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MLA Prepares Lobbyist to Teach Political Science

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Lobbyist Whitney Whitmire Jenkins, daughter of long-time Texas Senator John Whitmire, earned her 2013 Master in Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in political science with a professional goal—to qualify the former elementary school teacher to teach political science at the community college level.  But she also wanted to further her education and deepen her knowledge about political science.

“If I decide to return to teaching, I want to be part of making political science interesting and relevant to people,” Jenkins said. “How we govern ourselves and get things done in our society is fascinating to me. And I want to show people why it matters to them…why voting matters. It’s about the condition of our neighborhood streets, the quality and accessibility of schools for our children. I want to encourage awareness and involvement.”

Deciding that UST’s MLA program was the right bridge to another professional choice was not hard.

“I had obtained my teaching certification at UST, so I already knew the professors were high quality, the campus was beautiful and the class sizes were just right,” Jenkins said.

But what ultimately won her vote was the flexibility of the MLA Program at UST.

“It’s a broader program, and it allowed me to concentrate in political science without having to spend considerable time in statistics courses. Statistics don’t hold a lot of interest for me,” Jenkins said. “Instead, I got to focus more on how current events can drive what’s happening and are indicators of what’s going on with people behind the scenes.”

One class in particular involved a two-week study abroad trip to China. Jenkins described the experience as amazing.

“On top of learning about their form of communism and that it actually blends with China’s free economy, we visited universities and met with students,” Jenkins said. “I now understand and appreciate our opportunities and freedoms even more, because we can openly discuss our differences in this country, but they cannot do that over there.”

Since MLA instruction is rigorous and Jenkins maintained her full time work as a lobbyist, she maximized her course load to no more than two classes per semester and scheduled most of them in the evenings. At one point, she even managed to plan her wedding into the work-study mix.

“The MLA Program caters to people who work,” she explained. “When my final semester had to be spent in Austin because the legislature was in session, I was able to fulfill my last three hours by researching and writing an independent study paper on the history of political parties in Texas.”

For the time being, she has no intention of seeking political office like her dad, but believes she can make a difference by generating awareness and involvement from the front of a classroom. 

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