Benjamin A. Davis ’81
Florida A&M University
Major: Political Science/International Relations
Activities: Lancer Society, Men's Tennis
What first attracted you to Whittier College? My high school advisor told me that I belong in a liberal arts college and that he knew of the perfect school for me. “It’s Whittier.” I visited Whittier and became very comfortable with the atmosphere. I also was attracted to the idea of a Quaker Consensus for problem solving. That fit my character even though at the time I had no idea of what a liberal arts college represented.
Why did you choose to study political science? I loved local, national, and international politics and I was always involved in student government in high school.
Describe your experience at Whittier College. I had a very charming experience at Whittier. The diversity was natural, not contrived. I was freshman class president and associated student body president and discovered that the school administration worked with me and not against me and what I thought was important. I did face challenges and antagonisms at times, but the Whittier environment made any adversities bearable to the point that they became positive life lessons.
What was your favorite class? How can I answer this without getting political science professors Mike McBride, Joyce Kaufman, and Fred Bergerson mad me? No way. Not going to happen. I can say that Professor Mike McBride and former Professor Bob Wang did an exquisite job of opening my mind to international real politik. I wish I could count the number of times I had to rely on their teachings while a journalist. Political science is the perfect major if you go into journalism in a place like Washington, D.C., as I did. On more than a few occasions as a cub journalist at NPR, I impressed my bosses with a deep knowledge of politics. I saw immediate dividends from my political science education. For a recent college grad, my education was like a magic wand in a place like Washington, D.C.
Did you intern while at Whittier College? Where, and what was that experience like? I interned on Capitol Hill for my San Diego congressman. As I went to Washington, my head was filled with those numerous (and breathless!) Fred Bergerson stories about D.C. politics. I soon discovered that Fred did not oversell the mechanics of Washington politics in his classes. The internship experience was priceless and it obviously prepared me for working in mainstream journalism.
What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? My first job was three months after graduation. I answered telephones for NPR’s Washington Desk reporters. In less than six months, I was assisting them with news coverage stories at The White House, Capitol Hill, The Pentagon and other government agencies. It was a pure adrenaline rush.
I am the C.B.S Harold Dow Visiting Professor at Florida A&M University teaching digital journalism and writing. Oxford University Press is about to publish my first book called The Digital Media Pyramid. It is a model I created to replace the century old analog Inverted Pyramid which journalists now use. The Digital Media Pyramid teaches students, bloggers and citizen journalists the rules that professional journalists use in a digital world.
My liberal arts education at Whittier made me a well-rounded journalist and professor. I do not do clichés, but you can bet that while working at places like CBS News, ABC, NPR and MSNBC.com I have used those Quaker Consensus techniques and I believe they played a role in my winning so many top journalism awards.
What advice would you give to future political science alumni when they graduate? Do not take for granted the information you are being taught by the political science department. Do not be afraid to use in the work place what you were taught. You will impress Also you will use that knowledge for years to come, especially if you go into journalism or politics. Oh, and save your books. They will come in handy later.
Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… Whittier opened the world for me.
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