University of Mississippi students interested in political science-related careers had the opportunity to share pizza and eye-opening conversation with several distinguished visitors.
UM Chancellor Dan Jones, Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William L. Waller Jr., Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and lobbyist Austin Barbour were special guests for four informal sessions dubbed “Pizza and Politics.”
The events were hosted in the Department of Political Science by the Alpha Rho Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha national political science honor society. Organizers were Landon Kidd, chapter president, and Cy Rosenblatt, instructor and faculty adviser.
Soon after being appointed to lead the chapter, Kidd met with Richard Forgette, professor and chair of political science, to discuss programming ideas.
“Dr. Forgette thought it would be great to find a way to get students together with university and state leaders for an informal forum about public service careers,” said Kidd, a senior political science major from Pontotoc. “Political science majors often come to college with a ‘law school mentality,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we also wanted to give them a broader view of the many career options that are available.”
Describing the events, Kidd said Jones chose a dialogue format with the students to enlighten them about problems in health care, Hosemann discussed the role of the secretary of state and issues that he expects to be on the ballot in the upcoming election and Barbour talked about legislative advocacy and political campaigns. Justice Waller spoke about electing judges and whether justices should be affiliated with political parties, then visited a class and chose several students to mentor and follow their careers.
“All of the speakers were extremely interested in the students,” Rosenblatt said. “Justice Waller asked a student from the Delta if she had read the book ‘Rising Tide.’ She had not and he got her a copy. Another student expressed an interest in law, and he introduced him to a judge in his hometown.”
The sessions were favorably received by the students, including Khyshboo Patel, a senior political science major from Southaven.
“I found the forums to be very informative and enjoyable,” Patel said. “As a political science major, I always thought the guests had a lot to offer, and I always learned a lot from the sessions. Also, I was glad that there was some way to stay involved with my major. I think it was a really great idea.”
Lauding Kidd and Rosenblatt for the program’s success, Forgette said, “The lunches provided a format for some terrific conversations that allowed students to make connections between their coursework and their career choices. They even led to some internship opportunities and increased numbers in Pi Sigma Alpha.”
Kidd, who received his diploma at spring commencement, received the Pi Sigma Alpha Leadership Award and the Governor’s Award in Political Science, both recognizing his leadership and academic success in his major. At spring Honors Day Convocation, he was among 29 students in the College of Liberal Arts awarded Marcus Elvis Taylor Memorial Medals, the university’s highest academic award. A Luckyday Scholar, he is listed in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
Kidd , who entered law school at UM this fall, says he plans to stay in touch with Pi Sigma Alpha members and help engage other influential leaders to visit the chapter.