Political science

Students find valuable internship experience in Washington, D.C.

Drury University’s partnership with a Washington, D.C., organization has been giving students the chance to complete high-profile internships for decades.

The Washington Center allows undergrads to live in the nation’s capital, gain professional work experience and receive class credit to stay on track for graduation. Drury has been working with The Washington Center for about 30 years and typically sends three or four students a year.

Dr. Dan Ponder, professor of political science and Drury liaison for The Washington Center, encourages all majors to consider this program.

“Students coming from a liberal arts school like Drury have great critical thinking skills, the ability to adapt, and are sensitive to the world outside their major,” Ponder says. “That serves them well for their internship. Whether you’re in theater, business, communications, political science, etc., you will be matched at an internship site that works for you and you’ll get an invaluable experience from working in a city like D.C.”

In the past, students have interned with lobbying firms, finance companies, the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, nonprofits in the area, and more. Others have worked directly with members of Congress.

Students interested in The Washington Center submit an application, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and receive approval from the university’s program liaison. Students also submit an interest form to the Center, which is used to match them with potential internship sites in D.C. During the fall and spring semesters, students pay Drury tuition, housing costs, and an administrative fee, but all scholarships and loans still apply. Students room with other undergrads at the Center who come from colleges across the country.

Mai Baldwin, a senior international political studies and French major, spent Spring 2014 at the Washington Center and interned with the Wilson Center. She extended her D.C. stay and interned at the Aspen Institute over the summer.

Mai Baldwin

Mai Baldwin

During the spring, Baldwin was enrolled in 12 upper division hours through Drury. She also attended academic and leadership seminars during her stay.

Baldwin, who hopes to attend law school after graduation, focused on students’ access to higher education during her time at the Center. She even brought back a workshop to Drury that helps students study for the LSAT free of charge, a concept modeled off a nonprofit in D.C.

“After the spring, I ended up with a summer job offer because of my work during the semester,” Baldwin says. “It really shows that if you’re diligent, put yourself out there and meet new people, opportunities will come. I had a lot of personal development from being outside of my comfort zone and it gave me a different perspective of the world.”


Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, English and Writing major at Drury.

Recent Drury grad completes White House internship

From Drury to Washington, D.C., Austin Seaborn is proving that with perseverance, the right attitude, and hard work, anything is possible. Seaborn, a 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s in German and International Political studies, has spent the last year pursuing a Master’s degree at Georgetown University while also interning at the White House, continuing the legacy of leadership that he left at Drury.

Georgetown has top-ranked programs in international affairs, and only about 20 people were accepted into Seaborn’s program at the BMW Center for German and European Studies.

“I knew it was competitive so I beefed up other areas of my resume — I had great internships, a lot of leadership positions and experiences, and studied abroad while I was at Drury,” Seaborn said. “One of my professors, Dr. John Taylor, got his Master’s and Ph.D. (at Georgetown), too, and he gave me a lot of encouragement.”


During his first semester in grad school, Seaborn applied to be an intern at the White House and found out this past December that he would be working in the Office of Legislative Affairs — the President’s liaison to Congress.

From January to May, he worked 50 hours a week and was a full-time student. He met and escorted members of Congress to events and meetings at the White House, monitored the Senate floor and counted votes, and helped manage and track correspondence from members of Congress to the President and other senior officials.

During his internship, Seaborn spoke with the President, First Lady, Vice President, and Chief of Staff. He even got the chance to play with the President’s two dogs, Sunny and Bo.

“I most enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside some of America’s best and brightest. Both the staff and my fellow interns are brilliant, hardworking people who wake up every morning and come to work hoping to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” Seaborn said. “It was great getting to meet so many members of Congress, and see what goes in to making a meeting or event happen at the White House was unforgettable.”

Seaborn’s internship and experiences reaffirmed his commitment to public service. He is excited at the possibility of starting a career that raises discussion about important issues and helps positively affect the people around him.

“I hope to use the skills I have learned and the experiences I have been so fortunate to have to help others who are going through a tough time and to inspire people to set lofty goals, work efficiently, be flexible to different opportunities, and to give back to people in need,” Seaborn said.

This summer, Seaborn will be working at the Georgetown Law Center and will start his last year of graduate school in the fall.


Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, and English and writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Seven political science students present original research

After almost a year of gathering data and developing a thesis, seven political science students recently presented their original research at the Midwest Political Science Research Conference at Park University in Parkville, Missouri.

All Drury students in the political sciences department complete a capstone course in the fall and create a research proposal of a topic of their interest. These seven students took their proposals a step further and actually gathered statistics and data to complete a study.

At the conference, students were divided into different panels based on their research topic. A discussant provided feedback on both their papers and presentation, and opened discussion for attending audience members.

Max Byers, a senior majoring in American Political Studies, presented “The Effect of Democratic Party Mobilization on Black Voter Turnout” and worked closely with his professors throughout the research process.

“Voter turnout is one of the most studied topics in political science, so I had to dig through a ton of information to determine what was meaningful and what was relevant,” Byers said. “It was eye-opening to see how much work goes into journal articles.”

Byers is currently an intern for Meryll Lynch and hopes to receive his MBA in the future and work as a financial analyst.

Lindsay Lehmen, a senior double majoring in Mathematics and Politics and Government, presented “Voting Isn’t Fair: The Underlying Voting Power Distribution of the United States’ Electoral College.” Lehmen’s research doubled as her senior-year Honors project.

Lehmen began her research in January 2013 after she studied the power index in her math senior seminar class. In the fall, she interned with the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and had the opportunity to do much of her research in the Library of Congress. She was still enrolled as a full time student at Drury and completed class work in D.C.

Lindsay Lehmen

Lindsay Lehmen

Seeing the presentations from a variety of students from other universities left Lehman with a strong sense of pride in the work she and her fellow classmates had done at Drury.

“It was clear that Drury has an incredible research requirement for their students,” Lehmen said. “All of our professors really pushed original thinking instead of piggybacking off of someone else’s research. The discussant was really impressed with my project and it was big confidence booster.”

Other student researchers and their topics included: Lexi Brewer, “How Internal Factors of States Influence International Diplomacy;” Kate Elam, “More than Material: Explaining Public Support for Environmental Protection in Western Democracies;” Garrett Hurd, “Contemporary Conservatism in America;” Dakoda Trithara, “South China Sea: A U.S. Foreign Policy Dilemma;” and Aaron Tucker, “Corporatism, Economic Equality, and Unionized Labor: An Empirical Survey.”

Lehmen attributes her and her classmates’ success at the conference to Drury’s small class size and the study-faculty interaction.

“Our professors really know our strengths and capabilities, sometimes better than we know them ourselves. We’re not just a number to them.” Lehmen said. “We have incredible faculty that care about our success and I’ve never felt like I was on my own. They were there every step of the way.”


Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, an English and writing major at Drury. A version of this story originally appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Former Intelligence Analyst Turned Activist To Speak at Drury March 31

Former CIA analyst and senior national security advisor Ray McGovern will speak at Drury University at 11 a.m. on Monday, March 31 in Lay Hall Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. McGovern’s speech is titled, “Edward Snowden: Patriot or Villain?” McGovern met with Snowden last fall in Russia, where Snowden has been granted temporary asylum.

Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst from the early 1960s through the administration of George H.W. Bush. During the 1980s, his duties included working on the classified National Intelligence Estimate document, and preparing the President’s Daily Brief for senior advisors to Ronald Reagan.

Following his service in the government, McGovern became a political activist protesting abuses of government power, especially the manipulation of intelligence data. In January 2003, he helped form Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to expose what its members called the falsification of intelligence to “justify” war on Iraq. More recently, McGovern has criticized the sweeping surveillance programs of the NSA, and U.S. policy regarding Syria and Ukraine.

The lecture is sponsored and paid for by a group of Springfield citizens who are organizing a speaking tour for McGovern throughout the Midwest, and is co-hosted by Drury’s Department of Political Science & Geography. Lay Hall is located on Benton Avenue, between Central and Calhoun Streets. Public parking is available along Benton and in Lot 6, across Benton just north of Central High School.

For more information about the lecture, contact: Jeffery A. VanDenBerg, chair, Political Science & Geography Department, at (417) 873-6947 or jvandenb@drury.edu.


Drury to commemorate Constitution Day with a discussion of voting rights

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 6, 2013 — On Tuesday, Sept. 17, Drury will commemorate Constitution Day with a brown bag lunch event where a panel of Drury faculty and community members will discuss “Voting Rights and Constitutional Protections.” The event is from noon-12:50 p.m. in the Hoblit Suite of Freeman Hall. Cake will be served.

“The right to vote and hold office is one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed to Americans,” said Dr. Ted Vaggals, Drury political science professor. “The Constitution was written to protect this right and to ensure that the voice of all Americans is heard through the election process. This protection guarantees us the same set of rights and maintains the equal value of these rights. On Constitution Day, we should take a moment to reflect on how we can broaden participation in the election process, ensuring the strength of our democratic institutions.”

Besides Vaggalis, who will moderate the discussion, the panel will include:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Paddock, political science professor
  • Dr. Dan Ponder, political science professor
  • Dr. Richard Schur, English professor
  • Matthew Patterson, Drury alumnus and executive director of the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition

Freeman Hall is located on the east side of the Drury campus at the corner of Summit and Webster Streets behind the Findlay Student Center.

Media Contact: Ted Vaggalis, Ph.D., Political Science Professor, Office: (417) 873-7379, Email: tvaggali@drury.edu


Drury graduate spends post-graduate years working and learning in Turkey

Missouri native Mark Twain once said, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Another Missouri native Brett Marler took that quote to heart. Except for a couple of summer internships in Washington D.C., Marler spent all of his life in Springfield where he attended Greenwood Laboratory School and Drury University. When he graduated from Drury in 2010, Marler wanted to stretch his wings, but a job in Kansas City or even New York wasn’t going to cut it. Marler went far afield to Turkey on a Fulbright English Teaching Grant.

2010 Drury graduate Brett Marler in Turkey

“I wanted to learn from being a foreigner in another culture,” Marler said. “Teaching English is a really accessible path for students wanting to go abroad. It doesn’t require a lot of previous experience and allows you to engage with the local culture.”

Marler quickly learned that in the Turkish culture it is impolite for a host to even remotely suggest that a guest has worn out his welcome, “I learned that you have to practically insist on leaving because a host will expect you to spend the night, just to be polite,” Marler said.

He enjoyed his time in Turkey so much, after a few months back in Springfield following his Fulbright experience, he went back to Turkey as part of a U.S. Embassy program to teach English in the divinity department of a Turkish University. After another few months back home, Marler went back for a third stint in Turkey, but this time at an English-language newspaper in Istanbul.

During his time in Turkey, Marler had very little formal education in Turkish, but he figured it out, “I learned when I got hungry or when I got bored. I learned the language by necessity,” Marler said.

He’s home for the summer again preparing for another trip, but this journey is just up I-44 to St. Louis where he’ll begin a master’s program in Islamic Studies in the fall at Washington University in St. Louis with a plan to eventually complete a Ph.D. and become a professor. “Istanbul is a safe city and is statistically safer than St. Louis. I’ll be more on the lookout in St. Louis than I was in Istanbul,” Marler said. “It’s incredible how welcome and safe I felt in that country. The only fear of kidnapping I felt was someone trying to get me to stay at their house and they’d over-feed me. It was great, in those three years in Turkey I really grew up.”


Story by Mark Miller, associate director of marketing and communications at Drury.

Drury professor to attend Council on Foreign Relations workshop

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., March 27, 2013 — Drury Political Science Professor Jeff VanDenBerg has been invited to attend the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Educator Workshop on April 11 and 12 in New York City.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “The purpose of the workshop is to convene post-secondary professors teaching in fields related to international affairs and foreign policy to participate in substantive briefings, including a Middle East update and regional and topical discussion groups; learn about the wide variety of CFR resources available for educators; provide feedback that will inform CFR’s work with the academic community; and discuss best practices for bringing international affairs into the classroom.”

Dr. Jeff VanDenBerg

“CFR is one of the premier organizations on foreign policy in the US, with members including diplomats, lawmakers, scholars and activists,” said VanDenBerg. “I look forward to the opportunity to engage with CFR scholars and educators from around the country on key international issues, and bringing these lessons back to the classroom at Drury. Global citizenship is one of the cornerstones of a Drury education, and this experience will enrich my ability to incorporate the most up-to-date approaches and information on international affairs with my students.”

Dr. VanDenBerg teaches courses in international relations, foreign policy, and Middle East politics. He is the coordinator of the Model United Nations Program and the Director of theMiddle East Studies program at Drury. Dr. VanDenBerg’s research interests focus on Arab politics and international relations in the Middle East. In 2012, he was a Fulbright Teaching Fellow at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The cost of attendance to the workshop, travel, meals and lodging is paid for by the Council on Foreign Relations.


Drury to host political panel discussion on Thursday, November 1

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Oct. 24, 2012 — Mere days before the Nov. 6 election, Drury will present a political panel discussion called Road to the White House 2012 Election Forum, on Thursday, Nov. 1, from 3-5 p.m. The event will be at the Drury Diversity Center located at the intersection of Drury Lane and Bob Barker Boulevard. This event is free and open to the public.

“This is going to be a close election, with an exciting finish,” said Dr. Ted Vaggalis, Drury political science professor and panel moderator. “President Obama and Governor Romney are debating important issues: the economy, education, foreign policy, and many personal issues, such as abortion, health care and Medicare. We hope our faculty experts can provide perspective on these issues as voters hone in on their preferred candidates.”

The panel is made up of a group of Drury professors who are prepared to discuss current events relevant to the presidential election. Panel members include: Political Science Professors Dr. Justin Leinaweaver, Dr. Dan Ponder, Dr. Jeff VanDenBerg, Economics Professor Dr. Steve Mullins and Dr. Vaggalis.

Senior political science majors will also discuss many of the notable state political contests that they have been tracking during this school year.

For more information about the event, please contact Dr. Ted Vaggalis at tvaggali@drury.edu.


Drury professor to work and study in Slovenia as Fulbright fellow

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 4, 2011 — Drury professor Dr. Jeff VanDenBerg has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to work in Slovenia in the spring of 2012.

As a current professor of political science and chair of Middle East studies, VanDenBerg will be teaching in the Department of Political Science housed in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana (pronouncer: lyoo-BLYAH-nah) for the spring semester of 2012.  In addition to teaching graduate and undergraduate courses, he will be furthering his teaching and research interests of Islam in Europe. This research will lead to a comparative study of the public policies of European Union countries toward their Muslim populations.

Dr. Jeff VanDenBerg

VanDenBerg is the third Drury professor to receive recognition as a Fulbright fellow for the 2011-2012 academic year.  He joins Dr. Erin Kenny, who will spend 10 months teaching in Tanzania, as well as Dr. Elizabeth Nichols who will be examining the beauty industry of Venezuela.

Sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program provides funding for scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research and university teaching. Through this program, more than 800 U.S. faculty and professionals taught or conducted research abroad during the 2009-2010 academic year.

Media Contact:
Dr. Jeff VanDenBerg
Director, Middle East Studies
Professor, Political Science
Office: (417) 873-6947
: jvandenb@drury.edu