDR Memorial’s linear design made out of granite was reminiscent of his iconic Works Project Administration.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, FDR Memorial

In this Memorial we also enjoyed viewing art by George Segal, whose sculpture, “Soup Line,” reflects the depression-era hardships faced during FDR’s administration.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, FDR Memorial, George Segal

 

Inspired by MLK’s famous “I have a Dream” speech, the MLK monument embodies his words: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, MLK Memorial

The Korean War Memorial commemorates those who fought in the Korean War with a black granite wall, stainless steel statues, and a reflecting pool.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, Korean Memorial

Each element of the Memorial was impactful for us to see and was strengthened by the Korean War Veterans viewing the memorial who were sharing their stories with visitors.

One of the most well-known monuments, the Lincoln Memorial was our favorite to visit.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC., Lincoln Memorial

The size of Abraham Lincoln made the monument grand. The Memorial was crowded, but we managed to steal a picture with Abe!

After visiting with James Reston and learning about the Vietnam War Memorial, we were eager to observe the wall with a new perspective.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, Vietnam War Memorial, Maya Lin, James Reston

The wall, inscribed with the names of those who lost their lives in the war, weighed heavily among many of its visitors hearts.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, Vietnam Memorial Wall, James Reston, Maya Lin

After visiting the World War II Memorial, we finished our National Mall tour with the Washington Monument. After 2.3 miles, we were tired from our walk, but that was only the beginning of our day!

Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe

By Karla Rosales

After a long walk around the National Mall, we were ready for some lunch so decided to walk to the National Museum of the American Indian and have lunch at their café, Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe. As we arrived, we noticed the café offered native foods from different regions of the New World such as the Northern Woodlands, South America, Northwest Coast, and the Great Plains.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, Mitsitam

However, most lines were long as it was still lunch time. Some of us (Brian, Kaitlyn, and I) decided to not be adventures and got the Bison burgers while Christina tried the salmon with chipotle sweet potatoes. After grabbing this quick breather, we continued on our D.C. excursion.

Hirshhorn Museum

By Christina Perez

On our way to the Holocaust Museum we veered off of our planned route to visit the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Before entering we explored the outside architecture and even posed for a photo by the giant waterfall.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Hirshorn

As we headed in we noticed that one of the exhibits at the Hirshhorn was “ What absence is made of.” It had five categories of art that included the dematerialization of the art object, the body in pieces, close to nothing, momento, and the posthuman body (if you haven’t guessed it by now, it was a contemporary art museum). We had mixed reactions to the art.

 

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Hirshorn

Some of the artist included in this exhibit were Ed Atkins, Annette Lemieux, and Huang Yong Ping.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Hirshorn

The LEAP Ambassadors had many favorites and were even able to have some fun in the interactive part of the exhibit. I was mostly amazed by Ai Weiwei who is known as one of China’s best artists. He, like other artists, has spent most of his career learning about the connections that art, society, and politics have with each other. One of his more impressive creations is his Lego portrait exhibit that uses more than 1.2 million Legos to depict political prisoners across the world.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Hirshorn

Of course we couldn’t leave without looking around at the beautiful sculpture garden.  We saw many artists we knew, and a few we didn’t.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Hirshorn, di Suvero

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

By Brian Aldaco

After wrapping up our tour of the Hirshhorn Museum we walked West down the National Mall towards our next destination. We began our day by viewing memorials to some of the most historical events in our nation’s history. We would now resume this historical learning with our visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, where we were greeted by a Joel Shapiro sculpture.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, National Holocaust Museum, Joel Shapiro

To begin the tour, visitors must enter an elevator that leads towards the top floor of the museum. Upon entrance to the elevator I was given an “Identification Card.” The pocket sized booklet that I now had told the story of a real life survivor of the Holocaust. His name was Walter Schnell. Born to a Jewish family, at the age of 33, in the year 1937, he was removed from his home in Breslau, Germany, by Nazi troopers. The story of the religious persecution he lived through, the torture he endured, and the tyrannical government that caused it, would now unfold before me and the rest of the LEAP Ambassadors as we moved through the exhibits.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, National Holocaust Museum

The initial exhibits showed the rise of the Nazi regime. One section of the exhibit displayed dozens of piled up books. This was to demonstrate how the Nazi government initiated a campaign of burning “un-German” literature. This campaign was so disastrous that in one evening in Berlin, over 25,000 books where burned in the public square. But as we continued to view more exhibits, we learned that the atrocities committed by this regime spanned farther and graver.

Over the course of Hitler’s murderous rule, two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population were killed in concentrations camps, Nazi-organized Jewish ghettos, and death camps. One of the methods by which Nazi officers would achieve this massive extermination was by trapping men, women, and children in sealed chambers and dousing them with lethal gas. This death was painful, and every display in the museum conveyed this sense of pain and injustice that spoiled major parts of the 20th century. The most poignant display exhibited hundreds of shoes that were recovered from the Majdanek concentration camp and now laid throughout the floor. Inscribed in the room’s wall was the writing of Yiddish poet, Moses Schulstein, that read:

We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers
From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam,
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, National Holocaust Museum

With a knot in my stomach, I followed the rest of the group towards the last of the museum’s exhibits.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Washington DC, National Holocaust Museum

American Art Museum/Union Station

By Karla Rosales

Before having dinner, we decided to make a short stop by the Smithsonian American Art Museum where we saw artists familiar and new. We began with a Portrait Gallery of the United States Presidents. LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum

As we moved through the museum, we found art by Jesus Moroles…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Jesus Moroles

…whom we knew well from his art in Huntsville (largely obtained through Linda Pease’s hard work).  We also saw work by SHSU Alum James Surls….

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, James Surls

We were in a hurry, but Professor Yawn took us on a lightning tour of specific pieces, such as a sculpture of Sam Houston…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum

…and a 3D printed sculpture of Maya Lin…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Maya Lin

…a piece by Austin artist Elizabet Ney of Lady MacBeth, one so beautiful it prompted Brian to propose…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Elizabet Ney

One of the fun things about such a trip is the ability to make connections with our other trips.  Most of the artists (or artists’ subjects) above we first learned about through our travels or studies with the LEAP Center (e.g., Elizabet Ney, James Surls, Jesus Moroles, Maya Lin, Gilbert Stuart), and we were amazed at how often things we had previously encountered popped up again.  We saw a Deborah Butterfield horse, which we’ve seen in numerous locations (Lubbock and Denver, for example)…

 

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Deborah Butterfield

…and Thomas Hart Benton….

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Thomas Hart Benton

…and Albert Bierstadt….LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum

…Luis Jimenez…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luis Jimenez

…and Roy Lichtenstein…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Roy Lichtenstein

And we had a chance to enjoy all of this while listening to beautiful music!

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Smithsonian American Art Museum

____________________________________________

Even though we were exhausted and had walked more than 20 thousand steps, we decided to walk another mile to Union Station for dinner. On our way to dinner we walked by Chinatown which was an interesting area, but we didn’t get to explore it much as it was getting late and we had quite a walk ahead of us. When we finally arrived at Union Station we were all amazed by the beautiful structure of the building.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Union Station

It was nothing like what we expected! This time, Christina and Karla decided to go for burgers from Shake Shack while Kaitlyn and Brian were a little for adventurous and went for Mediterranean food. Overall, we all had a great day in D.C. filled with fun adventures and lots of learning.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Union Station

We were still about a mile from the hotel, and we were so tired that the youngsters decided to taxi it back to the hotel.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Union Station

It was a little embarrassing, because despite being much younger than Professor Yawn and Stephanie, they were not beset by our fatigue nor afflicted with our laziness, and they continued the day’s excursion on foot.

We are grateful for the opportunities provided for us and we are looking forward to a great week!

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Washington DC, Hirshorn Museum