Arkansas PSA: Little Rock and Monticello

The first two days of exploring Little Rock were filled with adventure and knowledge. However, our adventures were not yet complete. Even after a fully loaded two days in the state, we continued on to the Arkansas Political Science Association Conference in Monticello, setting out at about 6am to make the 1.5 hour trip.

At the conference our very own Professor Yawn served as a discussant for the Undergraduate Research on Public Policy panel and later presented his own research. We were also excited to be there to support our fellow LEAP Ambassador Megan Chapa, who would later present her research paper on “Maquiladoras, NAFTA and their Consequences.” Upon our arrival we were graciously welcomed by Dr. Strong and the staff of the University of Arkansas at Monticello, then made our way quickly to the room where Professor Yawn’s panel discussion would be. The panel room was a cozy fit, much like any classroom you would find on campus at Sam Houston.  This made the presentations of the research  engaging and a personal. Subjects of the research ranged from the cyber security in the United States by Shannon Abbott…


…to the study of multi-lateral agreements by Nicolaas Harrington…


…to the development of Spanish democracy by Sarah Phillips…


to the study of game theory by William O’Brachta…


…to an examination of indigenous autonomy by Emily Mendiola…


Watching other students in the political science field present research encouraged and energized the students of LEAP to one-day present research at future conferences nationwide.

After sitting in on an undergraduate discussion panel on public policy, chaired by Professor Yawn, we waited for Megan to present her research on the impact of NAFTA on the social and economic status of Mexican “maquiladora” laborers. As part of an American Politics panel, Megan presented research alongside four other passionate undergraduate students.

The panel was chaired by Karen Sebold, a professor of public policy at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, whose responsibility during the session was to direct the presentation of everyone’s research papers and lead the discussion in regards to the papers after the presentation of every student.

The session began with a presentation on the Tea Party’s influence on the current Republican Party. With a most timely topic in regards to our political atmosphere, Tyler Harrison of the University of Arkansas at Monticello offered an in depth analysis of the Tea Party’s freedomworks rating system.


Followed thereafter Robert Fletcher, also a University of Arkansas at Monticello undergraduate student, presented his paper on the benefits of promoting bicycle friendly road policy that could stimulate the economic and social prosperity of a small community’s transportation system.


As the third student to present, Jolyon Larson of Hendrix University provided his thesis on the best way for waste plants to cut down on harmful emissions.


Lastly, Leslie Beard of the University of Arkansas at Monticello expressed her fears regarding our nation’s political structure in her paper “Who’s really in control at the top.”


With Megan as the fourth presenter in the panel, we attentively clung to every word of her research on Mexican social issues presented by NAFTA. She focused on the exploitation and harassment of women maquiladora workers, the environmental violations of these industries, and the widespread human trafficking encouraged by these multinational agreements.


It was clear that her, and all the other panelists, were passionate about public policy and a more successful government structure. The conducted research in each presentation was further example of what passion for a noble cause can yield.

We also got feedback from Megan, who presented at her first conference:

I was nervous, but nonetheless confident and excited to represent SHSU and the LEAP Center at the conference. Before our panel began, our discussant informed us that another student had joined our Undergraduate Research Panel and that our presentation time would be cut short by about 5 minutes. I was more nervous about going over my allotted time because I had prepared my presentation to be 15 minutes. I was scurrying through my paper trying to take out 5 minutes of information that wouldn’t take too much away from my research. What I enjoyed most was the constructive criticism I received from my discussant, Dr. Sebold of University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. She was helpful in providing suggestions that will improve the research I am working on. I am thankful for the opportunity to expand my horizons outside of home (Texas) and meet students who are striving to make a difference in the political arena.” -Megan Chapa

We all agreed that this chance to support our fellow LEAP ambassador’s passionate delivery was worth the limited sleep.

The ArkPSA topped off the conference with a lunch and presentation by John Kyle Day, who presented his work on Civil Rights in Arkansas, particularizing on the Southern Manifesto.


It was interesting research and, although we didn’t know it at the time, we would hear echoes of his research the next day, when we visited the Little Rock Central High Museum (see tomorrow’s blog!).

Following the conference in Monticello, we drove back to Little Rock to do some shopping before our adventurous Segway tour. We took the opportunity to explore some of the quaint shops near the River Market and downtown area.


Visiting the local shops, we wandered through shops such as The Freckled Frog, Discovery Museum Gift Shop, and 4Square Café and Gifts. We enjoyed browsing through the shops, but eventually ended up at one of our favorite places, the River Market!


The group refueled with a small snack before heading off to our Segway tour of Little Rock!

We were excited to continue touring more of downtown Little Rock, but this time we were on a Segway! Most of the group have had some experience with riding segways – actually, all except me (Bella Abril), and the others were quick to get with the program…


As clumsy as I am even with just walking, however, I was a bit hesitant on trying it out at first. I was scared I would embarrass myself by falling on my face. However, our Turkish tour guide, Nez Erkman, trained us in such a detailed manner with much emphasis on safety that I found myself easing up. Plus, seeing everybody ride it so calmly gave me confidence that maybe I could do the same. Thankfully, I did! The first step was the scariest part, but the rest was exhilarating. Throughout the tour, we were able to segway through The Clinton Bridge…


…which held a nice view of the sunset…


The Clinton Presidential Library…


and Heifer International. Also, we passed through the Riverfront Park, where we were able to take pictures on the rock that Little Rock derives its name from…


as well as observe interesting historic markers and creative sculptures. From a total newbie segwayer to part of the veteran segwayers of LEAP, the tour definitely deepened both my interest in Arkansan culture and the graceful art of segwaying.

The segway tour not only fueled our desire to learn about Little rock, but also fueled our appetites!  We walked a couple of blocks to get to the well-known Sonny Williams’ Steak Room. We started with a turtle soup and a wild game sausage and cheese plate as appetizers. The wild game sausage and cheese plate consisted of rabbit, elk, and boar sausage. Some of us were particularly hesitant to try the turtle soup and rabbit sausage because it was something completely new for most of us, but we chose to go with our adventurous side and taste each appetizer. For our entrees we all chose a type of steak. We ordered a 12 oz. Filet to a Bone-in Cowboy Ribeye and a New York Strip. As soon as we each took the first bite of our steaks, we all agreed that these were the best steaks we have ever tried. It was clear to us why Sonny Williams is so well known for its steaks. After being extremely satisfied with both the appetizers and the entrees, we tried a couple of deserts. The Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce and the Chocolate Orange Cake were rich enough, but also light enough to kept our satisfaction rating high.

On our way back to the car, we squeezed in a bit more adventure by taking a short detour to an old telephone booth that is now used as a community book exchange. Professor Yawn challenged us to see if we could all fit in the telephone booth, and of course we accepted his challenge.


It was a tight squeeze, especially right after our filling dinner, but we all fit (more or less)!


And, after a bit of a detour to walk off some of dinner…


…called it a night and made our way back to the hotel for a much-needed night of rest.


LEAP Center Midwestern Tour (Day 7): Crystal Bridges

The last day of our Midwestern Tour arrived, and we were able to visit the beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The beautiful museum was designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, and the funds for the museum were provided by Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress. Although open for fewer than ten years, the Museum is one of the most ten visited museum in the United States—despite being location off a major highway, and hours from a major airport.

But it is worth the effort to get there. The Museum grounds are beautiful…

Girls_Museum_Grounds..and the art was amazing.

Among the favorites were political works, such as Charles Wilson Peale’s famous portrait of George Washington…


..and a piece by an artist who is becoming a favorite of ours, Georgia O’Keefe:

Radiator Building, O'Keefe
Radiator Building, O’Keefe

Not only is there no entrance fee to the Museum, but the Museum offers free audio guides, which highlight hundreds of works of art, providing background and instruction for those of us who are not already art connoisseurs.  In the piece above, for example, we were able to see connections in the white crown of the Radiator Building with many of O’Keefe’s work focusing on the southwest, particularly animal skulls, which take on a similar color and shape.

Similarly, in Thomas Hart Benton’s work, “Plowing it Under”


We learned how Benton used similar contour lines depict the sky, human/animal life, and the ground to make a connection between life and its environment, a connection hat would have been particularly salient in the 1930s in the midwest.

The Museum also allowed us the opportunity to engage in some “performance art”…


…and pose next to (and in) Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” sculpture.


It was sad as we ended the trip, with a final look at the Museum…

Crystal Bridge Art Museum
Crystal Bridge Art Museum

The end of the trip, however, also offered a time of reflection on what we learned and experienced.  Accordingly, we voted on our favorites, with the following results:

In general, our favorite cities were (1) Madison, WI, (2) Kansas City, and (3) a tie among Chicago, Bentonville, Little Rock, and Spring Green.  Madison was the big surprise, impressing us all with its beauty and many shops and amenites.


Identifying our favorite sites was more difficult.  The Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park was a favorite…

Millennium Park
Millennium Park

…as was the Art Institute of Chicago


…with Talieisin, the World War I Museum, and Union Station receiving votes.

Union Station, KC
Union Station, KC

The many art museums allowed us to develop an appreciation for art in general and specific artists.  Our group favorite was Georgia O’Keefe…

Cow Skull, O'Keefe
Cow Skull, O’Keefe

But we also enjoyed seeing original art works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Rockwell, Rembrandt, and Rodin.  A favorite of ours was the work of Dale Chihuly, who kept popping up in all sorts of places.

Chihuly Exhibit, Clinton Library
Chihuly Exhibit, Clinton Library

One of our favorite parts of the trip was the food.  The one restaurant everyone included on their favorite list was Grunauer, an Austrian restaurant in Kansas City.

Sausage Sampler, Grunauers
Sausage Sampler, Grunauer

Other favorites included DLUX in Madison, and Sonny Williams Steakhouse in Little Rock, AR.

So it was with expanded tummies and horizons that we returned to Texas, ready to return to school work and looking forward to the next LEAP Center trip.DSC_1306