Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tobacco, Patent Medicine, and Genetically Engineered Animals: SPS '15 Visits the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Today the St. Albans School of Public Service class of 2015 visited the Food & Drug Administration ("FDA"), the federal agency charged with assuring the safety and effectiveness of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines, medical devices, and the food supply.  During our day at the FDA, we received an overview of the FDA's role, mission and functions; learned about tobacco regulation and health communication campaigns; heard about the FDA's role in regulating everything from novel medical devices to proposals for genetically engineered animals; and learned about current issues in drug development, from research budgets to the design of trials.  Our students were uniformly impressed by the dedicated professionals at the FDA and the cutting edge work they are doing, and appreciated the opportunity to get a chance to meet with these public servants and hear first-hand about their work.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mr. Jefferson's Library: SPS 2015 at the Library of Congress

The Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress
This morning the St. Albans School of Public Services was fortunate enough to have a private tour of the largest library in the world and one of the most striking public buildings in the U.S.A.: the Library of Congress.  The current iteration of the Library of Congress dates back to August 1814, when British troops burned the Capitol, including the Congressional library within.  Former President Thomas Jefferson offered to sell Congress his 6,487 volume library to provide the core of a new Library of Congress, and Congress made the deal for $23,950.

Two hundred and one years later, SPS 2015
visited the Library of Congress as it exists today: three buildings, housing the largest library collection in the world.  And it's not just books!  The Library's collection includes everything from comic books to antique maps to Stradivarious violins to real pirate gold!  (We witnessed the last.)

During our private tour, we focused on (1) the early American printing exhibit, which contained everything from the first book printed in America (the Bay Psalm, late 1630s) to important Revolutionary War publications such as Thomas Paine's "Common Sense;" (2) the wonderful exhibit on the 1964 Civil Rights Act; and (3) a tour of the awe-inspiring Jefferson building, with its soaring heights and grand, ornate style.
With our host and guide, Ms. Gordon, outside the Library of Congress

SPS on the move on Capitol Hill!

Amazing details everywhere in the Jefferson Building

Brandon, Elizabeth and Kellan at the Gutenberg Bible Exhibit (yes, THAT Gutenberg Bible)

Alex checks out the Gutenberg Bible

Learning about the architectural history of the Library of Congress

Interior details

View of the Main Reading Room

Ms. Gordon, our host and tour guide

Saturday, June 27, 2015

SPS 2015: Foreign Policy Focus

The St. Albans School of Public Service Class of 2015 finished off week 1 of SPS 2015 with two days of a foreign policy focus.  On Thursday, SPS 2015 met in class sections to discuss the changing foreign policy landscape through the lens of a New Republic article on foreign policy by Robert Kagan, Superpowers Don't Get to Retire: What Our Tired Country Still Owes the World.  (Click HERE for a link to the article.)  Later on Thursday, SPS '15 hosted author Juliana Geran Pilon, a Senior Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, who spoke about her background as an immigrant from Communist-era Romania and work in the United States in think tanks and for non-profit democratization entities.  

Ambassador's Residence at the German Embassy
Pretty good for a day's work, right?  But SPS '15 was not finished.  Our group went to the German Embassy, where we met for an extensive Q&A session with the German Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Peter Wittig.  (Click HERE for Ambassador Wittig's biography.)  We were lucky enough to be able to stay to enjoy dinner at the Residence and the chance to see the beautiful Embassy grounds.

On Friday, the emphasis on foreign policy continued.  In the morning, our entire group visited the U.S. Department of State in "Foggy Bottom," meeting with Assistant Secretary of State Douglas Frantz of the Bureau of Public Affairs (click HERE for Mr. Frantz's biography).  We had the opportunity not only to hear about the work of the State Department's Bureau of Public Affairs but to ask Mr. Frantz questions on everything from current foreign policy issues to his distinguished background as a working journalist.  In the afternoon, a "Ted Trip" went to the Center for New American Security's Annual Conference, where they attended panels on the nuclear negotiations with Iraq and on drone warfare.

Christian looks like he is ready for the big job at the State Department!

Anna K. and Caroline are ready for Q & A time

Check out the badges -- Nora and Blake are authorized!

Ali and Ellie, authorized and badged!

Friday, June 26, 2015

SPS 2015: Slideshow of Photos from Reception with SPS Board of Trustees

Enjoy a slideshow of photos from this year's School of Public Service Board Reception with the current SPS students (note: slideshow is powered by flash and will not show up on Apple mobile devices).

Real Breaking News This Time: "SPS Supreme Courts" Correctly Predict Same-Sex Marriage Decision of U.S. Supreme Court

The "SPS Supreme Courts" (both panels) turned out to have correctly predicted the outcome of the Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage case.  

Link to New York Times coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today: 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Breaking "News": SPS "Supreme Courts" Rule on Same Sex Marriage Case

The "SPS Supreme Courts" have ruled in favor of marriage equality in today's mock oral argument of the very same Obergefell v. Hodges case under consideration by the United States Supreme Court case.  (Click HERE for the SCOTUS blog coverage of Obergefell.)  By votes of 7-4 and 9-2, the "Trophy Room Court" and "Kellogg Room Court" both ruled that a state may not constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.  Both courts also ruled that, even if states are not required to allow same-sex marriages, they must still recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where such marriages are allowed.
Justice Bath announces the majority opinion for the "Trophy Room Supreme Court"

Justice Duke announces the majority opinion for the "Kellogg Room Supreme Court"

SPS 2015: Taking a Closer Look at the Constitution

Speaker Mr. Stimson leading an examination of the Constitution
The students of the School of Public Service Class of 2015 have spent the past two days taking a closer look at the Constitution and its intersection with law and policy.   SPS '15 started the day yesterday with a visit from Mr. Cully Stimson, Senior Legal Fellow and Manager of the National Security Law Program at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank.  Those members of the SPS '15 class contemplating a career in law got a fine introduction to the Socratic method, as Mr. Stimson took the students through an exploration of the Constitutional authority for the waging of war and armed conflict.

Later in the day, SPS '15 visited the leading D.C. libertarian think tank The Cato Institute, where Constitutional Scholar Roger Pilon, the founder and director of Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies spoke on issues of constitutional interpretation and judicial philosophy and fielded some very impressive questions from our young legal scholars.  Mr. Pilon and Cato were kind enough to provide the group with pocket copies of the Constitution to take home.

This focus on the text and interpretation of the Constitution is coming in handy today during the annual mock Supreme Court argument of a case from the current U.S. Supreme Court calendar.  SPS '15 has spent the day prepping for roles as lawyers and justices in the Obergefell case concerning same-sex marriages.  Teams of "attorneys" are arguing the issues of (1) whether states may constitutionally ban same-sex marriage; and (2) if so, whether such states may also refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states in which such marriages are legal.
Attorney Michael T. making a federalism argument

Attorney Elizabeth M. fields a question from the Justices

Justice Doran questions an attorney

Attorney Kieran H. makes an analogy
Attorney Domonic H. argues on the marriage recognition issue

Attorney Jain sums up her argument

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First "Ted Trip" of the School of Public Service 2015 Session: On the "Fast Track"!

A steamy DC day in the high 90s can't stop SPS '15 from getting out into the city and taking advantage of all that it has to offer.  Today is the first one of what we call "Ted Trips" -- smaller group trips to events such as conferences, think tank panels, and Congressional hearings, selected and led by SPS and St. Albans faculty member Mr. Ted Eagles.  Today's first "Ted Trip" headed out bright and early to the U.S. Senate, where they will wait in line (another DC right of passage) with hopes of getting into the Senate Gallery for the cloture vote on the Trade Protection Authority legislation (aka the "fast track" bill).  Click HERE for a link to a Roll Call article describing the drama behind the Senate vote!
The intrepid group heading out on the first "Ted Trip" of the SPS 2015 session!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Introduction to the Mock Supreme Court Argument

After an introduction to the case study method this morning, this afternoon the students at the St. Albans School of Public Service are being introduced to a different type of case: the first prep session for the upcoming mock Supreme Court argument.  Each year, SPS chooses a real case from the U.S. Supreme Court's current docket, and the SPS students serve as Justices and lawyers and argue the case.  SPS '15 will be prepping and arguing the Obergefell same-sex marriage case.
Will, Tom, and Sebastian are dialed in
Paying close attention as the Supreme Court case is introduced

Looks like a pretty good possible panel of Justices, ready to hear the case!

Getting the key background information on the Supreme Court case

Curriculum Director Ms. Duke explaining the backgound of the case

Sunday, June 21, 2015

SPS 2015: Scenes from Opening Day

Dinner in the Refectory

This crowd isn't camera shy!

An SPS alumna from the SPS class of 2003 dropped by and shared a few words 

Enjoying a warm summer night on the roof

Checking out the DC skyline

Ice cream AND a great view -- not bad!

Dramatizing the deliciousness that is ice cream

The SPS staff digs in to make the sundaes!

With new friends at the ice cream social

SPS 2015 is Officially Under Way: Student Number One Has Arrived!

SPS 2015 officially began with the arrival of the famed Student Number One (a highly coveted distinction), Nico B. from Dubai.  Welcome Nico and the rest of the St. Albans School of Public Service Class of 2015!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Legendary SPS Binders: Under Construction!

As any SPS alum can tell you, for four weeks during the summer at St. Albans, those on campus can identify the SPS students by their air of keen intellectual curiosity . . . and by the famous "SPS binders" that are their key summer accessory.  The binders contain the case studies and articles that are at the core of the SPS classroom experience.  By this Sunday, they'll be ready for their new owners to pick them up!