Washington, DC Honors Trip

A pair of Scott Community College (SCC) honors students recently experienced the rare opportunity to gain further insight into their specific honors projects and to tour the halls of power in our nation’s capital.

Gail Ray and Thu Nguyen are the first students to participate in a new Honors Independent Study trip to Washington D.C. They were accompanied by SCC History Instructor Brian Hilton and Disability Resources Person Jan Weis.

The March 12 – 16 trip included visits with Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley, and Congressman Dave Loebsack, visits to the Supreme Court and White House, and specifically-designed meetings that reflected the students’ honors project work.

Nguyen’s project focuses on the American pharmaceutical industry’s policy and culture, and how these practices might be applied to her home country of Vietnam. Key parts of the trip for her were a visit to the Vietnamese Embassy, including an hour-long discussion with two high-ranking members of that embassy’s staff, and the meeting with Congressman Loebsack.

Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack visits with SCC student Thu Nguyen.
Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack visits with SCC student Thu Nguyen.

“I loved … talking with Congressman Loebsack, and visiting the Vietnamese Embassy where I had a chance to talk with people from my native country,” said Nguyen. “Congressman Loebsack and his staff person, Erin, spoke to me about my project and were genuinely interested in what I am learning through my Honors Independent Study.”

As a follow-up those meetings, Hilton said they are arranging additional discussions between Nguyen and an official of the Vietnamese Ministry of Health to provide additional insight for her project.

Ray’s project involves a merging of cutting-edge manufacturing processes and artistic forms.  She was able to discuss that further during two meetings, one with the Smithsonian Institution’s 3D Digitization Office and the other with the Chief Curator of the National Portrait Gallery.

Students and faculty with Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, center.
Students and faculty with Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, center.


Of course, simply being in Washington D.C. and experiencing its historical architecture was also a tremendous benefit for her.

“The trip began with a two-and-a-half-hour nighttime tour of the memorials and government buildings around the Washington Mall,” Hilton said. “Throughout the rest of the week, we visited a variety of places, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, several art galleries, the Library of Congress, and the Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Franklin Roosevelt Memorials. “

The meetings with Iowa’s representatives in Washington, and the visits to the White House and Supreme Court made for an extremely busy week.

Hilton said their conversations with Senators Ernst and Grassley, and Congressman Loebsack, covered a wide range of topics particularly agricultural and energy policy, as well as the basic functioning of a legislative office.

On their visit to the Supreme Court, they not only received a personal tour but also had a private meeting with current Supreme Court Fellow, Dr. Parker Douglas, who answered questions about the workings of the court and contemporary issues affecting it.

“For the Executive Branch, we had the opportunity to visit with an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, and other career department officials responsible for such things as the federal TRiO Program and Career, Technical and Adult Education,” Hilton said. “We discussed their jobs, the dynamics of having a new boss every four years and some of the pressing issues in higher education policy.”

“There were so many highlights of the trip it is hard to pick out one that shines above the rest,” he said. “We were on the Capital grounds when history was being made by more than 10,000 high school students bringing attention to the issue of gun violence in schools.

“We saw a horse-drawn caisson taking a soldier to his final resting place in Arlington Cemetery.  We met with our government representatives and their staff and they spent time with us discussing our concerns.  It was an unforgettable week for all of us and one that we hope to be able to continue to bring to honors students at SCC.”

A large number of students each year take advantage of the opportunities SCC’s Honors Program presents. They receive special recognition for their efforts and it provides a beneficial capstone to their college experience. More information about the Honors program is available on our website.

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