Professors to Lead Summer Session at Princeton

Oklahoma Baptist University professors Dr. Kaylene Barbe and Dr. Vickie Ellis will teach a Junior State of America Summer School program at Princeton University in New Jersey, in conjunction with The Junior Statesman Foundation, July 9-Aug. 1.

Dr. Kaylene Barbe

Dr. Vickie Ellis

Ellis first taught with the program in 2005, and Barbe joined the summer faculty in 2008. Both professors will be teaching different sections of "Political Communication" which prepares students for persuasive/debate speech experiences.

Barbe serves as professor of communication studies at OBU, and will assume the role of chair of the Division of Communication Arts in August. She earned her bachelor's degree from Baylor University and her master's degree and doctorate from the University of Oklahoma.

Ellis serves as associate professor of communication arts at OBU. She earned her bachelor's degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, her master's degree from the University of North Texas, and her doctorate from Texas A&M - Commerce.

Barbe and Ellis said participating in the Junior State of America summer program enhances their work at OBU.

"I enjoy working with these very highly motivated high school students who want to change the world," Barbe said. "I find myself encouraged and reinvigorated by their dreams and goals. This is a summer teaching experience that makes me excited about returning to OBU in the fall and working with our college students who want to change the world as well and make it a better place."

Both professors said the experience provides them with new ideas about how to approach the classes they teach at OBU.

"I'm always coming back with ideas from other JSA colleagues; moreover, I think about new ways to encourage idea analysis," Ellis said. "For example, I'll be teaching my persuasion course in the fall, and I hope to try out some new ideas out while I'm on the Princeton campus this summer. Most summers, I have returned with JSA student examples that I have students here assess. Most of all, just like with OBU students, I'm ever more reminded that our future is in good hands."

To work with the Junior State of America program, a professor must first receive a peer nomination from someone in the organization. The prospective faculty member submits his or her teaching vita, transcripts and contact information for three current references. After a series of interviews, the person may be hired to teach at one of the summer school programs. The next summer's invitation is contingent upon both the administration's recommendation and student evaluations.

The teaching assignment and location are generally determined by faculty seniority and can include Georgetown, Stanford, Princeton or Beijing.

In addition to working with faculty from across the country, the program allows the faculty to be involved in two Speaker's Days which allow students to hear from and ask questions of famous leaders and politicians. The program enlists representative voices from each side of the political spectrum. Princeton is about an hour south of New York City and an hour north of Philadelphia, allowing access to a variety of political and communication leaders.

"When I was there before, the AP Government class took a field trip to Philadelphia and then everyone participated in two Speaker's Days in NYC," Barbe said. "On the Speaker's Day, the students had the opportunity to hear speakers at the United Nations and for the other session they heard speakers associated with network media organizations."

Most of the students attending the Junior State of America summer programs are ages 16-17 (rising juniors and seniors). However, a Freshmen Scholars program is being implemented which will include 14-15 year olds who have shown exceptional promise.

To apply for participation, students submit an essay indicating their commitment to civic engagement. The applicants this year were asked to describe their extracurricular activities and any leadership positions they have held, and answer the question, "What political issue are you passionate about?"

"Admission to the Summer School is competitive," Ellis said. "Decisions are based on academic achievement, leadership ability, maturity and interest in politics. Given the demands of the Summer School curriculum, the Admissions Committee is especially interested in students who have performed well in their high school English and social studies classes. Admission standards are similar for each of our four sessions. Above all, Summer School students are intelligent, articulate student leaders who will benefit from this unique educational experience."

To ensure the program includes a politically diverse group at each location, students submit a great deal of information regarding the political ideas they find the most interesting. The students complete pages of academic information including the name and e-mail address of their counselor, social studies teacher, government teacher and English teacher who provide letters of recommendation. The students must also submit a transcript to indicate a high grade point average and that they have chosen to take rigorous classes.

"I enjoy working with these students because they are determined to change the world - not in the future, but while they are working in the class with you during the summer," Ellis said. "They want to help shape the ideas of their generation. They are completely engaged and engaging. You have the real sense that they feel honored to be there and honored to work with others from across the country and around the world. Without question, being in the midst of such a scholarly and diverse population is inspiring."