On Monday September 16, I attended the third annual James R. Soles lecture given by Senator Chris Coons. He gave a speech on the constitution and citizenry, two very important concepts that the late-Professor Soles cared for very much. Additionally, my public policy professor Dr. Rich announced that UD is planning to apply for community engagement classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It was a very packed and important event.


I borrowed a roommate’s formal dress and another’s cardigan and went on my way to the lecture. I had to give my name to check in. I recognized one person in the sea of suits and sat next to her immediately. The room soon filled with important (and old!) people.


My POSC300 professor, Dr. Mycoff, and I mingled. He and I mingled with my academic advisor from my summer, Dr. Wilson. The department chair for Political Science and International Relations, Dr. Gretchen Bauer was there. Dr. Rich and our doctoral student Mr. Barnes said “hi.” President Harker was there! He shook my hand and asked me how my summer was. More and more people of academic strength and university importance soon crowded around lunch. Did I mention there was free lunch?


Mingling led to more mingling led to more mingling. I ran into more friends- some there as guests and some there as Soles Fellows (aka scholarship receivers). I was extremely humbled by everyone in the room.


After meeting and greeting tons of people, it all settled into the pomp and circumstance of announcements and speeches. Senator Coons gave an amazing speech and took one of my questions at the end. That was nerve-wracking- try following up a doctoral candidate’s question about foreign committee seating with one that can impress a room. Hint: It’s pretty impossible.


Listening to Senator Coons, Dr. Bauer, Dr. Rich, and chatting with many more was an amazing experience. The lunch was even good. This experience would not have happened if I didn’t reach out to my professor. Which brings me to a practical piece of advice:


If you reach out and make connections while you’re here at the university, amazing opportunities will embrace you. The Honors Program shrinks the complex world of navigating connections into a more manageable realm, but it is not impossible to do so on your own.


In the end, I left an informed, and well-fed, undergraduate student. I also left with eight cookies in my backpack, but that’s just a small bonus.

~Shannon Poulsen



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