My experience at the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute
This summer I had the honor of being nationally-selected as a participant in the American Political Science Association 31st Annual Ralph Bunche Summer Institute (RBSI)—a month-long graduate pipeline program targeted at underrepresented groups—hosted at Duke University in Durham, NC, under the leadership of Dr. Paula McClain, Professor and Dean of the Graduate School, and co-funded by the National Science Foundation. The month was full of new experiences, new people and, of course, new knowledge.
Upon arrival, I was not exactly sure what to expect; however, I quickly learned from Dr. McClain that the program would not be a walk in the park. I joined 14 other students selected from around the United States in taking two graduate-level courses, "Race and Politics" and "Statistics," taught by Dr. McClain and Dr. Scott de Marchi, with assistance from their graduate teaching assistants and writing tutors. These two courses were extremely challenging; yet, very informative.
Our main assignment was to write a 20-page empirical research paper. The purpose was for us to experience what is required in doctoral programs. I chose to examine Black community political views regarding LGBTQ issues and whether their "linked fate" translated into support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Unfortunately, I was not among the seven Ralph Bunche Scholars selected to go to San Francisco, CA, to present our research at the APSA Annual Meeting in August 2017. While I was not selected, the experience I had at Duke is one that was truly eye-opening for me because it gave me a real-life chance to experience graduate school.
My favorite part of the program was the College Recruitment Fair where we met professors, students, and advisors from top political science doctoral programs from all over the country. These people came to Duke with the hopes of recruiting us for their graduate programs. It was a unique and enriching networking opportunity. After the Fair, we current "Bunchies" were able to engage with previous Bunche Scholars who are at different stages of their careers at premiere institutions across the country. They gave us honest advice and perspectives on life in graduate school and in academia. It was knowledge that I didn't know I needed until after I received it. It was invaluable.
I'm so thankful for my political science professors, Dr. Sherri Wallace and Dr. Dewey Clayton, for encouraging me to apply to and attend this program. I must say that one of the best things about the RBSI experience was the great friendships made. I went to Duke nervous and uncertain about meeting students from other universities, and I left with confidence and valuable connections that will last a lifetime. We had fun exploring restaurants, shops and culture in the city of Durham as well as doing everyday things like studying together and debating controversial topics in our dormitory dining room. Each of us appreciated being in an environment that allowed us to discuss our political views with other students who were from similar demographic backgrounds. Being able to have these frank discussions was important to each of us because we do not always have the privilege of engaging in such classroom discussions at our own universities nor in our Political Science programs as a whole. This experience changed my perspective on the discipline and has me excited about attending graduate school to obtain my doctoral degree. As a political scientist, I will look forward to opportunities to collaborate on projects with my fellow Bunche Scholars, including Dr. Wallace, a fellow '88 RBSI Scholar!
Read the previous story about Erica Wheeler: A&S student awarded competitive political science scholarship