Professor returns to White House for Fellows reunion

A university professor who served in the White House has returned to Washington, D.C.

James Muller, a political science professor at UAA who help found the Forty-Ninth State Fellows option of the Honors College, said he returned to the capitol recently for a seminar on global stewardship and reunion with his fellow White House Fellows.

Muller took a sabbatical from teaching at UAA in 1983-84 to work as a White House Fellow.

“I was the second Alaskan to be chosen,” he said, adding that former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock served first in 1967-68.

White House Fellows are appointed by the president and work as full-time, paid special assistants to senior White House staff, the vice president, Cabinet secretaries and other top-ranking government officials, according to the program. Fellows like Muller contribute to education program discussions and take trips to study U.S. policy in action abroad and in the U.S. There have been about 500 fellows since the program began in the 1960s.

Muller said he hopes that attending the annual seminar will help him bring a cutting-edge education back to students at UAA.

“I suppose that every year the briefings and other things we listen to at the program help keep my teaching current when it comes to courses in American government,” he said.

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The seminars Muller attended at the reunion explored issues such as reflections on U.S. national security in a global world and dealing with pandemic health issues.

His work there also helps to establish and reinforce connections between UAA and the national government, he said. The University Honors College Forty-Ninth State Fellows Program was a direct result of Muller’s fellowship and work with the Honors College.

“It was an idea that we ought to have some special opportunities for outstanding students,” he said.

The program promotes students through funding, education in specific areas and travel; it has taken classes to Washington, D.C., to explore public policies and social issues, as well as to the North Slope of Alaska to learn about rural life.

Students who aspire to get into the White House can start working toward that goal at UAA and achieve success, he said. He said thinks there are many students in a multitude of majors at the university who, with club involvement and internships, would be able to take advantage of the opportunities that abound in Washington, D.C.

“Almost whatever your interest is in any major,” he said about getting into the White House Fellows, “I think it’s a very good thing for students who are ambitious and smart and talented to put this on their future map of things to look into when they are at the right age.”