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Students give UO political scientist Dan Tichenor hope for the future because he sees them become friends in his leadership program, despite their opposing views.
An expert on the American presidency and immigration policy, Tichenor is the UO’s Philip H. Knight Chair of Social Science and a program director at the university’s Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.
Thanks to a seed grant from donors Tom and Carol Williams, Tichenor was able to launch an idea that’s transforming lives.
Now in its fourth year, his Morse Scholars Program selects 25 to 30 sophomores and juniors each fall, with a total of about 70 overall.
The goal is to give them a “deep-dive” opportunity of the sort usually reserved for graduate students—the same goal that inspired the Williams to set up their fund for undergraduate education.
A hallmark of the program is Democratic Dilemmas, an honors seminar where Morse Scholars explore issues ranging from climate change to national security.
“We’ve created a comfortable space for people with a variety of political perspectives,” Tichenor says. “Students develop really strong friendships across ideological divides, which is great to watch.”
Morse Scholars are on their way up. They’re winning coveted internships and scholarships, including the UO’s first Truman Scholarship in decades.
“One graduate e-mailed me earlier this year and said he had just passed six other recent grads who are working as key staffers in Oregon’s state senate and house offices,” Tichenor says. “One is in the governor’s office, and others are working in Washington or studying in top grad programs. I’m looking forward to seeing how their network builds as time goes on.”
While a gift got the program going, the need for help from donors is ongoing. Typically, students need transportation to complete externships at the local, state, and national levels, and stipends for honors research and field trips to meet leaders in Salem and Portland.