Wes Barker

“It is . . . a delicate balancing act of understanding the intricacies of our economic system and the political needs of our society.”

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

BA - International Studies and Chinese Studies (cum laude), Rhodes College
Current Academic Pursuit: MS - International Political Economy

Internship: U.S. Department of Defense, Pentagon

UT Dallas Achievements & Activities

  • Sigma Iota Rho Member (National Honor Society for International Studies)

Deciding on International Political Economy

During my final year at Rhodes College, I took a two-semester course in comparative and international political economy. I was very interested in economics as an undergraduate, and, as a political science major, I understood that the two subjects were inherently related, at least in my mind.

After graduation I took a job at a financial firm, working on trading and banking compliance issues. Almost immediately the country was swept into a financial crisis. From my desk, I examined the responses from politicians, regulators, economists and businessmen. It was the first time I truly understood how the system works. It's not just markets and it's definitely not just policy that directs economic change. It is - and should be viewed as - a delicate balancing act of understanding the intricacies of our economic system and the political needs of our society.

Political economy, as a discipline, trains the researcher and scholar to analyze an issue from a much different perspective than is common amongst other disciplines. I hope to use my degree to improve relations between government and business. Business is a cornerstone of our economy - government must acknowledge how its policy both aids and deters growth; and business must see that its decisions lead to broad systemic change, for good and bad, and its decisions must be more in line with long-term development and not short-term refuge.

Interning at the Pentagon

I interned at the Office of the Secretary Defense - Public Affairs/Defense Press Operations from May to August of 2011. This office oversees all dissemination of defense policy and activities to the media and public sources.

Principally, I sought an internship in the federal government so that I could better ascertain my desire to pursue a career in that field. This desire was definitely reinforced. Even though I already have several years of professional experience, I also wanted to continue to diversify my skills and show future employers my ability to work in different office environments and adapt to any delegated task.

My typical day at the Pentagon included research and analysis of current geopolitical events, domestic and international responses to defense policy and preparation of materials and detailed notes on current proceedings for the press secretary's and press officers' use in communicating with media and public entities. This often included attending policy briefings, meetings and interviews between defense officials and media personnel.

Through my internship, I learned new and better ways to communicate my thoughts and ideas to a wide audience. Communication is paramount in any atmosphere and the ability to clearly and concisely communicate a point of interest is crucialespecially in the federal sector, as response to policy has widespread effects.

I have always been interested in public service, and this internship reinforced my desire. My ambition is to work in the federal government. However, this opportunity also revealed to me how the private and non-profit sectors also serve the public good as well and that my degree can be used in any of these sectors.

My EPPS Success

The professors in the EPPS program are outstanding. They make every effort to enlighten students during each class period and enrich the class with their insight and experience. EPPS has truly collected some outstanding minds, and they make the learning experience enjoyable, but most importantly, challenging and stimulating. The faculty truly shows why the classroom is still an important tool in instructing students and that attendance is something to be anticipated and not dreaded.

Plans for the Future

I still have a year or more left in the IPE program, but I am already making some initial decisions on my future. I may continue on in the program and pursue my PhD in IPE. I also plan to apply to the Presidential Management Fellowship, a federal program that handpicks graduate students and trains them to be amongst the future professional leadership in federal agencies.

One other plan I've considered is working for a state senator or representative, either in my home state of Tennessee or in Texas. Local and state politics are often ignored over the more glamorous federal chambers, but local and state governments are now more than ever going to be crucial in economic development, especially in the government's overall relationship with business. I believe I can be an asset to elected state officials as they strengthen the role of states in the overall decision-making process in this country.

Advice to Prospective EPPS Students

EPPS is filled with bright and intelligent students. There is always lively discourse during class time and there are ample friendships to be made with fellow classmates. It's an excellent learning environment - it's challenging and enlightening. The professors bring a lot to each class, so there is much to be learned, but also, much is expected from the student. It is truly a partnership in scholarship.

Other Interests

I'm a big film buff, music fan and avid reader. I swear by the Coen brothers, there is nothing like a good vinyl record, and, if I'm not knee-deep in a week's worth of reading for Dr. Peinhardt, I like to pick up anything from Michael Lewis to Cormac McCarthy.