Priya Lopes on 05 2, 2011
Congressman Adrian Smith Teaches GW Graduate School of Political Management Students How to Run for and Rule in Political Office
WASHINGTON – Not everyone gets a personal lesson in politics from a sitting member of Congress. For 13 weeks, that’s the experience 22 GSPM students in the school’s master’s program in legislative affairs received. As co-adjunct professors, Congressman Adrian Smith, a sitting member of the 112th U.S. Congress, and his Chief of Staff Jeffrey Shapiro taught a course titled, The Member Perspective: Running and Ruling. This was the first course at GW taught by a sitting member of Congress.
“Sitting members of Congress bring a very different perspective to the classroom because they are in the middle of policy debates and the political process,” said Rep. Smith. “I hope it provided the students with valuable insights and real-life examples of how what they learned will be applied in their future careers.”
Rep. Adrian Smith represents Nebraska’s Third Congressional District – which includes nearly 65,000 square miles, two time zones and 68 and a half of the state’s 93 counties – a district larger than 27 states. He currently serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means.
“Congressman Smith has a background in education and wanted to get into the classroom,” said Steven E. Billet, director of the legislative affairs program and associate professor of political management. “I know of no other case where a sitting member of Congress has taught an entire course. This was a tremendous benefit for our students who have this unique opportunity available because they are here in D.C.”
The course covered how to prepare to run for political office, the transition from candidate to officeholder and the decision-making of elective office. Guest speakers included Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, registered lobbyists and senior committee staff.
“To have a member of Congress teaching you is phenomenal,” said David Spanton, an Army captain by day and GSPM student by night. “I got an understanding from Congressman Smith of the how and why he’s doing the things he’s doing. We’re seeing his thought process, and how he balances the political side of being a Congress member with the legislative demands of the job.”
The GSPM legislative affairs master’s degree is housed within GW’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) and was launched at GW in 1973. The program equips students to understand how Congress operates, how decisions are made on Capitol Hill, how to influence those decisions and how to accomplish objectives within the legislative process.
“Finding time to teach a class will always be a challenge because of the demands of the Congressional schedule,” said Rep. Smith. “But this experience was terrific.”
Dr. Billet said that he is looking at recruiting other members to teach in the future.
GW’s Graduate School of Political Management, the pioneer enterprise in the nonpartisan study of political management and applied politics, offers graduate programs in political management, legislative affairs, public relations and PAC management, as well as international programs in Latin America and Europe. The school seeks to improve politics by educating its students and professionals about the tools, principles and values of participatory democracy; preparing them for careers as ethical and effective advocates and leaders at the international, national and local levels.