Student gets lesson in leadership at presidency study center

University Park, Pa. -- By following his childhood intuition, Penn State undergraduate student Elliot Schmidt has brought an extraordinary opportunity to fruition.

The Center for the Study of the Presidency last spring selected Schmidt, a senior double majoring in international politics and sociology, among 79 other fellows from across the nation to participate in a year round research intense study. The program that has existed for more than 35 years is predicated upon inviting fellows to Washington, D.C. to learn leadership and governance, to share their research, to grow as future leaders and to be motivated by public service careers.

"I grew up in a house with political news junkies for parents, so I'm sure we had CNN on a lot more often than I remember," said Schmidt recounting how he first took interest in politics, as a six-year-old kid. "A memory that I have personally is of playing in front of the television during the beginning of Operation Desert Storm and looking up to see the tracer fire arching through the sky over Baghdad in night vision. I probably first thought it was fireworks or something like that, but that scene has always stuck with me."
 
And what also stuck with Schmidt was an inner catalyst to delve into an education that would present various opportunities to observe and analyze such military campaigns as Operation Desert Storm. In fact, his research focus for the fellowship is titled "America’s Responses to Terrorism," starting with U.S. involvement in the Beirut bombings, to its recent undertaking in the Middle East. Schmidt has entrenched himself in reading and inquiry, so that his research may be insightful, objective and engaging.
 
"When it comes to the research paper, I have to give credit to my professors here at Penn State," said Schmidt. "I have had amazing classes with really intelligent professors while here at Penn State, and they helped shape and focus my interest in U.S. foreign and national security policy and terrorism. Dr. Navin Bapat's terrorism class was particularly influential in my choice to write about terrorism for my research paper."
 
Recently, Schmidt attended the last of his two conferences for the fellowship, where he met and spoke with scholars, public policy experts and veteran government officials on a variety of national issues.

"If I could point to one thing from my experience with the Center it would be Senator John Warner's speech [on] accepting the Publius Award. He talked at length about his fear that the government, particularly the Senate, is not serving the people as well as it once did," said Schmidt.

Furthermore, Schmidt tributes his fellowship experience to the helped received at Penn State’s University Fellowships Office.

"The UFO has been an incredible resource.  As far as I am concerned, they are the best kept secret at Penn State. They helped me apply to and win numerous internships and fellowships over the past two years, and I really couldn't have done it without [them]."
 
Schmidt is continuing to unravel a world that unleashed his curiosity years ago. In June, Schmidt will begin work for SRA International, Inc., a government contractor and private industry consultant.

Contacts: 
Last Updated March 19, 2009