News & Updates

Scholarships promote civic involvement

Bradley senior Jim Pripusich of Glen Ellyn and junior Tommy Carroll of Peoria appreciate the value of public service. Both have set their sights on teaching political science at the college level, but their aspirations extend even further. The thought of running for public office some day runs through Pripusich’s mind. Carroll says his future might lie in international law.

From left to right: Tommy Carroll, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood '71, Jim Pripusich.

Pripusich and Carroll are the 2010-11 recipients of the Ray and Kathy LaHood Scholarships for the Study of American Government. Former Congressman Ray LaHood ’71, now U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President Barack Obama, and his wife Kathy (who earned an MBA from Bradley in 1987) established an endowment for the scholarships through the Dirksen Congressional Center. The scholarships promote public service through the study of politics and governance.

Pripusich knows firsthand what goes into campaigning. The political science major interned for the spring 2008 semester with Illinois State Representative Mike Smith, D-91st District, when Smith, a 1988 Bradley alum, faced opposition in the primary election.  Pripusich stepped back into the campaign arena in the fall of 2008 when he interned with Illinois State Representative Jehan Gordon, D-92nd District, in a hotly contested election. Pripusich went door-to-door on the campaign trail with Gordon and made phone calls on her behalf.

Beyond his efforts on the campaign trail, Pripusich gained an appreciation for a state representative’s daily routine. Once Smith won the primary, Pripusich worked in Smith’s Pekin office, helping with constituent services, press releases, and fund raising.

Pripusich now assists Dr. Emily Gill, professor of political science, helping with grading and with guiding freshmen in the Political Science 105 general education class. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in political science, probably comparative politics.

Carroll also expects to pursue post-graduate studies but has not decided yet between a Ph.D. or a law degree. He is involved with Bradley’s Pre-Law Center and works in the History Department during the school year and in the University’s Special Collections year-round. An honor student, Carroll is vice-president of the History Club and vice-president of Pi Gamma Mu, the National Honor Society for the social sciences.

As part of the scholarship selection process, applicants answer questions from a panel that includes Brad McMillan, executive director of Bradley’s Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service; Frank Mackaman, director of the Dirksen Congressional Center; and Bradley’s provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The panel of judges asks questions involving current issues and events, along with questions about the students’ backgrounds and experience. This year’s questions focused on health care reform and the influence of campaign money in the political system.

“We look for students who have academic credentials, along with extracurricular activities and a passion to be involved in public service,” McMillan says. “That passion can take a number of paths. It could be someone who will run for public office, or a teacher who will instill the value of public service in students, or someone who wants to work for government but not run for office.”

Carroll says Ray LaHood is an inspiration to him. “I admire his interest in achieving a more bipartisan government. He has tried hard to made strides in getting both parties to work together. Today, he is a Republican working on a Democrat’s Cabinet. Honestly, one of the most important things we need to do is achieve a more cooperative government.”

Pripusich agrees. “The party system is not working as it should. We have a great system of consensus building that should work by taking ideas from all over the system. Unfortunately, political gains outweigh the gains from the American people. Parties are interested in getting more of their own party into office, and that attitude does not lend itself toward consensus. We can see that with the health care packages and the stimulus package.”

For more information about the Ray and Kathy LaHood Scholarships, visit http://www.dirksencenter.org/print_scholarships_lahood.htm.