Clarksville son thrives in D.C. summer internship

Release Date: 10/12/2011

On June 3, 2011 Mark Pearson packed up his bags and left Clarksville, Arkansas, headed for Washington, D.C. For this Clarksville native, the trip ahead was a bit daunting. "I'm from Clarksville," he says. "I've lived here my whole life, and I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy being in Washington. Now that I've been there - not to say I got more out of it because I'm from a small town … but it definitely impacted me." He laughs.

Pearson, a political science major, was one of the Ozarks students who attended Georgetown University over the summer to take courses and intern through the Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems, one of Washington's top academic and internship programs. Pearson received funding through the Clayton G. Russell Memorial Endowment for Political Science. The Clayton Fund was established in 2000 by the Mary I. Rogers Trust to broaden the scope of the political science program.  To date, 35 students have participated in summer courses and internships at Georgetown University using money from the fund.

Mark Pearson

Ozarks political science major Mark Pearson spent the summer at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

"I didn't really know what I was getting into," said Pearson. "I moved in and had roommates from Pittsburgh, Dallas, Long Island, and New York. They were the greatest bunch of guys I've ever met in my life."

Pearson took two courses during his time at Georgetown, "Comparative Economic Systems" with Dr. Benjamin Powell, who visited Ozarks recently, and "The Transformation of American Politics."

"They were the two largest classes I've ever been in," Pearson said. "I'm used to being called on in class, and that's not something that happens in that situation. No Socratic method, like here. I think there were 92 students in the transformation class and more like 150 in the economics class."

Pearson said current events played a big part in classroom discussions. "The debt ceiling, and Tea Party, the whole economic situation was definitely applicable in both my economics and politics classes," he said. "My politics class was more steered toward public policy, where we examined lobbying and how certain issues are addressed and how things get passed in congress. Everything was political in my classes."

The greatest thing about the classes, he said, was being in a room with so many students from so many different backgrounds. "I was in classes with people from Stanford, Yale, and prep schools around the country," he said. "Just to hear the different questions they would ask and perspectives they had was very rewarding. The amount of reading was the same as I've experienced at Ozarks. We do a lot of reading here, and that really helped prepare me. I know some people had a difficult time adjusting, but it was easy for me to handle. And knowing I can compete with them, on their same level…this whole summer was a big confidence booster for me."

When he wasn't in class, Pearson interned with the Continuing Legal Education division of Georgetown Law. "Basically if you're part of the bar, there are certain states that require you to get continued legal education, kind of like workshops that public school teachers undergo," Pearson said. "So Georgetown Law hosts these programs for lawyers online - corporate law, tax law, civil rights law, pretty much everything. They also publish an annual every year on criminal procedure. It's a really easy-to-read guide for lawyers on litigation and criminal procedure. The great thing about that was they would offer discounts to prison inmates, $15 or complementary copies of the previous year's issue. And though it wasn't the most glamorous job, what I got to do was read through all the incoming inmate mail. It was pretty interesting because most of them were really nice. It was a little weird to be in correspondence with this really nice person, and then to have them say, 'By the way, I'm serving a life sentence for murder,' or whatever."

Not all the letters were so prosaic. "We also got some weird ones. Sometimes they'd mail the law school just wanting legal help, and it would end up in our division somehow. One guy wanted to sue Rush Limbaugh for plagiarism. He also wanted to sue the CIA for drugging Vietnam soldiers. But I would respond to the mail, send them forms to fill out to receive their copy of the annual or so they could prove their indigency, stuff like that."

Pearson said there were too many answers to the question of what he enjoyed most about his summer. "Just being in D.C., for one thing," he said. "There's so much history in the Georgetown area especially. I drove by the Lincoln Memorial every day on my way to work. I saw the Capitol every day. It was an interesting feeling to stand on the same spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his 'I have a dream' speech. I ate dinner where JFK used to do his paperwork on Sunday afternoons. At one one restaurant I had "President Clinton's Shrimp Linguini." The restaurant names its meals after famous diners, and President Clinton used to have that delivered to the White House all the time."

He said another favorite part of the summer was the fact that his internship boss was Lawrence J. Center, assistant dean of Georgetown Law and the director of the Continuing Learning Education division. "I got to sit down with him and talk to him about law school and my future plans," Pearson said, "and I feel that was a solid connection I can have if I need a recommendation down the road. The people I met up there were absolutely great. I definitely developed some lifetime friendships. I know that Washington's one place I'd definitely like to live the rest of my life."