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Ben Harkins Video Transcript

[Interviewer] Welcome to the University of North Georgia Political Science & International Affairs Department's YouTube channel, where we present interviews of our students, past, present, and future to highlight their accomplishments and insights.

In this segment of our "Meet Our Alumni" series, you will have the opportunity to meet one of the newer additions to our PSIA family, Mr. Ben Harkins. Ben received his Bachelor of Science in Political Science, with a pre-law concentration, back in December of 2016. He is currently pursuing a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

Good Morning, Ben.

[Ben Harkins] Good Morning.

[Interviewer] To start us off, would you please tell us a little about yourself? Who is Ben Harkins...really?

[Ben] I'm Benjamin Brown Harkins. I grew up in Gainesville, Georgia, just south of, or right in the middle of UNG campuses right now. I met my wife while I was here at North Georgia. We're currently living in Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, while I go to law school and my wife goes to the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. We have a dog who is almost five years old, a big golden Lab, and that takes up most of my time.

[Interviewer] Okay.  What got you into political science as an undergraduate? And more specifically, or maybe more importantly, why political science here at the University of North Georgia?

[Ben] So I transferred here after my freshman year from a bible college up in Kentucky. Having grown up here and having gone through my first year and then deciding I didn't really want to be a pastor any longer, decided to come back home, figure out what I wanted to do. North Georgia provided a great place to help me figure out what I wanted to do both with my education and what I wanted to do with my career long-term. Originally picked international affairs because it sounded really cool. Had Dr. Miner as my first advisor and took American Government and took Global Issues my first semester and just really fell in love with the classes, with the professors that I had.  I had American Government with Professor Sutton, and while he went through the basics of American government and the basics of our federal system, he brought passion for public service and public interests to the subject. And that's stuck with me as I've gone on from North Georgia.

[Interviewer] You finished your undergraduate studies back in 2016. Now you're at University of Pennsylvania. How was that transition?

[Ben] The transition went as best as I could have expected it to.  I took off about 18 months to work, focus on my LSAT, and law school admissions process. And wait for my wife to graduate.

Once classes started I didn't really know what to expect. Law school's unlike any other academic pursuit that I've experienced. All of the classes are the final exam. So you never really know how you're doing until grades come in after the final. So many of my classmates went to undergrads at Ivy Leagues, at other peer institutions to the University of Pennsylvania. And I went to North Georgia and I was a little uncertain of my place and how I would do. But I ended up being near the top of my class and I would say it's really, don't discount your degree; don't discount the experience that you can have at North Georgia, because, you can be right  up there with the Harvard grads.

[Interviewer] Well, good for you. Looking back at your time with our PSIA family here at the University of North Georgia, is there any particular aspect of your four years here, actually three years here, that you could point to now and say that had been particularly useful in my current studies at UPenn?

[Ben] Yeah, I think my experience with Dr. Friedman, and I took three classes with him, and he was a fierce critic of my writing and my ability to persuade. And he definitely made me a better writer. And anything that you do in law school is going to be a lot of research and writing based. So I definitely feel like I had a leg up after taking those classes with him.

I took Model UN with Dr. Miner and developed quick, on-the-fly research abilities and some public speaking skills.

And the internship requirement that almost all the political science degrees require, has been able to help me make connections across the political scene in Georgia.

[Interviewer] Speaking of the internship program, where did you do your internship?

[Ben] Yeah. I interned with Michelle Jones. She was a Senate candidate for State House down in Flowery Branch during the 2016 campaign.  She was a Democratic candidate and I got to do canvasing, organizing interns, meeting people up and down the Atlanta/North Georgia political scene in the democratic sphere.

[Interviewer] As a follow-on Ben, in addition to what you've already related, what experiences from participating and being a member of our family and participating in the political science program here, have been most meaningful to you in your life? And also, if you can extrapolate, which do you anticipate being most meaningful to your future?

[Ben] I think having my degree from North Georgia means a lot to Georgia employers, to North Georgia legal community. So while I did go away to Pennsylvania to go to law school to get one of the best legal educations I could get, having that North Georgia degree coming back, I have a job offer from King and Spaulding, which is a great Atlanta firm for next summer and I hope to work for a judge in Georgia. And I'm definitely going to be playing up the North Georgia experience as a way to show that I really want to be here and come back and work in the community that raised me up.

[Interviewer] In closing Ben, what do you have to say to our viewers, either prospective students, current students, or former students, both undergraduate and graduate?

[Ben] Definitely reach out to your network. Speaking of former students, all the time as I was looking for jobs in Atlanta, excuse me, I was reaching out and seeing if a law firm here a law firm there had in North Georgia grad and several did and provided some great information about both that firm and about the legal job market in general.

For future students, they, this is a great opportunity to come, experience a great faculty, small classroom environment where you'll be able to make great connections with classmates and great relationships with professors that can be a lifelong resource both for formal letters of recommendation and for informal networking opportunities.

And like I said, all, almost all the degrees require an internship. And those internships can turn into life-long opportunities and connections. No matter whether it's in Morocco or Lebanon or if it's right here in Hall County and Lumpkin County.

So I say that I wouldn't replace my North Georgia experience for anything where I am at my life right now.

[Interviewer] Well, that sounds really fantastic Ben, thank you for your time. I want to wish you all the best as you continue on both your academic and your professional journey. I sincerely hope you will continue to experience more with the help of your degree and your time here with UNG's Political Science & International Affairs Department.

[Ben] Thank you.

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