Learning Beyond Boundaries: Taking D.C. and England by storm

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Samuel Barker ’18 is taking the notion of “Beyond Boundaries” to a new level—first to Washington D.C., and now Oxford University. A mathematics major from Gold Hill, N.C., who plans to pursue a doctorate in economics, Sam is demonstrating that his Pfeiffer experience is preparing him to apply classroom knowledge to very real situations.

During the fall 2016 semester, Sam lived, worked and studied in Washington, D.C., as part of the United Methodist College Washington Consortium and Capitol Hill Internship Program. These programs provide students opportunities to live in the heart of the nation’s capital while working as interns for governmental and nongovernmental offices of select Washington D.C. programs and learning through internship-related seminars and courses.

For his internship with the Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives (CMFA) at the Cato Institute, a nonprofit public policy research organization dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace, Sam monitored media and scholarly academic content for social media and general tracking purposes, researched policy on a number of topics, and covered and wrote summaries about relevant D.C. events and congressional hearings.

While Sam’s internship kept him busy Monday through Thursday, on Fridays he worked for the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics (GISME), McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University. There he assisted with the logistics of presenting weekly seminars where faculty debated working academic papers, read reviewed textbooks for future business ethics courses, and researched and suggested ways for GISME to reach out to undergraduates.

“I discovered that in my subject areas, mathematics and economics, I was equally as or better prepared than interns I met from many other colleges and universities across the country,” said Sam. “My Pfeiffer education is pointing me toward far-reaching yet attainable next steps.”

His Cato Institute colleagues agree.

“Sam researched complex policy and academic topics such as Gresham’s law, the Korean housing market, payday lending, cash banning, regulatory costs of IPOs pre WWII, and the use of administrative law judges by the Social Security Administration,” said Ari Blask, research assistant. “As part of the intern program, he wrote a piece on organ selling, which I had the pleasure of reading and commenting on."

Sam encourages other Pfeiffer students to take advantage of the Capitol Hill Internship Program because of its flexibility and the ability to make of it whatever one decides.

“D.C. is a beautiful city with a lot to offer—with the bonus of being able to walk everywhere,” he said. “I learned that I may not want to live there forever but this opportunity was extremely valuable.”

In Sam’s case, it provided a stepping stone to studying at the University of Oxford, where he is spending spring 2017. Besides fulfilling a lifelong dream, the choice to study at England’s oldest university provides Sam the opportunity to choose a niche subject to read, design his own inquiry through the institution’s one-on-one tutorial system, and engage with students through conversation that presupposes a common language. He is taking a mathematics tutorial that focuses on Real Analysis II as well as those on the history of economic thought and the political economy.

With a student body of nearly 20,000 dispersed among 30 colleges, Sam appreciates being a member of Magdalen College, which has fewer than 600 students. While granted a tightly knit community, he is able to access the university’s vast resources such as its library system.

“The best and most challenging thing about Oxford is that it is a place of the mind,” he said. “All ideas are harshly scrutinized and yet accepted, regardless of their seemingly alien nature, if properly defended.”