Each year, we spotlight our Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Seniors. We enjoy hearing about their journey through the program and how their perspective on the importance of sound policy evolved when combined with their own academic interests. This year, we asked our incoming and current scholars to interview the seniors and were delighted by the conversations captured.
Sparrow Caldwell ’23 interviewed Bibi Schindler ’21 to learn more about her experience as a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar and how her passion for environmental science came alive through the program.
What did you learn from the TSP?
Senior Bibi begins her monologue with her dreams of environmental science that she has had since childhood. Her eyes shine as she recounts her hopes of being able to implement her ideas to make this Earth more sustainable. However, as she grows to experience life a little more, reality soon sets in and people with contrasting views of sustainability enter her life. Undeterred by the new obstacles to her plan, she recounts her experience with the Tower Scholars Program as creating an avenue to “balance expectations with reality”. Not only balance, but also learn and understand the processes of still achieving your goal by reaching across bipartisan lines and generating more feasible options. Reaching across the aisle doesn’t just stop at emergency action plans, but also ties into her interests of pursuing a master’s in public health, while attending law school. Bibi sits taller and sticks out her chest with pride as she firmly states, “Lawyers need to be educated in legal code AND learn about why the thing they are fighting for matters in this world. It’s about more than winning for the sake of winning”.
Being from Missouri, how do you see your experience with the program impacting your own community?
Bravely spoken, Bibi recognizes that before the Tower Scholars Program, she was “ignorant to a lot of policy problems”. Being from Missouri, she was used to seeing tornados and floods, but they were just categorized as “it is what it is”. During her time with the Tower Scholars Program, imbued with gratitude and wisdom, she exclaims that now she can “see the other side (policy) and as an essential part of the system she can encourage actual responses to emergencies”. No longer is she satisfied with the excuses of the government, whenever an emergency occurs. Instead, she advocates for a re-write of the emergency action plans that many states utilize during natural disasters.
Why did you decide to be a Tower Scholar?
Bibi comes from a community where politics are discussed as often as the weather. Therefore, SMU’s apolitical campus came as a shock to her regular practices. She was in need of an arena where differing political views could be expressed in a little more detail than an over advertised, campaign tagline. The Tower Scholars Program is where Bibi found her home. Not only were investigation and discovery encouraged, but they were a necessary baseline among her other cohort members, too.
What experience at SMU had the most impact on your future career path?
Bibi can barely contain her excitement as she rushes to scream, “the DC trip!!”. A bit startled, I ask her to please expand. She responds by saying the most profound statement that I had ever heard, “the DC trip is like getting to see abstract constructs come to life before your very own eyes”. Leading up to the trip, Bibi remembers studying policies and international relations’ theories, but she emphasizes the importance between learning and experiencing. There is no way she could have grasped the true utility of all the subject areas she had been studying until she sat front row, listening to Bush’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia recount his role in the aftermath of 9/11. This is the moment she realized that policy is everywhere. In the big things and the little, mundane activities. For Bibi, the DC trip solidified the work she had been putting in throughout her time at SMU. It encouraged her to keep fighting the good fight, because at the end of the day, it means something.
Bibiana Schindler is a full-ride President’s Scholarship recipient and a member of the Hyer Honor Society. She is majoring in History with double minors in Russian Studies as well as Public Policy and International Affairs in preparation for a career in law.