History, Political Science, Philosophy and Religion

History and political science are two majors in the Department of History, Political Science, Philosophy and Religion.

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Jeff Weldon is the city manager for the city of Brookings and an adjunct professor in the political science department. He’s been working in city government for 27 years and has taught six courses at South Dakota State. He has also provided internships for history and political science students.

“The two courses I had as an undergraduate that prompted my initial desire for this profession are the two I happen to be teaching at South Dakota State—public administration (POLS 320) and state and local government (POLS 210). It’s an opportunity for me to give back to a specific political science discipline that helped launch my career academically.

“If I want to have students take anything away from my classes, I want them to have an appreciation for and value the importance of government services. While it is easy to get frustrated with government—it is messy, frustratingly slow, inefficient—it is still vitally important for a safe and functioning society.

“What motivates me the most is the feeling that, in some small way, I’m making a difference. In my profession as city manager, and I’ve seen it in teaching as well, I think I’m making a difference.

“Believe me, in my job, there are plenty of things that keep me awake at night. There are plenty of nights I lose sleep over issues, but, by the same token, those issues challenge me and get me out of bed the next morning. I tackle and solve them, because I’m in the problem-solving business.

“I do that every day, and I face countless decisions in my job every day that have to be made. Sometimes my decisions are right, sometimes they are wrong. But it’s the whole idea that what I’m doing both personally, professionally and academically with students is, I think, making a difference. And, at the end of the day, I think that’s the contribution we all should make.”

By Makenzie Huber, political science and journalism senior from Sioux Falls Photo by Makenzie Huber

Note from Will Prigge, head of the history, political science, philosophy and religion department: Twelve of the 22 legislative intern positions in Pierre this session were from SDSU. This internship is incredible because South Dakota legislators do not have paid staffers. The interns do everything for a 38-day session for a $5,000 stipend. Danie Rang, junior political science and agricultural communication major from Parker, and Garrett Keegan, a senior political science/prelaw major from Dupree, were two of those interns.

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Danie Rang

“My very first semester at SDSU I had a professor who talked about how great the legislative session internship was. I remember talking to him afterward, and he said I would be a great fit.

“Applications became available over the summer. First, you send your resume and cover letter to the legislative research council in Pierre; then you have a face-to-face interview and wait four months to hear if you have been accepted, and I was!

“My favorite part was having access that other people didn’t have to the legislative party caucuses. It was awesome to see what goes on in there.

“It’s very friendly, with lots of joking around. Legislators have discussions with each other in an informal manner rather than having them on the floor. They really got down to the heart of the issue and what was bothering their constituents. Basically, a legislator can stand up and say, ‘Here’s my question.’ They just kind of talk until someone understands what they were trying to get at. And, I think it was cool to see that process.

“There’s this common misconception that politicians are greedy and out for themselves. When you are working for them, you see that they aren’t casting those votes because it benefits them personally. They consider every piece of evidence and spend a great deal of time listening to what constituents have to say. They do not cast their votes lightly. A great deal of time is put into each vote.

“People are quick to go after legislators—especially on social media—and call them nasty names or send hate mail. They seem to forget that there is a person on the other end of the line; there is a person whose ideas and experience lead them to cast their votes. People forget that.

“Legislators are people, too. They have families and hopes and dreams, too. They vote the way they do because that’s what their constituents want. If people have a problem with how their representative votes, they should contact them and talk about those disagreements instead of resorting to something like hate mail or ridiculous tweets. A representative is less inclined to believe what you’re saying is credible if you aren’t being civil.

By Danielle Kleitsch, agricultural communications senior from Brooklyn, Iowa
Photos by Danielle Kleitsch

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Garrett Keegan

“I’ll be going to law school at USD in the fall. After that, I plan on going back to West River, where I’m originally from and opening a practice or joining a practice in a rural area. I hope to be elected to the legislature in the next 10 years or so.

“I was a page when I was a senior in high school. As a result, I have a love of politics, especially South Dakota politics. I became a political science major and knew I always wanted to go back to the Capitol in Pierre.

“Dr. Prigge, head of the department, encouraged students to apply for the legislative internship. It’s in South Dakota, it’s paid and get credit. If you are planning on going into business in South Dakota when you graduate, this is the internship for you.

“Getting to know all the legislators was my favorite part. They come from different backgrounds and have different stories as to why they serve in the Legislature. I think getting to know them personally was a great experience.

“Many of the legislators were freshmen and didn’t always know what was going on. They would try to propose amendments at inappropriate times. Some of the legislators who had been there a long time would get mad at them. They couldn’t get too mad at them since they were in session so they would try to be as diplomatic about it as possible. It was kind of funny.

“We had social events most nights. There wasn’t a whole lot of off time if you attended those events. But, they were always fun, and there were free meals with the legislators and people from around the state who came for the session.

“An intern sees how the system works, how it affects everyday lives, and sees different aspects of the session. You meet business owners, teachers, lawyers, people who have retired, people from every walk of life. You get to talk to them about what you want to do. I recommend serving as an intern to students who want to stay in South Dakota after they graduate.”

By Danielle Kleitsch, agricultural communications senior from Brooklyn, Iowa

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Graham Wrightson is an assistant professor in the Department of History, Political Science, Philosophy and Religion. Originally from the United Kingdom, he taught an experiential history course this spring that focused on weapons used by Alexander the Great.

“I was able to secure funding for my program when I pitched the idea to get students involved. The students assisted by coming up with the research questions and then building the tactical manual replica weapons. With this being only half of the course, the other half consisted of students working on their own project, whether that be plant dyeing, spinning, cloth or coin making, and shields.

“Allowing the students to work on a project that they were passionate about brought a whole new excitement to the class. We had near-perfect attendance every class period and students were eager to work on the projects, whether that was their own or the weapons. I believe there is a spot for more experiential classes in the history department, as well as other departments here. The program is now set up on a two-year rotation for the history department.

“Our department saw a lot of success with it, and the department head wants to continue it. Because of its success, other departments have taken an interest in experiential classes. If funding allows, South Dakota State University may have many different ones scattered throughout campus in the semesters to come.”

By Lindsay Utter, agricultural communication senior from Wheatland, Wyoming

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An assistant professor in the psychology department, Phil Lee’s interest in candidates who lie or “fake” their responses during job interviews is what led him on the path of studying psychosomatic issues here at South Dakota State University.

“Being from South Korea, I noticed citizens looking for employment often filled out the personality assessments falsely. These assessments would be returned and a high majority of them would be almost identical, because the applicants would give false answers in order to build themselves up so they would appear to be the most desirable candidate.

“I have been focused on how to develop a fake-resistant noncognitive assessment, also known as a Multidimensional Forced Choice Assessment. Using this model would change the way noncognitive assessments are given. Traditionally, they are given with the answer choices being ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree.’ I hope to change assessments to a ranking system. Instead to answer the question, the number of items related to a topic would be ranked in the order that is ‘most like them’ to ‘least like them.’

“This way isn’t new; it’s actually been around for 40 years. However, the problem is with how the responses are scored. That is what I am trying to figure out using statistical modeling. In addition, I have also been working on developing a computer system to determine personality traits as well as working with the United States Army and private counseling to do similar assessments.”

By Lindsay Utter, agricultural communication senior from Wheatland, Wyoming

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