August 19, 2008
Dr. Kaylene Barbe and Dr. Vickie Ellis, Oklahoma Baptist University associate professors of communication arts, spent one month teaching political communications with the Junior State of America (JSA) program this summer.
JSA is an organization for promising high school students interested in politics, foreign affairs, law and education. The organization's summer program gives the students an opportunity to experience university life for the month by living in the dorm and attending college-level courses taught by professors from around the country.
"These students want to change the world, and they want to start today," Ellis said. "Their level of intellectual curiosity, their level of dedication to our republic, and their level of academic engagement inspire me and challenge me as a professor."
Ellis, returning for her third summer with JSA, taught at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., while Barbe spent her first summer with JSA at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. Both professors said they respected the level of dedication and excitement the students had towards the program.
"Teaching highly motivated, young scholars during this election year was particularly exciting," Ellis said. "The teaching experience is unique in that the students are intensely interested in government and politics. JSA participants unabashedly celebrate scholarly discourse."
Barbe agreed, noting JSA is a significant experience for many of its student participants.
"JSA encourages promising, highly motivated students from all walks of life to participate," Barbe said. "For many of these kids, this is their first time away from home for an extended period of time. I admire them greatly."
Together with other JSA faculty, Barbe and Ellis worked with students on debates and persuasive speeches through congressional workshops and their communications courses.
"The faculty participates as debate critics," Barbe said. "On three evenings I judged the students' debates. They receive scores for content and for delivery as well as receiving oral constructive criticism from the faculty member."
After a month of student debates, simulations and problem solving, Ellis said students return to their campuses eager to serve and make a difference in their own student government and local JSA chapters. The faculty hopes, however, that each student will take away more than just an excited spirit.
"Perhaps the students' most important take-away is that they establish a network with like-scholars and professors from around the country and from different parts of the world," Ellis said.
The faculty also recognized the unique networking opportunity they had and, Barbe noted, they appreciated the connection and common interests they shared with diverse group of professors.
"It was great to work with other faculty in communications around the country," Barbe said. "I enjoyed working with people from such a variety of geographical, religious and disciplinary backgrounds. Between the students and the faculty, it was a very intellectually stimulating experience. It kept me on my toes."
This school year will mark Barbe's 19th year with OBU. She resides in Shawnee. Ellis is beginning her first year with OBU this fall. She and her husband, Barry, live in Edmond and have two children: Nola and Branson.