Mike Yawn - SHU - Political Science Blogger

Trip Recap
Over their four-day trip, the students attended an all-day professional conference on politics, visited 25 different educational sites, and travelled across four states.

In discussing the trip with the students, the most popular exhibits were the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Christmas Story House, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the conference, the most popular seminar related to prospects for the 2012 presidential race, and there was a three-way tie among Greek, Soul, and Italian for favorite food.

As far as surprises, the students seemed to really enjoy the Duquesne Incline, a tram that travels 400 feet up Mount Washington at a 30 degree angle. The students were also surprised when they visited the house from A Christmas Story and found that Ian Petrella, the actor that played “Randy” in the movie, was greeting visitors and signing autographs.

There weren’t a lot of disappointments, although there was a general consensus that the Motown Historical Museum and the Kent State Memorial were not all that they could be. Kent State University, it should be noted, is in the process of building a museum that will educate citizens on the events surrounding the tragedy.

Since the organization’s inception in 2005, the Political Science Junior Fellows have travelled on 12 major field trips spanning 19 states and Washington, DC. They are currently planning their spring trip.

I would like to thank the Bliss Institute for generously subsidizing the cost of each student to attend the conference; the panelists at the American Association of Political Consultants for offering their guidance and sharing their insight with students; and The Huntsville Item, Today @ Sam, and KBTX for allowing the students to share their experiences.

Blog / Trip Introduction

Hi, I’m Mike Yawn, the Political Science Junior Fellows’ advisor.  The students have just finished their first day of a four-day trip that will take them to a national political conference and three states.  I’ll let the students tell their own stories, but I will be passing on some background and contextual information that may provide a broader perspective.

The students ended the day pretty tired.  Their morning started—with one exception—at 2:30 am.  They went to bed about 21 hours later.  In between, they drove to Hobby Airport, flew to St. Louis, flew to Detroit, visited the Mariners Church of Detroit, the GM Headquarters, Woodward Avenue, the Wayne County Building, the Guardian Building, Greektown, the Motown Historical Museum, and the Rutherford B. Hayes Home and Museum.

The organization has undertaken about a dozen of these types of trips.  Because financial and time constraints typically limit the number of days the students can spend away from school, they do extensive research on prospective destinations so that they can see as many sites as possible while still taking gaining a substantive appreciation of each venue.  Here’s some background that came from their research and visits from Day One:

  • Mariners Church of Detroit: This church was immortalized following the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in 1975.  The wreck, which resulted in the loss of twenty-nine crew members, received national attention.  The church was immortalized however, in the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which hit number 1 for Gordon Lightfoot in 1976.  In the song, Lightfoot referred to the church as the “Maritime Sailors Cathedral.”

  • Martin Luther King gave an early version of his “I Have a Dream” speech on Woodward Avenue in June 1963.

  • The Wayne County Building is a magnificent Baroque structure that once served as the Wayne County Courthouse.  Its construction was completed in 1902 at a then staggering sum of 1.6 million dollars.   Henry Ford worked here in the early 1900s, and Clarence Darrow once defended a client in the building’s courthouse.  By the 1970s, however, many county departments moved out of the building to save costs.  Today, the building houses a small daycare center.

  • The Guardian Building was the most interesting structure we visited.  It is more than 600 feet tall and was built in 1929.  It originally housed many financial businesses, and was known as the “Cathedral of Commerce.”  Today, it houses many Wayne County officials,  who, interestingly, were once housed in the Wayne County Building.

  • Greektown:  The Political Science Junior Fellows have a rule: they can’t eat at chain restaurants.  On the first day of their trip, they ventured into to Greektown to find a restaurant.  Greektown has approximately ten Greek restaurants in a 3-4 block stretch.  The second oldest of these restaurants was Laikon Café, which opened in 1927.  The students did a good job of trying and sharing different menu items, including three types of Greek lasagna, roasted lamb, spinach pie, hummus, babaghanoush, and tzatsiki.   

Day Two Preview:

Tomorrow, the students will spend the bulk of the day at the American Association of Political Consultants Conference, attending panels on general campaign strategy, new media v. old media, ethics, and prospects for the 2012 presidential race.  One of the more interesting aspects of the conference is that the students will have the opportunity to have lunch with a “campaign manager,” a campaign expert who has similar interests with each of the students and who may provide career guidance or networking opportunities.  In addition, the students will see James Garfield’s home in Mentor, OH, Chagrin Falls, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. 

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