Senior Spotlight: Jackson Covert ’23

Each year, we spotlight our NexPoint Tower Scholar Seniors. We enjoy hearing about their journey through the program and how their perspective on the importance of public 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.

Michael Wilson ’25 interviewed Jackson Covert ’23 to learn more about his time as a NexPoint Scholar.

Tell me about yourself – where are you from and what did you study here at SMU?

I’m from San Antonio, Texas, majoring in Art History and International Studies with minors in History, Italian, Political Science, and Public Policy and International Affairs.

 How did you end up interested in the Tower Scholars Program specifically, and what made you apply?

I’ve always been interested in public policy, ever since high school, but as I learned about it I became frustrated only hearing about abstract theory as opposed to what’s actually going on in Washington or in other governments across the globe. I saw the Tower Scholars Program as a chance to learn about what happens in the real world, so to speak, instead of the often historically inaccurate theorizing that goes on in a normal political science class. It seemed like an interesting mix of history and political science applied to real-world scenarios, and that’s definitely held true in my experience with the program.

What’s been your favorite part of the program?

While the whole program has been a great experience, my favorite aspect by far was my cohort’s trip to D.C. and interaction with the Sumitomo Corporation. As a corporation, they were interested in how they could become more environmentally sustainable, and we got the opportunity to talk with them about these initiatives and help them understand American government policy of which they could potentially take advantage. It was a great opportunity to learn more about Japanese business culture, something many Americans don’t know much about, as well as to just bond with my cohort on a trip together to DC.

What are your post-grad plans?

I’ve applied for a Fulbright at the University of Ghent to get a master’s degree in conflict and development studies, as they have a fantastic program in that area. I’m also potentially interested in pursuing law school eventually, and I’m especially interested in the University of Texas at Austin because of the LBJ School of Public Policy’s presence on campus. Ultimately, my goal is to work for the U.S. Institute of Peace. Back in high school, I went to the Academic WorldQuest (a geopolitical bee) Nationals at the USIP headquarters, and ever since I’ve been fascinated by the agency and their focus on conflict prevention in rural, underdeveloped areas.

How has the Tower Scholars Program helped you with your goals?

The initial class with Professor Newton and Dr. Stanley taught me to focus on organizations and the people within them to better understand geopolitics. The hands-on experiences the program has afforded me, like the D.C. trip, have taught me what working within these structures entails, and further inspired me to seek out work with the USIP.

What else are you involved with on campus?

My biggest role on campus was definitely as Vice President of Programming for the Student Foundation. I oversaw family weekend and other events the school put on in conjunction with students, which was a stressful but definitely rewarding experience. I’m also big into rock-climbing in my free time.

What advice do you have for new Tower Scholars just getting started in the program?

Above all else, keep an open mind – a policy, theory, or other suggestion may sound great on paper, but be open to opposing perspectives and new evidence that could change your mind. Other than that, don’t think you have everything figured out after you’ve taken a class or two. I certainly still don’t, and there’s always more to learn and understand about geopolitics. Lastly, whenever you’re thinking about government or public policy or geopolitics, make sure you always think about it from the perspective of the real, regular people that drive these forces, rather than imagining them as impersonal forces outside of anyone’s control. There’s always a difference to be made, and it can come down to just changing a single person’s mind.