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.

 

Exploring Greater Boston

We wanted our last full day in New England to be memorable, so we made sure we had a memorable day!

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The memories began with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  The Museum was established by, you guessed it, Isabella Stewart Gardner, who was an art collector throughout her life.  Her generous endowment came with an odd requirement: the art could never be changed.

As such, the Museum looks much like it has since 1903, when it was established.  The building was designed by Willard Sears, who crafted it to look like a 15th Century Venetian Palace.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner

The art in the Museum consists of works collected by Gardner during her lifetime (1840-1924).  They are hung salon style, with separate gallery guides for each wall.  Given that the Museum is fairly crowded (at least it was on this Saturday), and that each room contains copious art works, it can be time consuming to ascertain the creator of each art work.

The rooms are beautiful.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner

And the art is rich, with pieces by artists as diverse as William James, the famous psychologist who painted his brother, writer Henry James…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Henry James

…and Rembrandt…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner

…Rubens…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner

…Titian…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner

…and John Singer Sargent.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner

The Museum was the victim of a 1990 robbery, when 13 paintings were stolen by thieves whose identities are still unknown.  The paintings were never recovered.  Amazingly, the Museum did not have insurance, which seems incomprehensible.  Interestingly, even if it had insurance, it wouldn’t have been able to replace the works with other works–because of Gardner’s legal insistence that the collection never be changed.  So, currently, the Museum simply hangs the empty frames where the 13 masterpieces used to be.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner

While these frames are a reminder of the world’s most costly burglary, the remainder of the collection evokes the beauty of the still extant works.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner

Harvard University Visit – Victoria McClendon-Leggett

Harvard University was founded in 1636 and has a track record of producing notable attorneys, judges, congressmen, and boasts having contributed to the education of a total of 8 presidents. It is for this reason that the political science students among us were particularly excited to see the campus.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Harvard University

We hopped out of the van with our cameras and were immediately drawn to the buildings lining Harvard Square, which is the most historic location in Cambridge. We found Massachusetts Hall (the oldest building on campus, built in 1720) and the main library before ducking into a small café that faced the square for a reprieve from the blustery winds that made it feel several degrees colder than it actually was. When we got our bearings, we set off across campus with the goal of seeing their law school – one of the most famous in the world. At many universities, the law school is confined to one single building, at Harvard however, it is comprised of several. We were only able to get into the foyer of the law school library to have a look around.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Harvard University

We had done some light research beforehand and read that the views of Cambridge from the terrace on the science building was the best on campus. This proved to be quite true. We stood high up in the gusty wind to capture a few pictures of the area. The only downside to our visit was that because Harvard is such a heavily visited tourist area, many of the buildings were inaccessible without a student I.D. This did not deter us from taking in the atmosphere on campus, though. We were able to see Annenberg Hall, which was one of the prettiest buildings we came across while in Cambridge and is apparently where freshmen students eat their meals.

While on campus, we saw two black sculptures by artists we were already familiar with, one by Alexander Calder…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Harvard University

…and another by Louise Nevelson.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Harvard University

We left the Harvard Square and explored the streets around it, discovering a trompe l’oeil mural done by Joshua Winer that strongly reminded us of some of the works we’ve seen on this trip by muralist Richard Haas.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Harvard University

After a brief respite in the gift shop, we hopped in the van and had a one more stop before our day was over.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Harvard University

 

Snow Tubing at Nashoba – Makayla Mason

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, our excitement grew when we saw the sun shining on the shimmering slopes of Nashoba Valley Ski Area. We put on our tags, grabbed a tube, and ran to the magic carpet, a conveyer belt that took us to the top. For most of us it was our first time participating in a snow-filled activity, so the anticipation grew even more as we waited our turn.

There were many different lanes that we could choose from, but we leaned more towards the ones that curved and had more potential to send us airborne.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Ski Ward, Snow Tubing

We went down as many times as we could, and would sometimes go down in groups of two, three, or all four, holding on to each other’s feet to stay connected.

The most exciting was going backwards as a group and hitting bumps that sent us soaring a few times on the way down!

As the sun started to set, we sadly made our way off the slopes. We all had windburned faces and were full of bliss from the new experiences and fun we had.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Ski Ward, Snow Tubing

The rapidly setting sun signified the inevitable longing that we were sure to feel from the first day, that our trip in the Northeast was concluding–except for one more stop.

Walden Pond

As we were driving back to the hotel, we realized that we were only a few miles from the famous Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau went to live for two years.  His time there inspired his “Walden: Or, a Life in the Woods,” a classic of American literature.

Today, it is part of a state park, which contains a model of his cabin and a statue of Thoreau….

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau

…as well as the Pond.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau

The Pond was partially frozen over, and it–along with the sunset–added to the location’s beauty.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau

Following Walden Pond, we stopped by the town of Concord, MA for dinner.  Intriguingly, this is also where many famous authors are buried–writers such as Thoreau…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau

…Emerson…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Walden Pond, Ralph Waldo Emerson

…Louisa May Alcott…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Louisa May Alcott

…and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Incongruently, this area, so rich with the presence of 19th century authors, is also the general area where Walter Gropius and his wife decided to build.  The “Gropius House” is a Bauhaus oddity, built with traditional materials while combining a bit of modern and post-modern stylistics.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Boston, Walter Gropius, Gropius House

While somewhat out of character with our day’s explorations, it fit with the overall eclecticism of the trip.