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Although their candidate lost in this month’s election, three students gained significant political experience this semester in Democrat Ed O’Brien’s Congressional campaign.

Christiane Conn ’03 (Buxton, Me.), Ryann Dubiel ’04 (Springfield, N.J.), and Nuri Noaz ’03 (Ocean, N.J) started interning with O’Brien’s staff in early September, each spending about 12 hours a week. James Lennertz, associate professor of government and law, served as their adviser.

“Professor Lennertz has been a great support to me,” says Noaz, a double major in music and government and law. “He encourages students to participate in governmentally related opportunities outside the classroom. Professor Lennertz, with his constant emphasis on examining issues from all different angles, is a truly dedicated educator.”

Receiving credit toward their government and law major, the students worked with the Valley Democratic Organization, which assisted a number of Democratic campaigns in the area but focused on O’Brien. Tasks of the job included contacting voters for O’Brien in the 2000 election to see if they would continue their support, using either door-to-door or phoning methods.

“The experience was definitely interesting, particularly when I went out in the district and knocked on doors. I was never sure what response I was going to get,” says Conn. She says that her experience also reinforced her awareness of political apathy in the United States. “It is one thing to look at the numbers in polls, but it is quite another to knock on a door and realize that the constituent not only has no intention of voting for my candidate, but no intention of voting at all.”

“I learned so much about the political mindset and the process that it takes to get elected,” says Dubiel, who used the internship to further explore career options in politics.

Highlights of the internship for the students included attending a debate at the State Theater in Easton between O’Brien and incumbent Congressman Pat Toomey and meeting former vice president Al Gore at a private reception for O’Brien.

“I finally understand the meaning of a grassroots campaign, first-hand,” says Noaz. “I’ve learned how a campaign actually runs, and that it is essential to cooperate with other campaigners to accomplish a common goal.”

Both Dubiel and Noaz are considering going to law school after they graduate, while Conn is interested in working in a Congressional office in Washington, D.C.

“Lafayette provides an excellent classical liberal arts education that teaches how to apply knowledge in the practical world,” says Dubiel. “Lafayette expects a certain quality of student and will challenge you to reach and surpass that level of expectation.”

“Professors within the government and law department are always more than willing to help students,” adds Conn, who has been working as an EXCEL Scholar with John Kincaid, Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service. Conn helped organize Kincaid’s Fulbright Institute on the U.S. Constitution this summer.

She is president of Kirby Government and Law Society and volunteers with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Easton and Adopt-a-Class. She is also involved with Learning Together in Friendship, a mentoring program with fourth-grade students. She is working with Communities that Care to implement an eighth-grade Leadership Council that will design, organize, and facilitate service learning projects in the Easton area. The summer after her sophomore year, Conn worked for Representative Tom Allen in Maine’s First District.

Dubiel spent last spring at American University studying American politics and completing a research-oriented internship in the private realm as a participant in the Lafayette-affiliated Washington Semester program. She has been a member of The Lafayette staff, Kirby Government and Law Society, Field Hockey Club, Residence Hall Council, and Freshman Class Council.

During summer 2001, Noaz spent five weeks studying at the Dante Alighieri Italian Center in Rome. She is working on a senior project with J. Larry Stockton, professor and head of music. She is exploring the ability to learn perfect pitch by chromestesia, or recognition of tones by color association.

Categorized in: Academic News