The Archer Scholarship Program was created by the University of Texas System in conjunction with former US Representative Bill Archer to bring highly motivated and accomplished students to Washington, DC, for a comprehensive academic and professional experience, the website said.
Selection is based on a competitive application process, and each cohort of Archer Scholars is made up of some of the best and brightest students in the UT system.
Dragun, who attended Trinity School in Midland, graduated summa cum laude in May with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from UTPB. She started at Texas A&M University, but came home to help take care of her grandmother.
She spent from late January to April 24 in Washington. There she worked at Freddie Mac. She recently moved to Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) in Houston as an audit partner.
Founded by former U.S. Representative Bill Archer, R-Texas, Dragun said Archer sees the scholarship as a way to bring UT System juniors and seniors to Washington to live and work in the city, take courses. course and see the political process firsthand.
“I had a great time and really got to learn a lot…” said Dragun.
During their stay, scholarship holders must take 15 hours of courses and find a job or an internship.
His cohort of 35 students worked in various public, private and non-profit agencies. All of them had different ideologies while working at the Heritage Foundation, different congressional offices, and liberal-leaning groups.
“There were a lot of different political views represented in the cohort, which was great,” Dragun said. “It led to a lot of really solid and interesting conversations and a much deeper understanding of different political views because we all live together in the same apartment complex… We were really able to build a lot of common ground. and having conversations about politics. “
One of the tasks of the students was to find other students within the cohort that they did not agree with, mainly on a political issue, and to have “difficult dialogues, this is where we would sit down one by one and talk about our disagreements and listen to another person’s point of view and express our own and have a conversation about where we agreed and where we disagreed and what was the common ground between these two points of view.
“I think for the most part what we’ve found is that even if there were irreparable differences, we’re never going to change our mind. …,” she said.
For the most part, Dragun added, everyone was working towards similar results through different approaches. But you can still make great relationships and friendships, even with very different points of view. Dragun said it was a good thing to see and “it was also a mission, so you had to do it.”
With 35 students, Dragun said they not only got to know each other well, but also the faculty and staff.
“… We had great teachers and adjunct professors to teach us, really awesome speakers who came regardless of the course. People from all public, private and non-profit sectors with different political ideologies and different career paths who were able to tell us about their careers and what they learned about advocacy and the political process; lots of really good instructions, ”she said.
The scholarship lasts for one semester, but due to COVID and the January 6 insurgency, it has been cut short by about a month.
“So we stayed there for about three months and it was still a great experience, and even with the COVID restrictions, we were able to visit the open monuments and a few of the museums that stayed open and just explored the city, this which was great. It was a lot of fun to do, ”Dragun said.
She noted that the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute paid tuition and living expenses while they were in Washington.
Dragun said it was an amazing opportunity because you have the means to have this enriching experience and to “meet some really great people”.
“I really appreciate that the JBS Leadership Institute has made the Archer scholarship possible. I think it was a life changing experience and I really owe this organization a lot of gratitude, ”she added.
At UTPB, Dragun got involved in student government. One of the advisers was Dean of Students Corey Benson.
At the time she applied, she was the student body president and was involved in the UT System Student Advisory Council. Benson encouraged her to apply.
He put Dragun in touch with the campus representative and encouraged her to continue filling out the applications.
“I appreciate that Corey Benson and Dr. Becky Spurlock (Vice President of Student Affairs and Leadership) are the people who have really encouraged me to continue with the program. When I got it, I was delighted. These are the first people I spoke to. I think I told them before I told my parents. They were a huge influence in encouraging me to go, ”Dragun said.
President Sandra Woodley also played a role.
“As student body president, Carmen Dragun is committed to supporting student achievement, belonging and well-being through her involvement with the Student Government Association,” Benson said in a text message. . “In her final year, she participated in the Archer program, which provides students with wonderful opportunities to gain hands-on experience in Washington, DC.”
Dragun noted that she was fortunate enough to meet people from other UT institutions.
“They represented not only a big difference in political views, but also different geographic locations. Now I know people who are leaders in their schools in different industries across the state. It’s just… really great… ”she said.
“It’s truly an honor to be a part of this prestigious group because it’s just a great resource,” Dragun added.
In the future, she hopes that more UTPB students will benefit from the scholarship.
“… This is a great program, especially with the resources available from the JBS Leadership Institute. I think it will be a great resource for the UTPB, ”she said.
Dragun has an older brother, Anthony, who is studying at UT Southwestern Medical School, and a younger sister, Vivienne, who is in second year at Notre Dame.
Dragun said she liked going to UTPB saying it was the “best decision I’ve ever made”.
She made “great friends” and had an amazing faculty and supportive administration.
“… I am a huge fan of Dr Woodley. She really made campus an exciting and inclusive place. It’s just a great place. I think she brought great energy to sports teams and student organizations. She makes herself very available to students, ”Dragun said.