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This essay was produced by the Clinton Foundation and written by Clinton School alum Mara D’Amico. For more essays on public service, click here.
As millions around the world can attest, the legacy of President Clinton has been both far-reaching and profound. Like many millennials, I came to understand what leadership through public service looked like while President Clinton was in office, and was fortunate to be a child during a period of relative peace and prosperity while he was President. Although I couldn’t fully understand at the time, he was crafting policy and creating programs that would shape the course of my life. As a young person who served two terms as an AmeriCorps member, graduated from the Clinton School of Public Service, and was awarded a fellowship in Secretary Clinton’s name to continue her work supporting women’s rights around the globe, I can say with certainty that my life would be completely different without the influence of President Clinton. My classmates from the Clinton School and I are now part of his ever-growing legacy.
In 2011, I was serving as an AmeriCorps Public Ally in Miami, and was looking for a graduate program that would embody the philosophy of public service that I had come to value. During a conversation about graduate programs, a close friend suggested I look into the Clinton School, as it seemed to be a good fit for me. I wanted a program that was firmly grounded in community-based work. That paired academic rigor with real-world application. That cultivated a diverse and tight-knit group of classmates with a wide range of public service interest areas and proven leadership. That gave students the opportunity to do international fieldwork. That didn’t burden graduates with excessive levels of student loan debt. That gave access to some of the best thought leaders and public servants in the world. And that didn’t shy away from working to address the toughest social issues facing our world today. I found all of those things and more at the Clinton School of Public Service. Although it was hard to say goodbye to Miami, Florida, I knew that the Clinton School was the right fit for me.
The mission of the Clinton School is “to educate and prepare professionals in public service who understand, engage and transform complex social, cultural, 13 economic and political systems to ensure equity, challenge oppression and effect positive social change.” At the Clinton School, we learn theory and concepts in the classroom—ranging from program planning and evaluation to research methods to ethics of public service—and apply that knowledge through three major field service projects. The first is a team public service project called Practicum, in which students work to address a need in the state of Arkansas. The second is the International Public Service Project, in which students spend a minimum of ten weeks abroad working to solve problems or build the capacity of an organization or community. Finally, students complete a culminating Capstone project in their second year of the program, which can be completed anywhere in the world, from Little Rock to Lagos to Lima. For me, this was the main draw of the program—to be able to directly apply the concepts that I learned in the classroom.
I completed my Practicum project with Lewis-Burnett Employment Finders in Little Rock, working with a team of classmates to survey the Little Rock service community about their capacity to meet the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals, create a service directory specifically for that population, and write a white paper of analysis and recommendations for how the service community could be better organized to meet the needs of those individuals. For my International project, I travelled to Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, where I worked with a health clinic to create a curriculum of educational and support groups to start discussions in the communities there about topics related to violence against women. For my Capstone project, I worked with the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas to research and author a strategic plan for its Policy and Research Committee so it could be better positioned to create research and effect change for women and girls in Arkansas. These field service experiences gave me a more intimate look at the issues impacting the lives of people across the state of Arkansas and around the world. I gained new skills, learned a great deal, and made real contributions to the organizations where I worked. All of these experiences taught me skills and knowledge that I continue to apply on a regular basis.
Students at the Clinton School have numerous opportunities to be involved in a variety of academic and leadership pursuits. We can listen to countless speakers at the renowned public program series, learning from leaders like Al Gore, Buzz Aldrin and Rachel Maddow. Because the Clinton School is located on the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Center, we also have the chance to become engaged in the vibrant community that Little Rock offers. I enjoyed taking full advantage of my time there, getting to know the Natural State through the Hope Watermelon Festival, trips with classmates to the Buffalo River and Pinnacle Mountain, and finding the best pie from Helena to Hot Springs, and from Eureka Springs to El Dorado. I also found some truly incredible friends in my classmates. I learned more than I could have imagined from classmates who were working to address climate change through training women to install solar panels, others who were focused on improving health through walkability, and still more who worked with women seeking refuge from the conflict in Syria. At the Clinton School, you are surrounded by true public servants who are passionate about and committed to cultivating positive social change. I look forward to seeing the collective impact my classmates will have over the course of our lives.
Upon graduation from the Clinton School in May 2014, I was named the Hillary Rodham Clinton Communications Fellow for the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security in Washington, D.C. My time and experiences at the Clinton School directly prepared me for the work I’m doing now, and I am thrilled to have the chance to build upon the legacy started by Secretary Clinton in working for the world to see women’s rights as human rights, once and for all. My life has been shaped by the work and legacy of President Clinton. I have directly benefitted from the policies and programs he has shaped and implemented, which are represented at the Center in the Library, the Archives, and at the School, and it is my responsibility to pay that forward. I have committed to a life of public service—a life of working to find community-based 15 solutions to pervasive social problems, of fostering inclusivity and thoughtfulness, and of operating at the intersection of theory and practice. I look forward to the bridges I will continue to build through the legacy of President Clinton.
“Nothing is certain except for death and taxes… and paying student-athletes,” J.R. Carroll
Monday, December 1, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. (Sturgis Hall)
In 2011, J.R. Carroll became a Certified Contract Advisor with the National Football League Players Association. He is one of two agents in Arkansas currently representing players in the NFL. Carroll is also an adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he teaches in the field of sports law. He will discuss “the inevitable march of universities to provide compensation outside the scope of a traditional scholarship to student-athletes.”
“The Toughest Job: William Winter’s Mississippi,” A Documentary Screening
Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. (Ron Robinson Theater) *In partnership with the Little Rock Film Festival
“The Toughest Job” focuses on the life and career of Mississippi’s 57th Governor William Winter and his fight to reform education in the state. The movie addresses the mechanics of Mississippi state government, the political climate for education reform, and the decision-making of Governor Winter.
“Elf: The Musical,” A Panel Discussion
Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. (Sturgis Hall) *In partnership with the Arkansas Repertory Theatre
“Elf” is the story of a young orphan who mistakenly crawled into Santa’s bag of gifts and is raised in the North Pole. He eventually learns that he is a human and embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father. While trying to win over his new family, he strives to remind the city of the true meaning of Christmas. Adapted by Thomas Meehan (The Producers) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) from the popular 2003 film starring Will Ferrell, with a score by Tony-nominated songwriting team of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), “Elf” turns one of Hollywood’s most beloved holiday hits into a hilarious and heartwarming musical.
Nassir Al-Nasser, former ambassador from Qatar
Friday, December 5, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. (Sturgis Hall)
Nassir Al-Nasser was the president of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly and is a former ambassador from Qatar. He is currently the United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. Al-Nasser’s new book, “A Year at the Helm of the United Nations General Assembly,” goes into detail about the four main pillars of his leadership (mediation, UN reform, natural disaster prevention, and response), and also addresses the shortcomings of the United Nations. Al-Nasser shares his thoughts on restructuring the Security Council and on how best to implement changes to the General Assembly to make it as effective as intended.
“Amendment 3: It Passed. Now What?”
Monday, December 8, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. (Sturgis Hall)
In partnership with the Political Animals Club, the Clinton School will host a panel to analyze Amendment 3 and its major sections such as campaign finance, lobbyists gifts, revolving door issues, the Citizens Salary Commission, and term limits. Moderated by Rex Nelson, the panel will include Amendment 3’s co-authors, Senator Jon Woods and Representative Warwick Sabin, Little Rock attorney Scott Trotter, and Randy Zook, CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
“Next Generation Science Standards: A Key to the Next Generation of American Jobs,” Dr. S. James Gates, Jr., Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland and Member of the Maryland State Board of Education
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. (Sturgis Hall) *In partnership with the Arkansas State Board of Education
Through a multi-year process in which Arkansas was one of 26 lead states, new K–12 science standards have been developed and are now moving towards adoption in states across the country, including Arkansas. Under the new standards, science education will begin earlier, will focus more on application, and will be benchmarked to international standards. The ultimate goal is to prepare American students for the next generation of economic opportunities. Dr. Gates, a member of the President’s Council of Advisors of Science and Technology and a chief advocate of revisions to science education, will make the case for these new standards and the promise they have to produce transformative educational and economic outcomes for students in Arkansas and across the nation.
“Don’t Wait for the Next War,” General Wesley Clark, USA , Retired
Friday, December 12, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. (Sturgis Hall) *In partnership with the Clinton Foundation
General Wesley Clark recently published a book “Don’t Wait for the Next War: A Strategy for American Growth and Leadership,” about the global challenges America faces and how to develop a strategy that involves both private and public actors. A 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, General Clark served in the U.S. Army for 34 years, becoming NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom after leading NATO troops during the Kosovo War from 1997 to 2000. A Little Rock native, he is also author of the best selling books “Waging Modern War” and “Winning Modern War.”
The projects are part of the school’s Capstone program, which is the final of three public service projects and requires individual students to work with community leaders to help build healthy, engaged and vibrant communities and demonstrate their ability to work effectively in public service.
Through this experience, students have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired through their coursework at the Clinton School. Students select their own Capstone projects and devote at least 250 hours of time to them.
“Field service is a major component of our program and the Capstone is the culminating project of the students’ experiences here at the Clinton School,” said Skip Rutherford, dean of the school. “Each project reflects on the individual skills and interests of our students. Capstone projects often lead students into jobs following graduation.”
The Capstone is the third public service project students complete during the two year MPS program. A faculty advisor oversees each project and the students are required to create a final deliverable and present their results to the Clinton School community upon completion of their project.
A complete list of projects will be released in early 2015.
Some student projects and project locations include:
Anna Applebaum (Washington D.C.)
Organization: Vital Voices Global Partnership (http://www.vitalvoices.org/)
Applebaum is working with Vital Voices Global Partnership to conduct a review on the effectiveness of peer-peer exchange programs for women leaders around the world. Vital Voices’s mission is to identify, invest in, and bring visibility to women leaders by unleashing their leadership potential. Applebaum will analyze the use of peer-peer exchange as a tool for learning, network building and informal mentoring. She is a McLarty Global Fellow at Vital Voices.
Brad Cameron (Uganda)
Organization: Limited Resource Teacher Training (www.lrtt.org)
Cameron is creating a video-led teacher-training program to improve teachers’ classroom-based skills in Southwest Uganda. His work will be based on the assessment he completed during his international summer project of the video-led teacher-training program. He will work with Ugandan and British videographers to improve the quality and accessibility of these videos and his work will involve editing existing footage, developing tools to continuously assess whether videos improve teachers’ skills, and creating a plan for providing ongoing support to teachers.
Benjamin Croner (Conway, Ark.)
Organization: Arkansas Governor’s School (https://hendrix.edu/ags/)
Croner is working to update the School’s alumni database and survey former students about their educational and professional achievements since participating in the six-week, summer enrichment program. The survey results will be included in a stakeholder report to help show the impact that Arkansas Governor’s School has on the lives of its students and how this has benefited the state.
Matthew Devlin (India)
Organization: SAMPDA Network
Devlin is completing his capstone with the SAMPDA Network, a membership of 24 NGOs across India working in community development. Devlin is creating an assessment tool to measure the capacity resources and needs for each member organization. He is also identifying specific ways that multiple organizations and the network as a whole can coordinate efforts that increase impact and sustain program delivery. Devlin will pilot this tool for four of the 24 SAMPDA organizations and is creating training guides for member organizations to continue to assess themselves in the future.
Christian Eddings (Little Rock, Ark)
Organization: Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (https://www.arkansassymphony.
Eddings is conducting research on effective marketing techniques for raising awareness about the organization in order to shift the demographic range that attends concerts and supports the organization. He will also be working with the Education and Outreach Program to use film and video production for the promotion of the program and to raise awareness about the importance of music education.
Haylee Rae Fletcher (Glendale, Ariz.)
Organization: International Rescue Committee (http://www.rescue.org/)
Fletcher is developing a geographic information systems (GIS) map of medical and behavioral health care facilities in relation to housing for newly arrived refugees. By examining barriers to providing services, Fletcher will generate recommendations and strategic action steps to increase access to high-quality medical and behavioral health care. The report will be used by the International Rescue Committee to ensure that refugees are able to navigate a complex health care system and have access to necessary medical and behavioral health care.
Dani Folks (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: Kiva Zip (www.zip.kiva.org)
Folks is expanding the Kiva Zip pilot program throughout the state of Arkansas, while improving its effectiveness and efficiency. Kiva Zip is an online microfinance organization that uses the concept of social underwriting to endorse zero percent interest loans for entrepreneurs who cannot access capital through traditional methods. Findings from Folks’ work will be used to develop long-term strategies and partnerships in the region.
Katy Grennier (Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
Organization: Sarus (http://sarusprogram.org/) and Designing for Social Innovation and Leadership (http://www.dsilglobal.com/)
Grennier is co-leading and designing curriculum for the Designing for Social Innovation and Leadership Program, which is currently completing its pilot year. The Leadership Program brings over 30 change makers from 17 countries to learn more about emerging 21st century tools intended to create innovative solutions for communities. The resulting course will focus on inclusive principles in defining root problems and in designing sustainable and scalable change.
Brenda Hernandez (Cabarete, Dominican Republic)
Organization: The DREAM Project (www.dominicandream.org/)
Hernandez is conducting an impact evaluation of the youth workforce development program, A Ganar. She will be assessing how the program has affected the lives of graduates personally, professionally, and economically. Through a series of surveys and interviews with program stakeholders, DREAM hopes the impact evaluation will help them understand the factors that have influenced graduates. Hernandez’s findings will be used to improve program curriculum and secure additional funds for the A Ganar program.
Tiffany Jacob (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: Junior Achievement of Arkansas (www.juniorachievement.org/
Jacob is conducting best practices research to inform the program design of a pilot youth entrepreneurship program to be launched in Summer 2015. The pilot program is a collaborative effort between Junior Achievement of Arkansas and the City of Little Rock Department of Community Programs. Jacob’s report will provide foundational research and an evaluation plan with the ultimate goal of supporting a sustainable, year-round youth entrepreneurship program.
Traci Johnson (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: Center for Women in Transition (http://www.cwitlr.org/)
Johnson is studying both the impact of current programs and methods for improving relationships between the Center for Women in Transition and the justice system in Little Rock. The project will also work to collect information concerning the impact programming has on participants and the best tactics for merging this information with building relationships.
Andy Lovley (Bocas del Toro, Panama)
Organization: Give & Surf, Inc.
Lovley is partnering with Give & Surf to design a monitoring and evaluation framework that will assess program impact and efficacy. The framework will be developed from recommendations of organizational staff, community leaders, and program participants and will ultimately be used to generate financial and in-kind support by outlining community need along with documented program results. This project will assist Give & Surf in their effort to provide an underserved indigenous population with grassroots-driven, sustainable access to educational facilities and programs.
Brandon Mathews (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: Arkansas Foodbank (http://www.arkansasfoodbank.
Mathews is developing a manual for establishing and operating food pantries on college and university campuses in Arkansas. Mathews will also evaluate Pulaski Tech’s campus food pantry and will oversee the emergence of two other campus food pantries through joint efforts of the Arkansas Foodbank and cooperating campuses.
Allison Meyer (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
Organization: Sarus (http://sarusprogram.org/)
Meyer is conducting a tri-nodal stakeholder analysis for Sarus participants, partner organizations, and partner communities in order to best help Sarus achieve its theory of change. Sarus works to create a network of future leaders who can foster open, inclusive, and resilient communities in Southeast Asia. Her analysis will also inform the future of Sarus programming as the organization expands in the next few years.
Hunter Mullins (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: Campus Election Engagement Project (http://www.campuselect.org/)
Mullins is conducting a national baseline evaluation of the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) in promoting student voter registration and engagement at the university level. His work will serve to inform CEEP on how to better prepare their trainings and resources to potentially create greater student voter involvement nationwide.
Tatiana Riddle (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of International Conservation (www.fws.gov/international)
Riddle is gathering lessons learned from those involved in environmental conservation caucuses in Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. She will develop recommendations for establishing similar initiatives in African nations or other biodiversity-rich countries. Riddle’s work will contribute to engaging decision makers in dialogue about environmental and wildlife conservation issues, promoting laws that effectively manage natural resources, and enhancing mechanisms for information to be shared amongst decision makers.
Angela Toomer (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: Heifer International (http://www.heifer.org/)
Toomer is conducting an evaluation of Heifer USA’s Workplace CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project to determine how participation affects employee health and wellbeing. The Workplace CSA offers Heifer employees the opportunity to purchase a weekly box of fresh produce grown by smallholder Arkansas farmers. The Workplace CSA is designed to provide rural farmers with access to consistent and profitable markets, while strengthening the local economy by keeping Arkansas food dollars within the state. The study conducted by Toomer will help Heifer USA develop a model program that can be replicated and offered to other workplaces in Central Arkansas.
Laetitia Tokplo (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: Pulaski Technical College (http://www.pulaskitech.edu/
Tokplo is creating a monitoring and evaluation plan for the Network for Student Success program. The program provides supportive relationships for African American males, enabling them to overcome the barriers to college graduation. The program offers tutoring, leadership programs and events, mentorship and other related activities
Tshering Yudon (Washington D.C.)
Organization: Vital Voices Global Partnership (http://www.vitalvoices.org/)
Yudon is working with Vital Voices Global Partnership to conduct a review on the benefits of international networking for women business owners around the world. Vital Voices’s mission is to identify, invest in, and bring visibility to women leaders by unleashing their leadership potential. Yudon will map out and analyze the value of business networking and its potential to improve program design and implementation. She is a McLarty Global Fellow at Vital Voices.
Rebecca Zimmermann (Little Rock, Ark.)
Organization: Audubon Arkansas (http://ar.audubon.org/)
Zimmermann is conducting an assessment of current and potential Audubon members and partners throughout Arkansas to determine how the organization can work with them in future efforts to protect birds. Zimmermann’s findings will be used to create an outreach plan focused around Audubon Society’s 2014 Birds and Climate Change Report that outlines the 314 birds species in North America threatened by climate change.
This article was originally produced and published by the Log Cabin Democrat. The original article can be found here.
The University of Central Arkansas will host the 49th Arkansas Model United Nations (AMUN) Conference on Friday and Saturday.
About 425 delegates and faculty advisers from 24 high schools throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee will participate in the opening session of the AMUN Conference in Ida Waldran Auditorium at 1 p.m. Friday.
UCA President Tom Courtway will welcome the delegates to UCA during the opening session. Committee sessions, involving simulations of the Security Council, Economic & Social Council, Human Rights Council and League of Arab States, will be held on Friday afternoon and Saturday.
The Plenary Session of the General Assembly, including three committees of the General Assembly, will convene in Ida Waldran at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
The closing session, including the awards ceremony, will take place in the auditorium at 4 p.m. Saturday.
This year’s keynote speaker during the opening session will be Jose Guzzardi, a 2007 graduate of UCA with a B.A. degree in international studies.
Guzzardi, who served as Secretary-General of the AMUN in 2006, is currently employed as a sourcing manager for Walmart e-commerce in São Paulo, Brazil. Previously, he worked as manager of institutional relations for Walmart in Brazil from January 2011 to August 2014. In 2009, Guzzardi earned a master’s degree in public service at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.
The AMUN program was established by professor Simms McClintock, who taught political science at Arkansas State Teachers College (ASTC), in fall 1966. The first AMUN conference was held at renamed State College of Arkansas (SCA) in Conway in January 1967. Mark Mullenbach, an associate professor of political science at UCA, has served as coordinator of the AMUN since August 2001.
Next year, UCA will host the 50th AMUN conference on Nov. 20-21, 2015. A reception and planning session for the 50th anniversary will be held Friday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in UCA Student Center room 205A. Former AMUN secretaries-general and others who were involved in AMUN are invited to attend the reception and planning session.
For more information about AMUN, please contact Mullenbach at email@example.com or (501) 804-0618.
This article was written and produced by Burt Hicks, Clinton School alum.
November 11th. Veterans Day. Though many people believe that Memorial Day and Veterans Day are observed for the same reason, there is a subtle yet important distinction between the two. While both holidays honor military personnel, Memorial Day pays tribute to the brave men and women who died while serving our nation in war. Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors the men and women – both living and dead – who have served in the armed forces at any time – during peace or war.
But honor them how? And honor them for what? As to these questions, we lack a clear national answer. I believe that the demographic and socioeconomic division between the less than 1 percent that serve and the more than 99 percent that enjoy the benefits that are protected by those who serve is, in large part, to blame for the lack of a clear understanding of the purpose, and, in turn, proper celebration, of this important federal holiday.
To be clear, I am among the 99 percent. However, my father and two brothers are among the 1 percent. My father, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, passed away last December. His birthday was November 11th. Perhaps this is why I’ve taken more time this year to pause and consider how I can better honor his legacy and service, and I challenge each of you to do the same.
The lack of conscription (the draft ended in December 1972) and the deep military-civilian divide within our population (not only do the 99 percent not serve, many do not personally know anyone who does) means, among other things, that the many must make a conscious effort to even begin to understand the unique and remarkable service of and sacrifice made by the few. After all, we are not the ones standing guard, pursuing our country’s enemies and looking danger and adversity square in the eye, without blinking or backing down, to fulfill a sworn duty to protect others and the sacred American way of life. No, that job description belongs to our veterans. And that is heroic service.
So today, on Veterans Day, let us, the 99 percent, properly honor the service of our country’s heroes, those courageous men and women that have willingly and knowingly accepted not only the possible loss of life and limb but also the soul-changing burden of taking up arms and possibly taking the life of another so that we can continue to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is our call to action.
Burt Hicks is Manager of Corporate Responsibility at Simmons First National Corporation. Burt’s father, Jimmy, was a veteran of the Vietnam War (U.S. Army) and received the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medals for his distinguished service. Burt’s older brother, Eric, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served 5 years in the U.S. Navy. Burt’s younger brother, Jacob, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, has served two tours in Afghanistan and is currently stationed in Ansbach, Germany.
Dr. Charlotte Lewellen-Williams will be the guest speaker at the North Jonesboro Neighborhood Initiative’s (NJNI) resident appreciation celebration.
The inaugural red carpet gala, “An Evening among the Stars,” recognizes residents who have made contributions to the city and to NJNI.
Dr. Williams is the director of the Center of Community Philanthropy and associate professor of Public Health at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.
A native of Jonesboro, Lewellen-Williams is the daughter of the late Rev. Herman and Mildred Lewellen, both social justice advocates who were deeply involved and committed to the North Jonesboro community.
The gala will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at Centennial Hall in the Carl Reng Student Union on the A-State campus. Tickets are $25 each.
For more information, call Emma Agnew at (870) 336-7210.
Initiated by then-Governor Bill Clinton with support from the Arkansas Legislature, AGS has had over 13,000 Arkansas students participate in the program. The curriculum is based on the National Conference of Governor’s Schools (NCoGS) model that has been in place since 1963 in North Carolina and since 1980 in Arkansas. Nationally, Governor’s School programs exist in more than twenty states.
“I am excited about the opportunity for Arkansas Governor’s School and the Clinton School of Public Service to work together on this project,” said Lyle Rupert, Director of AGS. “Although we hear a lot of anecdotal evidence of the long-lasting benefit of AGS from various alumni… [the study] should provide more substantial evidence of how AGS has developed the youth of Arkansas into community, state, and national leaders.”
AGS alumni are encouraged to take part in the project and can request an alumni survey by emailing AGSAlumniProject@
About the Arkansas Governor’s School
More information about the National Conference of Governor’s Schools is available at http://www.ncogs.org/
The article below originally appeared online for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazatte and is written by Christie Storm. Sophia Said is a graduate of the Clinton School.
Two women, a Christian and a Muslim, are hoping their friendship will inspire others to move past fear and get to know one another. They’ve started a Christian Muslim Dialogue program and are speaking at churches and mosques and to other groups about each faith’s views on Jesus, women, violence and prayer and meditation.
The Rev. Susan Sims Smith is an Episcopal priest and executive director of the Interfaith Center, an outreach ministry of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock. She and Sophia Said, a Muslim who serves as associate director of the center, kicked off the dialogue program last month at St. Margaret’s as a new outreach of the center. They will be speaking during a four-week program at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock next month and invite the public to participate.
They offer the program in many forms — a one-hour talk, a half-day discussion or in four weekly sessions. They’ll have a short session with the United Methodist Women of First United Methodist Church in Russellville in November, and will also speak at the start of International Week at Arkansas Tech University. They’ve also been invited to speak to the Daughters of the King group at Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock and are hoping for more invitations.
The two women met a few years ago and bonded over a shared interest in meditation and dreams as a way to connect with God.
“I thought, ‘I’ve just met my sister,’” Sims Smith said about their initial conversation. She said their friendship has been a gift — “unexpected, deeply respectful and curious.”
They’ve learned through experience that cultivating a deeper relationship with someone of a different faith isn’t easy. There is often fear on both sides — fear of the unknown, fear that becoming friends will somehow compromise their own faith. Sims Smith said one of the first times she invited Said to speak with her at a Christian church she was asked by several people, “Where did you find such a nice Muslim?”
Getting past stereotypes and misunderstandings, as well as recent religious conflicts around the world, particularly involving the Islamic State, prompted the women to begin this new dialogue program.
“We are living in a time that antagonism of faith is becoming worse and worse,” Said stated. “It’s really fueling hatred of other faiths.”
A friend of Said’s told her about how his children were taunted at school after the Boston Marathon bombing last year. Such incidents are common, she said.
“It’s one of the reasons Susan and I are doing this important work,” she said. “Someone has to do something.”
Sims Smith said they hope to reach beyond the misunderstandings of each faith, but to do so they realize they must address what’s happening in the world today.
“Christians seem to be really uneasy and many don’t feel Muslims are coming out strongly enough about saying that ISIS and other groups are not reflective of the core of Islam,” Sims Smith said. “There’s a lot of condemnation now. We need to articulate clearly to change minds. At the 9/11 service we stood on the stage and said a prayer where a member of each faith admitted to mistakes their faiths had made. Violence exists in both faiths and we need to address these issues before they can even listen to us.”
Said has been speaking to groups in Arkansas for the past four years as part of the Interfaith Center’s work, and she said her hope is to share her experience with the Muslim faith and to find what the faiths have in common. The native of Palestine said she was drawn closer to Sims Smith through their shared love of Jesus.
“I heard and saw and felt her love for Jesus Christ,” she said. “I thought how can this Christian woman love Jesus more than me? I love him and wait for his return. … If we all look more on what is beautiful and common in our faith it will bring us closer and these relationships will allow both faiths to come together and fight religious intolerance.”
During the Christian Muslim Dialogue, Sims Smith said, the women don’t avoid difficult questions or topics.
“We do speak very directly about the difference in our faiths,” she said. “In the areas we are the same we celebrate that, but we don’t shy away from our differences. We don’t want to pour all the colors in the same can of paint and say we’re all the same. We want to find a way to help each other deepen our faiths.”
Both women said the goal isn’t to dilute anyone’s beliefs just for the sake of getting along, and they acknowledge that sometimes the conversation can be uncomfortable.
“Fear is the big thing to overcome,” Sims Smith said. “When you articulate fear there are going to be hurt feelings, but we have to learn how to tolerate discomfort to grow.”
John Wills, administrator of the Arkansas House of Prayer, an interfaith place of prayer on the grounds of St. Margaret’s, said opportunities for such dialogue are important.
“When tough questions arise, this is essential,” he said.
At the House of Prayer he has seen an interest in more interfaith dialogue, with people starting to ask questions about how to behave or interact with those of a different faith.
“People are waking up and seeing it’s not just me and my faith,” he said.
The Christian Muslim Dialogue at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral will feature four one-hour programs beginning at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 and continuing on Nov. 12, 19 and Dec. 3. The church is at 310 W. 17th St. and the program will be held in Morrison Hall. Information is available online at trinitylittlerock.org.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the program at their house of worship, organization, business or group can contact the Interfaith Center at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also online at interfaith.itssm.org.