‘A medium for change’
Sophomore chosen for prestigious internship
Dennis Pickens Jr. hasn’t always embraced politics, but after taking an honors political science class at The University of Mississippi, he became a fan. His newfound enthusiasm has garnered him an internship at the Institute for Responsible Citizenship.
Pickens, a McCarty Accountancy Scholar and sophomore accountancy major in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, will spend this summer in Washington, D.C., where he will hold an internship and take rigorous courses at Georgetown University. Each year 24 of the most promising black male college sophomores in the country are selected to participate in the public-service focused program.
This is the first time an Ole Miss student has been chosen for the program.
Pickens, a Newton High School graduate and son of Dennis Pickens Sr. and Ethel Pickens, said he had a pessimistic outlook on politics until Kenneth Townsend’s class sparked his interest.
“I wasn’t into politics until I took his class, and it made me view Washington in a new light,” Pickens said. “He showed me that politics can be a medium for change.”
The news that he had been chosen for the internship came at a bittersweet time for Pickens, as he found out the day after his grandfather died. “I was thrilled to receive the news. William Keyes, the president of the organization, called me and told me I was one of the seven chosen by early decision,” Pickens said.
Townsend, a Barksdale Fellow and instructor in public policy leadership at the Honors College, said Pickens has been an absolute delight to teach and is an extremely hard worker.
“Not only has Dennis maintained a 4.0 [grade-point average] while taking difficult honors courses but, for the last two summers, he has also participated in prestigious programs with Merrill Lynch and the London School of Economics,” Townsend said. “Being chosen for the Institute for Responsible Citizenship represents another well-earned milestone for Dennis. I believe it is important for our campus community to understand how big of a deal this program is.”
While at Georgetown, Pickens will take courses in government and economics designed to provide skills necessary to critically analyze the world’s problems while adhering to a deep respect for civil liberties. When not in class or at work, the students are called upon to attend functions to help them network within their fields.
The Institute for Responsible Citizenship creates a pathway for the top black males in the country both in and out of the classroom, Pickens said. He is most excited about being able to meet two legends: Georgia congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “I also hope to meet Barack Obama, but we’ll have to see what his schedule is like,” he said. “The opportunity to meet people like that is invaluable.”
He said he hopes to strengthen his personal characteristics and to get to know people who can help him achieve his future goals. “I think the program will make me well-rounded socially, academically and as a leader. I’ll be meeting leaders from the civil rights movement, from politics and from corporate America, and I think they will increase my breadth of knowledge of America as a whole,” Pickens said.