Political science program aims to expand graduate student pipeline

(From left) Jayden Sheridan, Giselle Vital, Naya Busbea, Diana Perez, Maryam Oyebamiji and Jose Santiesteban made up the first cohort of students to participate in the WUSTEPS Pipeline Program at Washington University in St. Louis. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

This summer, the Department of Political Science in Arts & Sciences launched a new pipeline program, the Washington University Summer Training Experience in Political Science (WUSTEPS), aimed at preparing undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds for success in graduate political science programs.

The first cohort of six undergraduates was recruited from mostly regional schools, including the University of Missouri–Kansas City, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the University of Kentucky.

Participants in the six-week program were paired with WashU faculty mentors and given the opportunity to work on active research projects as well as explore their own research interests. They also attended seminars, where they received research methods training and learned about everything from how to apply to PhD programs to career options post-graduation.

“Our goal with the WUSTEPS program is to give these students a taste of what graduate school would be like and the skills they will need to thrive should they choose to pursue it,” said Dan Butler, a professor of political science and the program’s co-director.

“I grew up in an academic household — my dad is a professor — so I was familiar with the university environment and what it would take to become a professor,” he said. “But many undergraduates — especially first-generation students or those who do not attend research universities — have never considered graduate programs or careers in academia. That means we’re missing a lot of talented students, not just for our program at WashU, but for the discipline as a whole.”

Matthew Hayes and Sunita Parikh, both associate professors of political science, co-lead the program with Butler.

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