The Diane D. Blair Center
OF SOUTHERN POLITICS and SOCIETY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When word got out that former Senator David Pryor would be teaching in fall 2003, hundreds of students tried to enroll to enroll. Pryor returned to campus to serve as the Blair Distinguished Lecturer, teaching a class in American   issues with Todd Shields, chair of the political science department.  The students who did make it into the class came came from colleges across campus and were chosen based on seniority, GPA, and their career ambitions. “I think the class changed those students’ lives,” said Shields. “Every time we met, we focused on real issues facing our country, such as health care, foreign policy, social security, immigration, and changes in the criminal justice system. These students got to listen to Pryor, who was once one of the highest ranking senators in our nation, tell them what to expect during a life of public service. He described the trappings of power and the pressures they would face, how they would at times be asked to do things they thought were wrong. The Senator is a truly gifted teacher.”  Pryor gained a depth of teaching experience during the two and a half years he spent at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as Director of the Institute of Politics . The format of the UA class, American Issues, was derived from a seminar he taught at Harvard on the 2000 presidential race. There, he brought in guest speakers who addressed various aspects of the race. At the U of A, he did the same, bringing in well-known speakers whose experience related to the issues covered in class. Whitewater figure Susan McDougal came to talk about the criminal justice system, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman offered his views on K-12 education reform in Arkansas , and Scott Ford, president of Alltel, discussed the intersection of business and politics. Others contributed through conference calls to the class, such as Richard Moose, a former Under Secretary of State, and Christopher Jennings, former Senior Policy Advisor to President Clinton.  “I had a wonderful time teaching this class,” said former Senator Pryor. “I felt these students were going to be the next political leaders in our country, and so I shared my government experiences with them before I introduced our guest speakers. Every guest was simply amazed by the quality of our students.”

 

The Blair Center
of Southern Politics and Society
428 Old Main
Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
(479)-575-3356
Todd Shields, Director
tshield@uark.edu