Student Leader Lends Talents to B.G.S. Program

by ABBY TOMLINSON

November 09, 2010

The Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) has a new student leader. John "Jett" Thompson is the University College's first Student Government Association (SGA) representative and he is more than qualified for the position.

Thompson, a 22-year-old senior, already has an impressive résumé; between his experiences working in the nation's capitol and the time he spent studying in Senegal and France, he has accomplished much toward his immediate goal of working in international diplomacy. But Thompson seems to take it all in stride. With a striking mix of confidence and humility, Thompson described his decision to pursue a BGS degree and, later, his uncommon experiences in leadership.

"The Bachelor of General Studies degree program gave me the ability to structure my degree how I wanted," Thompson said. "I chose the classes that I wanted instead of having someone else choose my classes for me."
The BGS allows students to choose three areas of concentration rather than a major and a minor. More than 600 students have made the choice to pursue it, making it one of the fastest-growing degree programs on campus.

Thompson built his degree around his interests in geography, French and international affairs.

"For my degree, I needed an international context," Thompson, a Global Affairs student, explained. "I choose geography because I have always loved looking at maps and satellite imagery; French because I've taken the classes since high school and I am fluent, so I thought that would be a good choice. You can really do anything you want with it."

In addition to molding a degree program to meet his career goals, Thompson has taken the steps necessary to gain international educational and working experience that he believes will help him land his dream job in the future. During his junior year, he chose to study abroad in the West African nation of Senegal with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). This program allowed him to study on the campus of the National School of Applied Economics in Dakar. While in Senegal, he parlayed his education into an internship after responding to a posting for a student fluent in both English and French.

The internship was with the West African Bureau of Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization (NGO). Human Rights Watch is an organization that serves as an advocate for people who are oppressed worldwide, and Thompson spent his time with the organization working with the director of the West African division, researching human rights violations in Sierra Leone and a number of other African countries.

One portion of his internship, described by Thompson as the most memorable part of his time in Africa, was spent working with a Peace Corps representative on the border of Guinea. They traveled by bike, working with the area's locals to improve agriculture practices and help out in other ways, as needed.

"I had the opportunity to spend a week-and-a-half in a rural site, and I got to choose what organization I worked with," Thompson recalled. "They just send you out and tell you how to get there; being out in the middle of nowhere is a really cool experience."

Thompsons skills in self-motivation and leadership are apparent, and the Dallas native said that the choice to attend Texas Tech University was an easy one.

"I chose Texas Tech University because a lot of my friends came here; it was one of the most appealing schools to me," Thompson said. "It's a large University but it's in a small town, so you get that college town feel. Coming to Texas Tech has turned out to be the greatest decision I've made."

One of the reasons Thompson is glad he came to Texas Tech is the University's Congressional Internship program, coordinated by the Office of the President. Thompson was one of the students chosen for the competitive program that places Tech students in the office of a congressperson or senator for a fall, spring or summer semester.
Thompson worked in the office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, a representative of Houston, whom he chose because of her service on the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees. While working in Washington, Thompson visited the White House twice and had the opportunity to meet Hillary Clinton and Janet Napolitano, among other prominent political figures. He said his favorite aspect of the position was meeting with high-profile, global political players, including lobbyists and ambassadors.

With experience so diverse, it is difficult for even Thompson himself to decide what to do after graduation.

"I think it's almost more difficult now because I've done so many different things," Thompson said. "I feel like I could go so many different ways, but I guess it's better to have a lot of options."

Now that he is back at Texas Tech University, Thompson plans to stay long enough to complete his degree and help get the University College's participation in student government off to a great start. He plans to lay the groundwork for the College's participation and get the ball rolling for its two student organizations, the Wind Energy Student Association and the Wind Energy Law Student Association. Thompson has become one of the most prominent student advocates for the BGS degree, and for good reason.

"I think the BGS program is awesome. The fact that you can choose specific areas and put them together to customize your degree is great," Thompson said. "There are so many people who are interested in things that do not necessarily go together, but when you combine them, it's great."

The University College is not the only organization on campus that Thompson has served. He is also a member of the French Club, Tech Republicans and several honor societies. He even worked as a writer for the University's campus newspaper, the Daily Toreador.

"I was the beat writer for the Board of Regents, administration and Student Government, but I wrote other stories when things would come up," Thompson said. He said one of his best stories resulted from an interview with Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general for the United States.

"It was so cool to sit down and talk with a guy who was such a major player in the White House," Thompson recalled.

After graduation, he plans to work in international diplomacy for a few years and then make the transition into the private sector. Although he does not plan to live overseas for his entire career, he wants to find a position in which international travel is necessary and common, and his interest in African affairs could also come into play. He said that he believes his BGS degree, combined with his unique set of internship experiences will be a great jumping-off point for his ideal career.

"I've really loved the program," Thompson said. "The University College is a smaller College where students get more attention and interaction with leadership. It's been a great experience."


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