Political Science Now

Erica Wheeler, of University of Louisville, Shares Her 2017 APSA RBSI Experience

Erica Wheeler, stdudent at the University of Louisville, majoring in political science and minoring in Pan-African studies, captured in action during the APSA RBSI Recruitment Fair at Duke University.


by Erica Wheeler, Political Science and Pan-African Studies Major, University of Illinois, and RBSI Scholar (Class of 2017), This piece is an excerpt from the University of Louisville College of Arts & Sciences News

This summer I had the honor of being nationally-selected as a participant in the American Political Science Association 31st Annual Ralph Bunche Summer Institute (RBSI), a month-long graduate pipeline program targeted at underrepresented groups—hosted at Duke University in Durham, NC, under the leadership of Dr. Paula McClain, Professor and Dean of the Graduate School, and co-funded by the National Science Foundation. The month was full of new experiences, new people and, of course, new knowledge.

Upon arrival, I was not exactly sure what to expect; however, I quickly learned from Dr. McClain that the program would not be a walk in the park. I joined 14 other students selected from around the United States in taking two graduate-level courses, “Race and Politics” and “Statistics,” taught by Dr. McClain and Dr. Scott de Marchi, with assistance from their graduate teaching assistants and writing tutors. These two courses were extremely challenging; yet, very informative.

This experience changed my perspective on the discipline and has me excited about attending graduate school to obtain my doctoral degree. As a political scientist, I will look forward to opportunities to collaborate on projects with my fellow Bunche Scholars, including Dr. Wallace, a fellow ’88 RBSI Scholar!

Our main assignment was to write a 20-page empirical research paper. The purpose was for us to experience what is required in doctoral programs. I chose to examine Black community political views regarding LGBTQ issues and whether their “linked fate” translated into support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Unfortunately, I was not among the seven Ralph Bunche Scholars selected to go to San Francisco, CA, to present our research at the APSA Annual Meeting in August 2017. While I was not selected, the experience I had at Duke is one that was truly eye-opening for me because it gave me a real-life chance to experience graduate school.

Each of us appreciated being in an environment that allowed us to discuss our political views with other students who were from similar demographic backgrounds. 

My favorite part of the program was the College Recruitment Fair where we met professors, students, and advisors from top political science doctoral programs from all over the country. These people came to Duke with the hopes of recruiting us for their graduate programs. It was a unique and enriching networking opportunity. After the Fair, we current “Bunchies” were able to engage with previous Bunche Scholars who are at different stages of their careers at premiere institutions across the country. They gave us honest advice and perspectives on life in graduate school and in academia. It was knowledge that I didn’t know I needed until after I received it. It was invaluable.

Read more from Erica Wheeler.