by Nicholas Byrd

I love being a SPIA student because the school and professors are preparing me to be a strong global citizen and leader. I’m writing this blog post as I am traveling to a research conference to present civic education research that was completed with the assistance of amazing SPIA faculty! One way that SPIA stands out to me is that my classes have taught me practical critical thinking skills. In Dr. Leah Carmichael’s class, I participated in simulations, whereby I acted as global actors in a moot court setting. Additionally, part of my course grade was to create legal briefs. I feel more prepared for law school now that I have been taught effective argumentation strategies through these briefs. Dr. Carmichael’s simulation pedagogical approach not only helped me gain critical thinking skills, but it also helped inspire my current research project. Dr. Carmichael is guiding me through this civic education project testing whether simulation learning is a more effective method of teaching civics in high school classrooms.

I have also been challenged to think analytically through discussion-based class styles. For instance, Dr. Alexa Bankert challenged my Political Psychology Class to think through ways that political polarization affects every individual. Polarization is evident in America, but Dr. Bankert showed many case studies that indicate that political identity can even be identified based on the dating website an individual uses or a type of food someone eats! Her lectures have made me evaluate my personal biases each time I look at a political issue. Beyond her engaging lectures, Dr. Bankert also taught me how to implement strong research methods through assigning an experimental design paper. Her guidance through this project helped me develop the research method ideas for my research project with Dr. Carmichael.

Every SPIA professor that I have taken has devoted enormous effort in my education and has given countless hours to ensure that I will be successful once I leave their classrooms. They are eager to learn about my career goals, and they provide guidance on what career goals I should set in the short-term and long-term.

I am so thankful that SPIA focuses on hands-on education beyond the classroom as well. Next semester, I will be travelling to Washington, D.C. to participate in UGA’s Washington Semester Program. I am thankful that UGA provides this opportunity since I will be able to apply what I have learned in the classroom. Having a SPIA sponsored program in Washington, D.C. will make interning and learning easier and more enjoyable since I will be surrounded by like-minded peers. I will also be able to devote more focus to my work since I will not have to worry about finding housing and determining course credit transfer requirements.

Thank you so much for supporting SPIA! I love being a Political Science and International Affairs student, and I do not believe that my college experience would be as enjoyable if it were not for your support!