Nancy Cade from University of Pikeville has participated in 25 Academic Seminars at The Washington Center (TWC). Here, she talks about what inspires her to keep coming back.
This story was originally published on March 14, 2019 and has been updated to reflect Nancy Cade’s milestone of attending 25 TWC seminars.
Having participated in 25 TWC Academic Seminars, what has been the most impactful experience for yourself? What about for your students?
For me, the most impactful experience has been the ability to explore and learn with my students — to be able to see their eyes open and their world change. I post on Facebook prior to each seminar that I am returning for another seminar and each time, I hear from my former students that it was the best thing that they did in college and that it changed their life. TWC has been an amazing gift for my students and the University of Pikeville.
As a faculty member, it has allowed me to build a community of scholars and practitioners that has changed my life. I can consult and meet with them about a myriad of issues.
To hear directly from experts, from people you see on the news, was an opportunity I still treasure to this day. It changed my life.Nancy Cade, University of Pikeville
Looking back, what was it like to attend your first TWC seminar?
I remember my first seminar as if it was yesterday. I was in awe of the two faculty directors: Dr. Ross Baker of Rutgers was someone I had read as a student and the late Steve Bell of Ball State University (and formerly of ABC) was someone I watched on the news. I remember the bus tour and site visits. I remember one member of the senior faculty told me I would become addicted to the seminars — I guess my enthusiasm showed — he was so correct. To hear directly from experts, from people you see on the news, was an opportunity I still treasure to this day. It changed my life.
What inspired you back then to participate, and what – if anything – has changed 25 seminars later? What inspires you to keep coming back?
When the Appalachian College Association announced the grant from the Berger Foundation to help fund participation in the Campaign 2004 seminar, I was excited but didn’t think I would ever be selected. I was shocked to be selected and so very grateful. That feeling of gratitude and excitement hasn’t changed.
I love teaching college students, and TWC allows me to do something different — I get to experience it with them. I have been to every Inside Washington and Campaign seminar since 2004 and a few National Security seminars. This concept that experiences transform, they really do. I’ve seen it in action. It’s been amazing for me to watch. That’s what keeps me coming back.
When the grants that helped send our students went away, I set up a scholarship on my own. The scholarship is named after my dad. It is the Fred W. Meyer Jr. Washington Center Scholars. It has allowed us to keep sending University of Pikeville students and it is all because I went on that first seminar in 2004 and recognized its inherent value.
Are there any specific highlights from your experience as a TWC liaison?
I can remember sitting at a seminar with another faculty member, a guy with graduate degrees in political science, while TWC was going over the plans for the day. And this guy looked at me and asked, “You mean to tell me we can walk into any Congressman’s office?”
I also had a student who would walk up to anyone in the halls of Congress and introduce himself. Students (and even faculty) don’t realize that you can just walk around the halls and meet a Congressman or Senator. Students find this to be amazing — their government is so accessible that they can walk into any office and the offices want to talk to them. That is a takeaway that students and faculty don’t really understand, I think. And that’s one of the big takeaways that I always share with students, which is just how much they matter in the system.
Over the years, I’ve watched all of my seminar students have truly life-changing experiences. I have two students from Pikeville that liked D.C. so much that they moved here. One of them did not know what she wanted to do for a career before coming. She had a vague idea, but it didn’t have a name. After doing two seminars in 2006 and 2007, she finally discovered the name of what she wanted to do — economic development.
How would you describe the relationship that University of Pikeville has with TWC?
The university recognizes and appreciates the TWC experience, it isn’t just me. Our Director of Development has funds made available. The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences very much believes in TWC and always puts money into his budget to help send students. We focus primarily on seminars. A lot of schools focus completely on the internships, which I personally think is unfortunate because some students need the seminar. Every student that I’ve had with a successful internship experience has completed a seminar first. They did a January seminar and then stayed for the spring semester of the Academic Internship Program. It created a comfort zone for them: they knew what TWC was, what to expect, where the grocery store or Metro was, and got very comfortable.
How has the partnership evolved over the years?
In 2007, the Berger grant was not available. The university and I partnered to continue funding seminar scholarships. The university funds one and I fund as many qualified students that apply. It can be very hard to get students here to leave the hills of home. Once convinced though, they go to D.C. for two weeks, live in the Residential Academic Facility (RAF), experience much of D.C. by going to different events and embassies, and hear from speakers like Mike Pence or John Brennan. We’ve been lucky at my university — the faculty are very supportive of the experience and will substitute the seminar for a related class. We now have close to 100 alumni, and some students have attended more than one seminar.
In what way does TWC serve as an extension of your campus in D.C.?
One of the things I like best is the safety net, which isn’t something a lot of people think about, but they should. We had one student come to D.C. that encountered personal issues. Had the student not been at a place like TWC that had resources available, it may have turned out tragically different. I have sent students for internships with full confidence in TWC’s Student Life staff. They are second to none. I have no doubts about my students being safe and supported. Bringing students from the hills to D.C., this is for many of them the first time they’ve ever been in a major city. A lot of my students have never been away from home. Literally, they live at home while going to school. Getting their feet under them in this environment can be flustering. That is one of the things that is so important about TWC is that you do things that get the students out into the city.
Whether they are interning or doing a seminar, TWC gets them out into the city and shows them that they can function in the real world, which is huge.Nancy Cade, University of Pikeville
What is the single biggest benefit TWC provides to your university?
TWC is the premier study away (from campus) program we have at the University of Pikeville. It has the greatest number of alumni and it’s also the only one that students have as an option every year. TWC not only affords us the opportunity to send students to D.C. for either two weeks or a semester, but it also gives us peace of mind — we know, without a doubt, that our students will get an exceptional education experience. We know that they are getting this unique experience, in a city that is so completely different than their hometown but with an incredible safety net. It’s study away, but it’s also safe.
What other benefits of TWC do you think are important to students?
Whenever I talk with students, I mention very specifically the facilities, especially the Residential and Academic Facility (RAF) offered by TWC. Students are going to talk to their parents and their parents are going to want to know that they are living in a nice place. They watch the video and see TWC students live in a nice building, nice apartments.
I also go through the security at the RAF, because that is huge, especially for kids who aren’t familiar with the city. The other thing I go through with them that some people may not think about is the network they are going to build. At the end of two weeks, they are going back to their home institution, some maybe in Boston or San Diego or Miami. In a few years, the student is going to be looking for a job and may see on somebody’s LinkedIn account that a person where they’re looking is a TWC alum too. I actually hired someone for a faculty position at our school who was a TWC alum. That jumps out from the resume. Students think about that for the internship, but it is just as true for the seminars. Building that network is one of the things I emphasize. Kids now are really thinking career. Networking is huge.
Why should someone become a TWC liaison? What rewards from being a liaison would you identify?
The liaisons are an impressive network. These are highly skilled people who, it is part of their job, but you can tell it is also a passion. They are all really into how to do the best for their students and have found TWC is one of the things that helps them do that. Working the seminars has allowed me to build my own network across the country. That network is different than one you might develop from a professional society where you see each other for 20 minutes at an annual meeting.
At a seminar, we’re living next door to one another for two weeks. I can call up someone about an applicant or a student who wants to go to their college for grad school. We’ll be painfully honest with each other, because we know each other. Also, it allows us to expose students to a well-run organization that has the right mission and the right heart. One of the things I’ve always liked about TWC is I feel like my opinion matters here as a liaison. If the liaisons say they don’t like the way something is done, TWC will try to rectify and solve it. It isn’t just what is the impact TWC has on you, it’s what is the impact you have on TWC. You don’t readily see that in academia.
In my professional life, I have had the good fortune to earn the rank of Distinguished Professor, I have served as a Division Chair, and I have been the Chair of the Faculty Executive and Curriculum Committees. All of these have required work and have been very rewarding but I can honestly say that very few things have brought me the joy of being a small part of the life of my seminar students. Working with them has been an honor.
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