Maximizing her Involvment
Meet Sarah De La Cerda. Not only is she a member of the URI track and field team, Sarah is one of the most politically active college students in Rhode Island. Sarah serves as the chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus in Rhode Island, and is heavily involved in URI community organizing outreach programs and working with various charities. She was recently nominated for the College Women Leadership Award. Recently, I had the pleasure to interview Sarah. We discussed her future goals, her plans to achieve them, and her experience at URI.
How did you become interested in politics?
My godmother sparked my interest in politics; she is politically active in Rhode Island. I realized what I was supposed to do in life freshman year when I attended CPAC. CPAC is the well-known Conservative Political Action Conference. While in D.C. I was able to participate in events and speak to leaders like Mitt Romney. From there I was hooked. I always saw myself as leaving the country and working for a global organization, but when I went to D.C. it hit me that my place was here in the United States attempting change it and fighting for it.
Who would you consider one of your political role models?
My political role model is anyone who has done what is right even when what is right it is not popular. Personally Meg Rogers and Doctor Dan Harrop have personally taken me under their belt so to speak and have mentored me in politics. I also want to say my mother has been a great role model because she continues to teach me grace under stress. I think one of the great things about politics is learning from disagreement; I challenge everyone to disagree with me because as Professor Pearson-Merkowitz and Professor Johnson convincingly argue, every good theory is falsifiable.
What is your involvement in politics throughout the state and URI?
I try to be involved as much as possible in college, local, state and national politics. I am currently the Vice President of the URI College Republicans, serve on the board of the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island, and chair the Republican Liberty Caucus of Rhode Island. Some nights you may find me in Providence giving testimony on legislation, working on a campaign, attending a RI GOP meeting, or at a local town committee meeting.
What is an interesting thing about you that the students around you wouldn’t recognize?
The person they may hear on a local radio show or on C-SPAN of RI is actually their classmate. People do not always put together that the girl who goes to class every day is the same one that is addressing the media.
What has your experience been like with the Political Science Department?
The Political Science Department at URI has helped me succeed in every way imaginable. They have given me a foundation to effectively debate political theory, policy, and evidence in both a classroom setting and at campaign headquarters. Professors and fellow students often have offered me stimulating and informed opposition about my views. It has encouraged me to learn more and in the words of the University "Think Big," that is what I try to do every day in politics and when studying Political Science at URI.
Interview conducted by Anthony Davidson
Meet Antonio Rodriguez, TA for MTI at URI
Antonio is a 5th year senior from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He is working to pursue a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Communication Studies.
Throughout his time here at URI, Antonio has been heavily involved in the MTI program. He currently works as a TA in the program. He has also been a member of other groups here at URI. Antonio served as Multicultural Liaison in Keep A Child Alive (KCA). The goal was to help raise awareness and money for children suffering from the AIDS virus in Africa. Antonio was also a member of FEDEA, an organization that was founded his freshman year by a friend who wanted to hold gaming events not affiliated with the URI gaming club.
What is the MTI program?
MTI is a Mentor Tutor Internship Program. We take students from second semester freshman year and above and allow them to receive 3-6 300 level credits by helping students and immigrants in need. In order to get 3 credits, the students are required to complete 44 hours of service. To get 6 credits, students are required to complete 100 hours of service. There is also a required 50- minute weekly recitation and journals due every week. We aim to teach the interns the value of giving back to the community and the joy of helping those in need. It is a great learning experience and it can even change a student's major.
How long has the MTI program been at URI?
MTI has been a program at URI since 1998 and started with just 8 students. Today we have over 60 enrolled and have been pushing to increase our enrollment each semester.
How does the MTI program fit into being a Political Science major?
MTI fits into being a Political Science major for me because it allows me to build relationships with people that I would not normally associate with, often great individuals who wish to help others in ways I wish to one day help others. It also allows me to build my communication skills through public speaking.
What other skills and knowledge have you gained from being a part of the MTI program?
The skills I have gained from MTI are improved time management and greater commitment to my daily tasks. The knowledge I have gained is that it is never to late to help someone who is willing to learn.
Why should URI students participate in the MTI program?
URI students should participate in the program because it is truly rewarding and at times life changing. Before I did the MTI program I did not know what kind of plan I had with my Political Science degree. After participating in the program, I learned that I truly wanted to go to law school and pursue a J.D. in either Immigration Law or Non-Profit Law. Everyone has a unique experience and those who work hard and enjoy this program as a learning experience rather than a class, leave with a rich experience. Another reason students should join is to learn the value of community service and to experience the joy of helping others.
Is there any MTI moment or experience that stood out to you?
The most memorable experience I had as an MTI intern was at the UCAP School in Providence. One day, during my regular scheduled hours of interning, a student stayed with Mr. Killilea, Professor Killilea's son and myself, and explained to us how she would never go to college. When I asked her why she replied, "my mom says I can never go to college because I am not good enough." This was heart wrenching, I could not believe the lack of faith some of the students live with everyday. Within the following weeks I set up a trip to URI, all free of charge, including a tour, a speech from my TD Advisor Jarso, and lunch. The trip had a high turnout of 17 students, the van they drove to URI in was full and another car had to be taken by one of the chaperones. I was delighted to see all these young, interested, and brilliant children strive to prove everyone who did not believe in them wrong. I leave you with my personal quote that can be found on the MTI website:
"To help someone smile and succeed is a reward all on its own. That's why I love MTI."
Meet Kirsten and Tristany Leikem
Kirsten and Tristany Leikem are identical twins from Tucson, Arizona. They are both Juniors, Political Science majors, and Honor’s students at the University of Rhode Island.
Tristany is pursuing a dual major in Political Science and Journalism. She is Treasurer of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee and has designed the College of Arts and Sciences newsletter. Kirsten also is earning a double major, though her companion to Political Science is Economics. She is an active member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. Both Tristany and Kirsten are proud members of the URI Women’s Tennis team.
During the summer of 2010, they interned with Congresswoman Giffords from Arizona and interned in the legal department at University Physicians Healthcare. These internships profoundly influenced their future goals. Kirsten looks to obtain a graduate degree in Public Policy and then work as a Policy Analyst. Tristany plans to attend law school, with her dream being a magazine editor for a prestigious political magazine.
What made the two of you decide to major in Political Science?
Kirsten: I decided to major in Political Science because I was told that is what you major in if you want to go to law school. Although I did change my mind about law school, I became increasingly fascinated with the study of politics.
Tristany: I first considered majoring in Political Science during an AP Government class I took while in high school. But it was the ’08 election season that really sparked my interest and made me realize I would like to pursue a Political Science degree.
What has been your favorite aspect of the Political Science Major?
Tristany: My favorite aspect is the department. I think the Political Science Department is one of the best on campus. Every professor I have had has been wonderful.
Kirsten: I would agree with Tristany. The professors are great. The department and the major have given me a new skill set that has not only helped me in the major, but will serve me throughout my life.
You both mentioned the Professors. How have the professors in the Political Science Department helped to enhance your experience here at URI?
Kirsten: Talking to my professors is one of the best parts of majoring in Political Science. Since I came into URI not even knowing what Political Science really was, I am amazed at how I was taught to view politics and political structures in a more objective and analytical light. The experience is great because while you are learning theories and specific information, you're also learning important analytical, writing, and public-speaking skills.
Tristany: The professors are awesome. They have enhanced my experience at URI by giving me good advice and making me think in new ways and see from new perspectives.
How has your internship with Congresswoman Giffords and the legal department enhanced your experience with this major?
Kirsten: The internships sort of guided me into a middle ground. I enjoyed the Congressional internship because it was so constituent oriented (since we worked in the local office). Learning about what political jobs are actually like was extremely beneficial for my Political Science classes. The legal internship made me realize that although I did like law, it wasn't something I particularly wanted to do. So now I want to do graduate work in public policy, which combines the political realm with the legal policy side.
Tristany: The amount of information that we have learned from both internships enhanced the experience in the educational realm. Once you are actively involved in the political world it makes studying Political Science that much more interesting and captivating.
What surprised you most about the Political Science curriculum?
Kirsten: I was most surprised by the new theories I learned. The ability of Political Science to explain so many phenomena is so interesting to me. I was also surprised that most often the answer lies in an amalgamation of theories and that, although theories compete, each one serves an important purpose.
Tristany: I think I was most surprised by the vast number of Political Science topics. My only experience prior to college was with national politics. My first class at URI in Political Science was International Relations with Professor Hutchison. I was surprised by the amount of theories and the extent to which Political Science could examine so many specific situations.
Any advice to incoming freshmen?
Kirsten: I would say that if you take a couple of Political Science classes and you decide to stick with it, the first thing you should do is get a major sheet from the Political Science office and figure out what classes you need and want to take. Second, talk to your professors! Talk to them about the class, about politics, about internships and jobs. Make the effort and you will be rewarded.
Tristany: I think it is important to get to know the department. Although as a freshman the new organizational structure of college can be intimidating, you need to figure out what their requirements are for graduation and what the department can offer you.
Interview conducted by Andrea Durant
Born and raised in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, Meg is an Honors senior pursuing degrees in Political Science, Economics and Spanish with a minor concentration in International Relations. She has interned with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. and at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI.
Meg also studied in Spain, and teaches English as a Second Language to Spanish-speaking immigrant families. A David Warren Scholar and Truman Scholarship Finalist who has traveled several times to Latin America, Meg's aspiration is to be an advocate for U.S. development assistance reform in the region.
I see that you have several minors; why did you choose to make Political Science your core major?
An obsession with learning Spanish drove me to take two trips to Central America in high school, where I discovered that I loved development work and intercultural communication. I quickly decided that Political Science would be the best way to encompass all of my interests. After taking the intro-level U.S. and international politics classes at URI, I was completely hooked. I enjoyed learning the specifics of theories and applying them to current events, I relished the impassioned attitudes of professors and fellow students alike, and for the first time, I was presented with plausible, concrete academic and professional ideas for the future.
What surprised you most about the Political Science major at URI?
The interdisciplinary nature of Political Science classes and the flexibility of the curriculum. I originally thought that if I were to concentrate in international politics, I would only be able to enroll in internationally oriented classes. Fortunately, I was mistaken; I ended up taking a class on U.S. public opinion in the same year that I took the history of political theory starting with Plato and a foreign policy class in which I got to play the role of the president of Venezuela.
What advice would you give to an incoming freshman student interested in Political Science?
Do not be afraid to take the classes you are interested in, even if they seem out of reach or out of character, given what you presently think are your plans for the future. All of the classes I have taken in this department have changed my preconceived notions about the subject matter. Additionally, support your major with another subject, whether in the form of a minor or just a few extra classes. Many students tend to think that we should rigidly major in one thing and minor in one thing, but the Political Science department and the College of Arts and Sciences provide a lot of academic flexibility. I have found that school becomes much more interesting when I am studying what I love.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about majoring in Political Science?
I have found that some people assume that all Political Science majors aim to attend law school upon graduation or to run for public officeâ€”or both. I think that such aspirations are perfectly respectable, but only some of the Political Science students I know are headed in that direction. Some majors plan to get Ph.D.s, some seek diplomatic jobs, some would like to go into local public administration, and some just study the subject because they wish to know more about the current events of a particular world region.
What is your favorite aspect of studying Political Science at URI?
Political Science at URI is a field that integrates all of the social sciences: It involves the complex study of all facets of human behavior and the way the mind works, global repercussions of cultural similarities and differences, ancient philosophies, and fundamental questions regarding values and identities. When one studies Political Science, one is studying a live, relevant science and obtaining a useful degree that one can utilize to do most anything. Realizing this, the professors in this department truly go out of their way to help each student find his or her niche and passion; it is a closely knit and open-minded group of faculty that advises with students' interests in mind.
Have your Political Science classes supplemented your internship experiences?
Yes, unquestionably. Before starting my think-tank internship in D.C., I could not fathom that I would use nearly as much of the information from courses as I did, for I thought that the concrete policy realm and the world of Political Science theory were two very different places. I was wrong to assume; the knowledge I had acquired in URI classes prior to applying for internshipsâ€”that I might not have even realized I acquiredâ€”helped immensely and ultimately enriched both internship experiences. It is important for me as a student to comprehend the practical applications of theoretical knowledgeâ€”and the best way to realize that goal is to participate in out-of-school academic experiences.