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January 17, 2001


DALLAS (SMU) -- Eighteen students majoring in Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Southern Methodist University are going to Washington D.C. during the week of the Bush Inauguration to see how many doors they can open in the halls of power.

Armed with cell phones and Palm Pilots, these 19- and 20-year old students will try to wrangle volunteer work opportunities at the inaugural balls, meet with U.S. senators and other Washington power brokers, hobnob at parties and reception lines, and observe the media at their jobs.

The point of the exercise is to teach them what it is like to lobby in the political world, according to Professors Rita Whillock and Kathy LaTour, who selected the students based on their academic prowess and their personal acumen. The students will write about their experiences upon their return.

"We are getting the students in the door to serve as volunteers for the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney Inaugural Committee, but the students will work their way from there, using their skills and the contacts they make to get the best assignments they can to volunteer at the exclusive balls and events," Whillock said. "The emphasis in this program is how politics works, regardless of which party the students may have favored. This is the nation's president, and the inauguration is an event where both parties come together."

Four of the students began making contacts while working at the conventions this past summer, volunteering in various capacities with national media outlets or working as personal assistants for the political party officials. One SMU student was assigned to work "advance," driving Vice President-elect Dick Cheney to various convention activities.

For the Washington trip, the students are paying course fees as well as their own airfare and food. They will leave Dallas Sunday, January 14, returning Sunday, Jan. 21. Some students who needed financial assistance were provided scholarships through a $12,500 assistance grant donated by The Bauer Foundation and SMU alumnus Douglas Bauer.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner and his wife, Gail, also will attend the Bush Inauguration. Among SMU board members planning to attend is Board of Trustees Chair Ruth Altshuler. The SMU Mustang Band, cheerleaders and pom squad will perform in the Inaugural Parade.