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The Spirit of 41

25

th

BY JEANNIE RALSTON

As the Bush School of Government and Public Service celebrates its 25th anniversary, discover the ABCs of its storied history, notable strengths and bright future.

When Gen. (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III, dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, watches the morning news, he often becomes “disenchanted, depressed or frustrated.” But Welsh has found an effective and, for him, easily accessible antidote.

“I feel better as soon as I come to work and talk to a student,” he said. “It’s remarkably uplifting to know that there are still citizens of our country and other countries who want to be the solution, not the problem.”

Welsh believes President George H.W. Bush—whose spirit of service, collegiality and nonpartisanship has guided the institution for the past 25 years—would also rest assured in meeting today’s Bush School Aggies. “We have a commitment to public service at the Bush School, surrounded by a belief in the Aggie core values,” he added. “The greatest strength of the Bush School is that we are part of Texas A&M University. The two go hand-in-glove.”

As the Bush School—which currently offers five graduate programs and a variety of certificates and concentrations—celebrates a milestone anniversary, Welsh and faculty are pinpointing how its unique character and curriculum can make an even greater impact on policy, diplomacy, security and intelligence. Read on to discover the ABCs of the school’s storied history, notable strengths and bright future.

President George H.W. Bush’s principles of service, collegiality and nonpartisanship have guided the Bush School to rank among the nation’s top tier of public and international affairs graduate institutions. Discover how his philosophy that “public service is a noble calling” has shaped all aspects of the school’s curriculum, research and student experience in its first 25 years.


Help the Bush School celebrate its 25th anniversary! At the bottom of this page, you can make a gift to the school's excellence fund or contact Cara Collins '08 to learn more about supporting any of the initiatives featured in the letters within.

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American Diplomacy

I find that students usually have a great affinity for one another. I’m impressed by how they tend to focus less on unproductive polemics and more on considering ways to work together.

Larry Napper '69

“You aren’t learning anything when you’re talking.” That’s what former President Lyndon B. Johnson said many years ago, and it’s a philosophy Larry Napper ’69 embraces in his classes on diplomacy and international relations. Napper, a former ambassador with 31 years of service in the Department of State, teaches students the tenets of statecraft.

To encourage people to speak and listen, Napper coordinates conversations between his pupils and peers from other countries. He likes to see students engage in freewheeling discussions and gain firsthand experience in the art of diplomacy. “I find that students usually have a great affinity for one another,” he said. “I’m impressed by how they tend to focus less on unproductive polemics and more on considering ways to work together.”

Taylor Cofield ’20 said she uses lessons learned from Napper and the Bush School every day in her job as a foreign service officer for the Department of State, serving in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. “I learned the art of negotiation from Ambassador Napper,” said Cofield, who earned a Master of International Affairs. “I’m comfortable with the complexities of formulating and implementing policy in the international arena because of coursework at the Bush School.”

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Biosecurity & Pandemics

virus closeup

It’s been said many times that the country could never have predicted the devastating impact of a pandemic like COVID-19. But Andrew Natsios, director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and a former administrator of USAID, and his associates had warned about the lack of preparedness for just such a crisis since 2018 and had offered ways to prevent it.

“The pandemic has shown the weaknesses and strengths of the highly decentralized federal model of disaster preparedness, which will likely be debated for years to come,” Natsios said. “COVID-19 is a major event in American history with profound consequences for our future.”

Team members from the Scowcroft Institute’s Pandemic Policy Program have made almost 90 COVID-19 media appearances during the past two years, solidifying the Bush School as an international leader in pandemic and bioterrorism preparedness and response.

Natsios believes the pandemic has highlighted problems with outsourcing the production of pharmaceuticals, vaccines and medical equipment. “COVID-19 has taught us how very vulnerable we are as a country in a health crisis. We must begin to home-source these life-saving drugs and equipment before another national health emergency,” he said, noting that Bush School experts will continue to offer insight and analysis for future steps.

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City and County Government

Each of the lessons, experiences and professional relationships I had while at the Bush School are integrated into my daily work. We saw real-world examples of policy decisions impacting peoples' lives, not just a business's bottom line.

Neal Wendele '18

While the Bush School’s areas of diplomacy, security and international relations get much attention, a lesser-known concentration on city and county government has become one of the school’s fastest-growing programs. City and county government is “where the rubber meets the road,” said Brian Nakamura, an assistant professor of practice who has held several city manager positions. “You can touch it, feel it and see it. It’s real.”

Those working in local government have a more intimate connection with their constituencies and can see a direct impact on quality of life. This may be why demand is growing for classes in this area. “Many students are choosing local government because they can make a difference much more quickly and clearly,” said Ann Bowman, holder of the Hazel Davis and Robert Kennedy Endowed Chair in Government and Public Service.

The Bush School is creating a program to train future leaders in city and county government and act as a research centralizer to help local communities find solutions to their problems. One goal is to fund fellowships that will allow students to bring their skills to both rural and metropolitan cities and counties, especially those needing an economic boost.

“Each of the lessons, experiences and professional relationships I had while at the Bush School are integrated into my daily work,” said Neal Wendele ’18, who earned a Master of Public Service and Administration and is now the city manager of Todd Mission, Texas. “We saw real-world examples of policy decisions impacting peoples’ lives, not just a business’s bottom line.”

As the state population continues to concentrate in large cities, small and medium-sized communities suffer from diminished budgets and a lack of leadership to spearhead economic development. Through a $10 million fundraising campaign with many opportunities to support students and faculty, the City and County Governance Program will develop future managers for local governments, aligning with Texas A&M’s mission as a land-grant school.

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Duke It out for Diplomacy

It’s not all work and no play for Bush School students. Each year, they enjoy participating in a long-standing softball game against members of their in-state rival school, The University of Texas’ Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. For years, the winning team claimed a stuffed likeness of Texas’ small state mammal—an armadillo. While not particularly good-looking, the “Dillo Award” (now replaced by a golden victory cup) is representative of the spirit and camaraderie that students look to cultivate on the field and as graduates working toward a nonpartisan society. The Bush School team has won 13 of the first 20 annual games.

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Energy & the Environment

energy plant

The big question facing the world—one the Bush School is tackling head-on—is how to efficiently create a greener future. “We want to achieve our climate goals without significantly disrupting the economy,” said Eric Lewis, an assistant professor and research fellow of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy.

As part of their coursework, students can earn a concentration in energy and the environment or a certificate in these areas for online work. Under Lewis' direction, students examine water and energy policy and consider engineering issues and how human behavior—such as how much people will value a more environmentally focused way of life—affects policymaking.

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Foreign Service

Every year, three to five Bush School students enter the Department of State’s Foreign Service after passing the arduous Foreign Service Officer Test with the help and mentorship of professors of practice. These graduates help represent our nation’s government interests abroad and provide necessary information on which U.S. foreign policy is based.

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Growth

young happy woman

From an inaugural class of just 17 students to approximately 790 students today enrolled in both online and in-residence graduate programs and certificates, the Bush School has experienced tremendous growth in its short lifespan. In 2021, it ranked in the top 10% of graduate public affairs schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Thanks to generous financial support from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 2021 also saw the Bush School open a teaching site in Washington, D.C., that offers two master’s degrees for early to mid-career professionals. Twelve students made up the school’s inaugural cohort in January 2021, while enrollment increased to 28 students in fall 2021 and is anticipated to rise further in 2022.

“Being in Washington gives us greater access to policymakers,” Dean Welsh said. “It also gives us a platform to bring a little bit of Aggieland to the nation’s capital, and I think a little bit of Aggieland is good for everyone.”

With a prime location in the hub of the capital, the Bush School DC offers students a front-row seat to the issues of the day and draws upon renowned experts to enhance its programs. Four initial development initiatives will fund student scholarships, international experiences for students, a speaker series and an endowed professor of practice.

With its commitment to a spirit of nonpartisanship and inclusion, the Bush School also hopes to grow its general scholarship endowment by $10 million by 2025 to offer more students educational support, including additional awards for underserved students, first-generation students and veterans.

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Health Policy

Childhood vaccination rates are down. Mental health issues are up. And telehealth is here to stay. These are some ways the pandemic has changed health care, according to Laura Dague, an associate professor in the Department of Public Service and Administration who oversees a student capstone project on the social determinants of health. “The consequences of the pandemic are something we’ll be studying for a long time,” she said.

The pandemic has demonstrated that health issues can impact every aspect of society—from education to international relations—since disease doesn’t stop at a country’s borders. It has also highlighted the value of a specialized collaborative program in which students can earn a Master of Public Service and Administration from the Bush School and a doctorate in health services research from the School of Public Health in three years. The program offers a “big picture” look at health care, and graduates are uniquely qualified to take on the complexities presented by health crises.

As a postdoctoral research fellow in health policy in the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine, Hadley Stevens Smith ’14 ’15 said, “The lens through which I view health policy and economics research is shaped by my Bush School experience, rooted in objectivity and a spirit of public service.”

Endowed professorships are essential to maintaining faculty excellence. At the Bush School, these positions are even more critical, as many students pursue government or policymaking roles and need exposure to professors leading in their fields. The Bush School has a 2:1 matching opportunity available to fully fund an endowed professorship in health policy.

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Intelligence

The wealth of resources in the nation's capital affords us an incredible opportunity to connect with paths of public service in key areas at the highest levels of government.

Jay Silveria

Good intelligence work has never been more critical to the country’s security, and the Bush School continues to rise to the occasion. The school’s greatest strength is its faculty and professors of practice, many of whom have worked in the CIA, FBI, NSA and military intelligence. “Our main goal is getting students into the field,” said Katherine Weary ’01 ’02, an assistant professor of practice and former student of the Bush School who spent years working in intelligence positions. This is not an easy undertaking, but through faculty connections and intensive classes, the school has helped more than 300 graduates enter careers in the Intelligence Community.

“All of my classes are skill-based,” Weary added. Her students learn the psychology of analysis and real tradecraft, including how to properly write a briefing, overcome biases and evaluate competing hypotheses. “We foster logic and critical thinking at its finest.”

Rhiannon McNamara ’21 is grateful for the rigorous coursework now that she’s working as an intelligence analyst for Lone Star Analysis. “Because of my time at the Bush School,” she said, “I not only know how to do analysis, but I also know why it is important to the end user.”

This unique intelligence curriculum is now accessible to more people due to a significant donation from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation to create the Bush School’s teaching site in Washington, D.C., which offers two master’s degrees: one in national security and intelligence for early to mid-career professionals, and one in international policy for those who have at least four years of experience in the fields of international affairs and national security.

“The wealth of resources in the nation’s capital affords us an incredible opportunity to connect with paths of public service in key areas at the highest levels of government,” said Jay Silveria, Bush School DC executive director. “From the halls of Congress and the State Department to Homeland Security, the CIA and our U.S. military, we are preparing students to be tomorrow’s leaders.”

The Bush School is undertaking a $10 million fundraising campaign, with funding opportunities at various levels, to expand its Intelligence Studies Program and produce leaders the Intelligence Community needs.

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Joyous Jumps

two skydivers

President George H.W. Bush made many appearances at the Bush School over the years, but none more dramatic than his skydiving parachute jumps. He completed three parachute jumps in College Station during his retirement, landing each time near the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on West Campus. He took to the skies in a solo jump in 1999 to mark his 75th birthday, followed by a tandem jump in 2004 for his 80th birthday and a second tandem jump in 2007 for the library’s 10th anniversary and rededication ceremonies.

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Kohl, Kennedy and Many More

image of Kohl, Kennedy and many others image of Kohl, Kennedy and many others

Imagine participating in a panel discussion with former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl or attending a reception with the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Bush School students have been fortunate to experience all that and more over the years, as President Bush’s vast connections brought many world leaders and dignitaries to campus. In addition to visits from the likes of Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and Jeb Bush, students also listened to Condoleezza Rice teach a class and once witnessed President Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev engage in a Q&A.

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Lyle Lovett on Stage

image of Lyle Lovett on stage playing guitar

The Bush School was formally dedicated in September 1997 in a ceremony involving President George H.W. Bush, then Texas Gov. George W. Bush, university regents, officials, faculty and hundreds of enthusiastic citizens. To cap the two-day celebrations, Lyle Lovett ’79 gave a memorable concert in Rudder Auditorium. He later performed in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center in honor of President Bush’s 95th birthday celebration in June 2019.

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Medal of Excellence

All Bush School students are strongly encouraged to pursue the Medal of Excellence, an award that requires them to complete a leadership certificate and prepare a reflective learning ePortfolio. The portfolio prompts students to connect their learning across interdisciplinary experiences, such as participation in leadership programs, courses and internships. Students who complete the above-and-beyond requirements are recognized by the dean at a ceremony before graduation.

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Nonprofit Management

Creating value in a nonprofit organization can be difficult and complex. Not only do we think about how to lead, but we also think about why people participate as volunteers and support missions through donations.

William Brown

The Red Cross. The United Way. The Salvation Army. Habitat for Humanity. Many institutions that do important work in society, from disaster services to poverty relief, are not government entities but nonprofits. Their challenges are different from those in the public or private sectors. “Creating value in a nonprofit organization can be difficult and complex," said William Brown, director of The Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy. "We think not only about how to lead, but also about why people participate as volunteers and support missions through donations.”

For real-world experience, the center has a fellowship program that places students on the boards of local nonprofits, which benefit from the fresh ideas and important skills students like Phil York ’12 bring to the table.

With his degree in nonprofit management, York has become a development manager at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “Nonprofits are uniquely positioned in American communities to bring about positive change that other sectors cannot,” he said. “However, this change can only happen through a disciplined, studied and thoughtful approach that a program like the Bush School teaches.”

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Originial Offices

We would race each other to the top or bottom! One would take the elevator; the other, the stairs. Going down, the stairs almost always proved faster; however, it took effort to beat the elevator going up!

Dr. Charles Hermann

Before the Bush School was housed in the Allen Building, it initially operated from a small corner suite on the top floor of Harrington Tower. The elevators usually stopped at multiple floors, making the ride to and from Bush offices quite slow. The school’s founding director, Dr. Charles Hermann, devised a game with its first fiscal officer, Frederick “Rick” Johnson: “We would race each other to the top or bottom!” Hermann recalled. “One would take the elevator; the other, the stairs. Going down, the stairs almost always proved faster; however, it took effort to beat the elevator going up!”

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"Public Service is a Noble Calling."

President Bush speaking

President George H.W. Bush’s philosophy that “public service is a noble calling” guided the creation of the Bush School and underscores all aspects of its curriculum, research and student experience today. Undoubtedly, the notion of producing men and women of character dedicated to serving the greater good of society will remain a distinguishing component of the school’s DNA as its legacy continues.

“I’ve listened to biographies of George and Barbara Bush, and I came here because they emphasized service,” said Emilee Pugh Bell ’22, a second-year student at the Bush School. “That’s something I’ve seen among all the school’s students and staff, and it’s something I really appreciate.”

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Quirky Tradition

two people touching a statue's face two people touching a statue's face

In one of the Bush School’s most unique traditions, students rub a bust of President George H.W. Bush for good luck on exams, much like the Main Campus tradition of leaving pennies on Sully’s boots.

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Robert H. and Judy Ley Allen Building

inside the Roberty H. & Judy Ley Allen building

For the first time in the Bush School’s history, it is the only academic entity occupying the Allen Building. During the spring 2020 semester, the building underwent an extensive remodeling project of its first and second floors to accommodate the school’s growth. This project included the creation of dedicated student research and collaboration space, two large study areas, new classrooms and conference rooms, and additional office space. The renovated space also includes new imagery of President George H.W. Bush representing his life of public service to further brand the building.

Thanks to the generosity of Sonja and Neal Adams ’68, the building now also houses an original Benjamin Knox '90 commission: a 16-foot oil painting of the Union Pacific 4141 train on the day it carried President George H.W. Bush home to rest in College Station.

The $11 million 41 for 41 Campaign details 41 naming opportunities in the building, beginning at $25,000 for smaller rooms and up to $1 million for lobbies and learning centers. Gifts will support current and future renovations and create perpetual impact by enhancing the Dean’s Endowed Excellence Fund.

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Security

cyber security image

While a rifle range is where soldiers practice their skills to win a conventional war, a cyber range is where another type of soldier practices skills to win a digital-based war. Bush School students pursuing a cybersecurity certificate “have the chance to see what a cyberattack actually looks like and how it transpires,” said Danny Davis ’76 ’06, an associate professor of practice whose expertise includes terrorism and counterterrorism, national defense, cybersecurity policy and military history.

Experiencing the cyber range at Texas A&M’s Cybersecurity Center is only one aspect of the broad, hands-on learning students pursuing a cybersecurity policy certificate receive. In addition to policy classes at the Bush School, the certificate includes courses at the College of Engineering and Mays Business School. Each aspect is important because graduates will need to bridge the gap between computer scientists, lawmakers and executives who must stay up to date on current technology.

The Bush School offered its first cybersecurity course in 2010, but now offers five classes dedicated to the increasingly vital area and many more that touch on it. While the top threats from 12 years ago remain the same today—China and Russia—the risk has expanded from mainly computers to industry, buildings, appliances and other devices connected to the internet. “There is now ransomware specific to infrastructure,” said Davis, who explained that hackers can use devices as a backdoor into networks. “For example, there’s been a rise in automotive hacking. All new cars are wired, and hackers might use something like a low-tire alert to hack the factory that makes the car. This means that cybersecurity has to be built into everything.”

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Technology & Public Policy

Technology is one thing, but how technology is applied in society and how those impacts are handled is a whole other thing.

Arnold Vedlitz

The current debate raging in the country about vaccines is nothing new to Arnold Vedlitz, the director of the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy. He believes that some people have resisted scientific advances throughout history; it’s part of human nature.

“Galileo understood the position of the Earth in the solar system, but other people didn’t want to believe it,” Vedlitz said. “Sometimes factions agree with science and others fight it.”

The institute was established 20 years ago by Robert Gates, the former U.S. defense secretary, former president of Texas A&M and the first dean of the Bush School, who felt the school should play a role in understanding the human implications of scientific discovery.

The institute considers practical issues concerning science and technology acceptance that will help decision makers and the public implement and regulate appropriate public policies. For instance, as electric cars become more common, the institute looks at broad questions, such as: Who will build the infrastructure for charging? Who will develop new batteries? Who will regulate these new technologies? And who will handle the economic and job disruptions that often accompany the acceptance of technological innovations in the marketplace?

“Technology is one thing,” Vedlitz said, “but how technology is applied in society and how those impacts are handled is a whole other thing.”

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United States Grand Strategy

We want to impress on students that there isn't any decision they're going to face that has an obvious answer.

John Schuessler

Question assumptions. This is the shorthand philosophy behind the Albritton Center for Grand Strategy, which is funded through generous gifts from Texas A&M University System Regent Robert Albritton '71 and the Charles Koch Foundation. The term “grand strategy” refers to the nation’s overarching framework for pursuing interests abroad, as opposed to looking merely at relations with individual countries or separate segments of the national interest (i.e., oil exploration or anti-terrorism efforts).

“We take a step back and look at what assumptions and logic drive American defense and foreign policy,” said Jasen Castillo, co-director of the center. Part of the center’s mission is teaching students to think strategically and “break out of the silos” that tend to keep policymakers focused only on issues that fit their expertise and interests. “We want to impress on students that there isn’t any decision they’re going to face that has an obvious answer,” said John Schuessler, also co-director.

The center’s home at the Bush School provides two advantages: Texas A&M’s deep connection to the military allows for a more thorough exploration of the role of war in foreign policy, while the center also avoids the risk of myopia and the political overtones of our nation’s capital. “We aim to rise above partisanship,” Schuessler said. “We ask, ‘What are the nation’s core interests? What is required to defend them?' If you ask fundamental questions like that, you can move beyond picking a political side.”

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Veryl Goodnight, Sculptor

sculpture of horses

Perhaps the most striking and recognizable image associated with the Bush School is “The Day the Wall Came Down,” a sculpture located in the school’s central plaza that was dedicated on Oct. 11, 1997. A three-and-a-half-year undertaking by sculptor Veryl Goodnight, it features five horses representing the human spirit galloping over the Berlin Wall. It captures the moment of joy felt around the world when the wall collapsed in 1989 and pays tribute to the role President George H.W. Bush played in peacefully ending the Cold War. On the rubble beneath the horses, Goodnight replicated actual graffiti painted on the Berlin Wall.

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Women's Rights

a woman standing on stairs

“You can’t have national security if it doesn’t include women.” Dr. Valerie Hudson came to that conclusion based on a worldwide data analysis of countries’ stability that students conducted for the Department of Defense as part of a Minerva Initiative project. Hudson directs the Bush School’s Women, Peace & Security Program, which has become one of the fastest-growing areas of study. The program launched in 2015 with three students; there are now 25.

Factors studied in the data analysis included the level of violence against women, marriage customs and inequity in family law. The most patrilineal countries were less stable than those that treated women more equitably. “What you do to women, you do to the nation-state,” Hudson said. “If you decide to curse women, you curse your nation-state.”

Changes like the elimination of child marriage can push a country forward. “Breaking the patrilineal-based customs creates a virtuous cycle,” said Hudson, who holds the George H.W. Bush Chair at the school. “When Barbara Bush was alive, she told me how ‘tickled’ she was that the person holding this chair was concentrating on women.”

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XXV Years

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Bush School is planning a year-long celebration packed full of excitement and opportunities to be part of its bright future. Celebrations will kick-off in Washington, D.C., this spring, followed by activities in College Station this fall, to conclude with a special and memorable commemorative event in Washington, D.C., in spring 2023.

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Yes to Aggieland!

Aggieland

As President George H.W. Bush sought a location for his presidential library, multiple universities bid for the opportunity. Only Texas A&M administrators and faculty cleverly recognized one of the president’s core interests. “Place your library on our campus,” they proposed, “and we will build adjacent to it the George Bush School of Government and Public Service.” In their proposal to President Bush, Texas A&M officials devoted as many pages to describing a school of public service as to advancing their concept for a presidential library. In his letter choosing Texas A&M, President Bush mentioned the school as the first reason for accepting their offer. He remained proud of the school’s legacy his entire life, once stating: “Next to my family, the Bush School students and their interest in serving their country are the most important thing in my life. I feel very good about leaving our world in their hands.”

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Zealous Travelers

In summer 2019 (the most recent statistics available), Bush School students interned or studied language in 21 countries abroad. While travel came to a halt in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, students are eagerly gearing up for international experiences in summer 2022. A cultural immersion experience is a degree requirement for many Bush School programs, and students who choose to study a foreign language often concentrate on one of the Big Five national security languages: Mandarin, Russian, Arabic, Korean or Farsi.

Contact
  • Alexandra Rainey '15

  • Director of Development
  • Bush School of Government and Public Service
  • Call: 979.458.8035

Make Your Impact

Ready to help the the Bush School celebrate its 25th anniversary? Give a gift to the school's excellence fund to support its continued success.