Academic Affairs

Jonathan Rhodes

J. Rhodes ResizedWhat is your current occupation?
Executive Assistant and Legislative Aide for Hunger, Poverty and Planning Policy; U.S. Senator Blanche L. Lincoln; Washington, D.C.

In what ways did your Hendrix experience or politics major prepare you for your current occupation?
My Hendrix experience positively shaped me in a variety of ways.  First, as a Politics major I was exposed to excellent teachers who introduced me to national and international political processes, theory and practice.  My politics professors challenged me to think about politics in a much broader context - much more than just campaigns, elections and elected office.  I learned about why political processes matter and how these processes can be used to negatively and positively shape outcomes and affect societies. 

The internship I had during the summer before my senior year was also a pivotal experience.  I interned in Senator Dale Bumpers Washington office (the seat Sen. Lincoln later won) and the experience opened my eyes to the great opportunities to work as a part of our national political system.  The experience was the driving force in my decision to return to Washington after graduating from Hendrix.

What was the most memorable course you took at Hendrix?  What made it memorable?
There are several memorable courses but memorable for a variety of reasons.  One course that I particularly enjoyed and that I believe is indicative of the Hendrix classroom experience was Constitutional Law I and II.  The year I took both courses was Dr. John Ziegler's last year to teach at Hendrix.  I believe our Con Law classes that year was the 24th straight year he taught the course.  There were only 9 in the Con Law II class so it was small and we had great class discussions about the cases.  I put a lot into the class and got a great deal out of it (that's how it goes - but it took me a long time to learn that) and Dr.

Ziegler had so much knowledge to share about the subject. It was a fun experience to share in that last class with him.

What advice would you offer current students?
I have three pieces of advice.  First, read.  Even when you don't want to.  Soak up all of the great reading assignments (or as much as you can).  Second, experience politics first-hand.  There is no replacement for actually witnessing the formation of public policy in the flesh.  Do an internship or volunteer - inWashington, with the state legislature, at a federal official's Arkansas office, on a political campaign or with a lobby group.  And finally, explore the unconventional political avenues.  Take an issue you are interested in and explore the political implications.  Doing so will accomplish two things: help you learn a lot about a subject of interest and help you determine if it's something you want to work on in the long-term. 

Hunger policy is my own example.  It's a subject I've been spending a lot of time working on and something I was interested in during college I just didn't realize it.  College is a great time to explore issues through internships, study abroad, guest lectures, courses and extracurricular activities.  Hendrix provides students with excellent opportunities to think outside of the box and explore subjects that might not even be a formal part of the curriculum.  Hendrix would have been a great time for me to explore international hunger issues - even though there wasn't a course specifically about hunger.