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UPIKE students attend inauguration academic seminar

January 13, 2017 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
Students from the University of Pikeville descended upon Washington, D.C., this week for the start of The Washington Center’s Inauguration 2017 Academic Seminar. This year’s theme, Elevating Political Discourse, is particularly relevant given the contentious nature of the presidential campaign in 2016.

Students will take part in daily interactive programming including guest lectures, small group discussions and budget/policy simulations. Following programming, students will use the afternoons to meet in groups with faculty leaders, partake in site visits to leadership organizations and visit popular D.C. attractions.

“Seminar participants have an opportunity to witness the most important event in our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power,” TWC President Chris Norton said. “I think our conversations during this seminar will have a multiplier effect on participants, who will continue this discourse at their institutions, in their careers and in their communities.”

More than 340 students from dozens of colleges and universities are expected to attend the two-week seminar. Since 1985, thousands of students have attended the Inauguration seminar. To date, it remains the only national academic program of its kind and size.

UPIKE students have participated in The Washington Center seminars since 2000. Nancy Cade, Ph.D., chair of the division of social sciences and Davenport distinguished professor of history and political science, has served as a faculty advisor and mentor for the organization since 2004, including two national political conventions, four presidential inaugurations and more than 20 seminars. Honored by The Washington Center in 2007 as a “Faculty Leader of the Year,” she is the campus liaison for the program and a member of The Washington Center’s Academic Seminars Advisory Council.

To learn more about The Washington Center and the inauguration academic seminar visit

About The Washington Center
The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States and other countries by providing selected students challenging opportunities to work and learn in Washington, D.C., for academic credit. The largest program of its kind, The Washington Center has more than 50,000 alumni who have become leaders in numerous professions and nations around the world. It was established in 1975.

Pictured in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial, front row, from left, Haley Damron of Pikeville, Stephenie Lance of Alma, Mich., McKenzie Gibson of Neon, Dalton Hatfield of McAndrews, Cade, Luke Hartlage of Louisville, Ethan Tackett of Louisa, and Thomas Francis of Pikeville. Second row, from left, Ian Atkins of Pikeville, Kyle Newsome of Pikeville, Devon Sgubin of Takanini, New Zealand, and Buddy Forbes of Pikeville. 



Our experience in our nation’s capital has been something to remember for a lifetime. Memories have come in a plethora. From the time we stepped off the train into the concrete jungle that is Washington, DC, we knew the trip would be something special. Little did we know, we were going to learn about the operations of our government in ways that we will apply to our careers for the rest of our lives.

While we expected to learn quite a bit, we may have underestimated the rigor of the program. We started each day hearing from highly qualified and experienced speakers on several issues ranging from race relations, to foreign policy, to budget balancing. In the afternoons, we visited several sites such as think tanks and an embassy to learn how what we were learning is actually applied.

For example, we visited the American Enterprise Institute, where we listened to Claude Barfield. Barfield is an expert on cyber security, a relatively new issue regarding American defense. Few of us are well versed in this field, and the expert explained the issue well. Barfield discussed each of America’s main threats when it comes to cyber security (mainly China, Russia, and North Korea). Cyber security has been in the news a lot just recently with Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Convention.

Another site visit that stands out to us was the visit to the Australian Embassy. On the news, relations with conflicting nations frequent the airtime. Learning how Australia and the United States trades was a particularly interesting angle. However, Australia also helps our military in conflicts in the Middle East. It was neat to examine the relationship of two strong allies, which was a perspective that we did not have before the trip.

To cap the academic seminar was a hands-on exercise with the Concord Coalition that shed light on the difficulties of balancing a budget. They gave us a list of bite-sized pieces of the budget, and divided us into small groups to decide whether or not each decision was a good use of federal funds. We were able to make these decisions without fear of political backlash to see what really could be done to begin chipping away at the national debt.

The Washington Center has provided us with a unique opportunity to learn how business is conducted in our nation’s capital. With the inauguration of our 45th president, the future of America is bright as TWC seminar students begin to operate our government’s institutions.
The Inauguration, the White House, and the State of the Union address are synonymous with the office of the President of the United States. The role of the Commander-in-Chief is highly respected, but also misunderstood. The glamour and power surrounding the office of the President often creates a misconception of the president’s role in American government.

He is the “leader of the free world,” but he is subject to checks and balances, limitations, and even oversight. Over the course of American history, the public has developed an illusion of the presidency, mystifying it and accrediting the President with more duties and powers than he possesses.

Only a couple of days of into The Washington Center’s 2017 Inauguration seminar, my understanding of the role of the American presidency has already been altered through daily readings, site visits, and seminars that include political science and American government academics and experts.

It’s an exciting time to be in our nation’s capital. There is a great deal of buzz surrounding the incoming President; preparations for the Inauguration are well underway at the Capitol; and chatter regarding President-elect Trump’s policies, Cabinet picks, and plans for America fill the air. Parts of the country are hopeful after the results of the Nov. 8 election, while other places remain disheartened and on edge over what might be in store over the next four years.

Being from the mountains of eastern Kentucky, I have witnessed resounding support for Donald Trump. People are excited, not only about the prospects for jobs that will put food on our tables, but also because they again feel part of the electoral process and believe they have someone in the White House who is acknowledging their problems. After only a couple of days attending TWC Inauguration seminar I’ve learned that the reality of the situation is that President-elect Trump can only do so much because his powers are limited.

I’ve bought in on promises made by certain presidential candidates. I’ve believed that a single person can enact sweeping change across the country. I’ve also felt that certain candidates might endanger the safety of the nation. Over time I’ve learned that much of what I had previously perceived was not the case; and in only a couple days at TWC’s Inauguration seminar, my realizations have been affirmed. President-elect Trump might accomplish some of the policies he has campaigned for the last year and a half, but no president can wave a magic wand and enact wholesale change. Moreover, no president can solely repeal every piece of legislation that has been enacted into law under previous presidential administrations.

Representative democracy is a beautiful system, but it’s also messy. We citizens often wonder why the president doesn’t follow through with promises made on the campaign trail. The working relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill is complex. Additionally, outside forces such as nongovernmental organizations, political action committees and the American electorate can alter the President’s positions through pressure, activism and advocacy. The role of the President of the United States is powerful, highly respected and compelling; but it’s also multifaceted.

Thus far my experience through TWC has taught me that there is much more to the president’s powers than meets, which leaves me with two final thoughts. First, to Trump supporters: the President-elect has promised many things, but don’t be appalled if he doesn’t follow through with all of them. The president is only capable of doing so much.

Secondly, to Clinton supporters: Your candidate didn’t win and you’re disappointed, but the president can only do so much, be it good or bad. He is limited not only by Congress, but also by political activists and concerned Americans.

The beautiful thing about democracy is that we have voices no matter what side of the aisle we’re on.
Growing up we were told to always follow our dreams, but who would have ever thought that our dreams would have led us to Washington D.C.? The last week has been full of new experiences, from riding the metro for the first time to exploring the Australian embassy. We have met so many culturally and politically diverse individuals, which have sparked some pretty interesting conversations.

A typical day at the Washington Center begins with morning seminar. Speakers such as Ed O’Keefe, a reporter from the Washington Post, and Steve Scully, an editor and producer from C-SPAN, have told us about their political views and opinions on the upcoming administration change. During these morning seminars, we have been exposed to different political opinions that you do not hear discussed in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, allowing us to broaden our perspectives on issues concerning the current state of our country.

After the morning guest speakers, we have a small group discussion and a site visit. The small group session includes all 11 UPIKE students attending the seminar and Dr. Nancy Cade. Here we discuss our different outtakes from our speakers that morning, even if we do not necessarily agree with what each other has to say. It provides us with a manner in which to engage in civil discourse, the theme of this year’s seminar. Our afternoons are filled with site visits to different locations. So far, we have had a bus tour of the national monuments, been to the American Enterprise Institution to discuss cybersecurity, the Australian Embassy, the Holocaust Museum, the Capitol building, and spoke with a member of the Atlantic Council regarding Russian relations. The opportunity to visit these government associations and the knowledge we have attained is something we will utilize in the remainder of our time here at UPIKE and throughout our various careers.

The great thing about our time in D.C. is that not everything about the seminar experience has been serious. We have found time to do so much extra stuff while we have been here! Every evening, we have eaten foods from different ethnicities. So far, we have had everything from Thai to Mediterranean. We have gone to many museums, like the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the Spy Museum, and visited the infamous Trump Hotel. One of our favorite buildings was the National Archives, where we saw the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in person. There is an indescribable feeling of being in the presence of the actual Constitution, or as we said when we walked in the door, it’s like walking into “National Treasure” with Nicholas Cage. In addition to all this touring, we have met so many people from various areas of the country. If you ever come to D.C., you will quickly learn no one here is from D.C. Therefore, everyone you meet is different and has a different story. This is the kind of diversity you do not get to experience in Eastern Kentucky and one reason we are so glad we came.

The end of this week has so much more for us to experience and will conclude with us attending the 58th Presidential Inauguration. This has been the experience of a lifetime and we are so honored to have the chance to witness history in the making. Anyone who has the opportunity to attend a Washington Center seminar through the University of Pikeville should really consider it because this trip has been such a rewarding adventure for us all. Thank you, Dr. Cade, and the rest of the UPIKE faculty that made this trip possible!
A group of students from the University of Pikeville made its way to the busy city of D.C. last week, taking part in a seminar unlike any other. The Washington Center’s 2017 Presidential Inauguration Seminar gave the Bears a chance to step outside of their comfort zones and get a behind-the-scenes look at what makes the United States tick.

UPIKE junior, Devon Sgubin, international student from Auckland, New Zealand, is having quite a unique experience. Devon’s favorite part of the program? Just how intense it actually is.

“It’s not a two week holiday in D.C. It’s a crash course in what really goes on in the United States Capital. As a foreigner, living in America, my knowledge of the political system and government was limited. Yet, these two weeks in Washington, D.C., have taught me far more about these subjects than I have learned in my entire life,” said Sgubin.

The topics of discussion are only half of the intrigue of the seminar. It all comes down to the people, and the places, you get to see.

“This seminar through The Washington Center has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. They have really done a great job at including so many great speakers involved in politics and site visits all around D.C.,” said Sgubin.

“The setting is what makes this experience even more unforgettable. To walk under the marble dome of Capitol building was definitely a highlight of my two weeks. Just getting to visit places where historic events of great importance have taken place is something that not everybody gets to see, and is something I will not take for granted,” he added.

Sgubin wasn’t the only one who was overwhelmed. Buddy Forbes, senior communication major at UPIKE, had an experience which mirrored that of his peers.

“Being in D.C. is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Though I’d never been concerned with politics on a grand scale, I have always been interested in news and reporting. Something I picked up on during my time in D.C. is that it’s all intertwined,” said Forbes.

The COM major noticed a connection between his career path and the political field.

“During our morning seminars at The Washington Center, it was extremely common to hear a speaker’s bio and find that they have connections to a news organization or have worked in the media. As a journalist looking to grow in the field, it has been almost overwhelming to hear about the job from the professionals working on the hill – and I’m not talking about UPIKE,” Forbes said.

From the seminar to the streets, Forbes found D.C. to unlike anything else.

“It was pointed out by our faculty advisor Dr. Nancy Cade, chair of the division of social sciences at University of Pikeville, that we were in the safest place to be at the most dangerous time to be there. You could certainly feel that when you hit the streets from some evening exploring. The constant awe of new was quickly met with the apprehension of knowing that anything can happen,” Forbes said.

While the rest of the group will leave after the inauguration, Sgubin will stay behind for the semester, taking full advantage of the internship at TWC. Looking back on their time in D.C., each student will be taking away something different. However, the students all agree that it’s an experience they will never forget and encourage others to look into the opportunities provided by TWC.

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