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Alumni Spotlight: Stephen Osborne ’73

Posted by: andrewst | May 8, 2019 | No Comment |

Interim President Stephen Osborne ‘73, or President Oz as he likes to be called, brought a unique perspective to his role as President as both an alum of the college as well as a former administrator. As he prepared to end his time as president and turn the reins over to incoming President Hsu, he reflected on his time at CofC, both as a political science major and as a long-serving administrator.

Osborne graduated from CofC with a bachelor’s in political science in 1973, a time when the College was a very different place from what it is now. “The College has grown significantly in scope and size since my days as a student,” Osborne explained. “Our enrollment has grown as well as our campus footprint, the number of course offerings and academic programs. Although many of the historic buildings from my time as a student still exist, the changes to today’s College of Charleston are enormous from that of the past – and that’s a good thing.”

After his time at CofC, Osborne went on to receive post-graduate degrees from Western Kentucky University and University of South Carolina. He finally found his way back to the College in 2006 where he became the Executive Vice President for Business Affairs. Despite not having a politically oriented career path, Osborne considers his time as a political science major incredibly formative for his career.

“I would say there were two skills that have been helpful to me: communication and understanding how power operates in society. In any job you do, you have to be able to communicate with people in order to accomplish goals. And in understanding how power operates in society, I learned how to navigate tricky issues and problems. I attribute my ability to successfully deploy these skills throughout my life in part to Professor Bill Moore, a former political science professor here at the College.”

Osborne has been successful – and busy – in his time as interim president. “The toughest challenge has been to try to advance a great number of initiatives in a short period of time,” Osborne noted. “When I was first approached about becoming interim president, I sat down and made a list of things I would like to accomplish in order to sustain the College’s momentum and set the table for the next president. Before I knew it, what I thought would be a list of five to ten items turned into something much longer.” It’s easy to get caught up in all those initiatives and the various duties of the president, but for Osborne time spent with students on campus made it all worth it. “My wife Mary and I have been having various student groups over to the President’s House this past year for refreshments and conversation. I have tried to be very visible to our students and attend as many student events as my schedule would permit. I have learned so much by speaking with these students, and am excited for all they will do in the world with a College of Charleston degree.”

President Osborne has one prominent piece of advice for students: “Meet as many people at the College and in the community as possible and immerse yourself in College life to have a total student experience. Interacting with people you don’t know widens your world view and exposes you to new and exciting thoughts. In addition, you begin to build a network of friends, mentors and people you can call on throughout your life and career.”

Though his time as interim president is ending, Osborne will stay connected to the college. “I love the College very much,” Osborne said. “It is really a special part of me. To be able to give back to an institution that has given me so much, including many wonderful friendships, has been a great privilege and joy.”

under: Alumni, Uncategorized

Gallery of Senior Spotlights

Posted by: hutchisonch | April 22, 2019 | No Comment |

All year long we’ve been featuring some of our amazing seniors in our weekly senior spotlights. Check out the gallery below to see everyone we’ve highlighted this year. Click on any senior spotlight tile to learn more about the student. Congratulations to all our wonderful seniors on their upcoming graduation!

 

under: Student

We Missed You! Faculty Updates from Sabbatical

Posted by: hutchisonch | March 27, 2019 | No Comment |

Did you notice that a few familiar faces were missing around the political science offices this year? Three of our faculty members were on sabbatical during the 2018-2019 academic year and took that time to focus on their research. For this blog post they’ve provided us with some updates of how they spent their time!

Dr. Gibbs Knotts (Fall 2018)

Subfield: American Politics and Processes

My primary project during sabbatical was a book about the South Carolina presidential primary.  The book is co-authored with Jordan Ragusa and will be published this fall by the University of South Carolina Press.  The title is First in the South: Why the South Carolina Presidential Primary Matters.

My only travel was to Columbia to visit the South Carolina Political Collection at USC’s Library.  The Republican Party of South Carolina Papers and Democratic Party of South Carolina Records were particularly helpful.  It was my first time doing archival research, but it was really fun to go back in time and see so much cool material.

I very much appreciated the time to write, but am glad to be back on campus.  I am extremely grateful to work on a college campus and love teaching, doing research, and working with students.

Dr. Chris Day (Fall 2018 & Spring 2019)

Subfield: Global Politics and Spaces

During my sabbatical, when I am not expanding my knowledge of “leisure studies,” I am focused on two new research projects. The first is a collaborative study of civil-military relations in Africa, which seeks to understand the contemporary roles of African armies in African politics despite the steep decline of coups d’état on the continent in the past decade or so.

The second (and more fun) project looks at the politics of wildlife authorities in Africa. In particular, I am examining the militarization of park rangers, the political roles they play beyond conservation, and how they are part of (or not part of) broader strategies of regime security in Africa. I have observed that in some countries like Uganda, park rangers play a conventional role of domestic law enforcement to manage poaching and human-wildlife conflict. Yet in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), park rangers have taken on a more robust security role, acting as counterinsurgents against armed groups that operate in national parks and use poaching to fund their operations. This second project took me to Uganda in the fall, where I am helping reconstruct the institutional history of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). This spring I will continue this research in Uganda, extend it to Rwanda, and with a little luck, also go to DRC and South Sudan.

I love my sabbatical and each time I’ve come to campus for whatever administrative reasons were necessary, I’ve felt like I’m going to burst into flames or at the very least break out in hives. I hope to get over that by the fall.

Dr. Claire Wofford (Fall 2018 & Spring 2019)

Subfield: American Politics and Processes

During my sabbatical, I have worked on several research projects that are, or will become, articles: one on the structure of legal doctrine, one on Southern female political candidates, and one on why people take their cases to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For fun, I have spent tons of time with my children (Reid is almost 2 and Luke is 6). I have heard “baby shark” on Alexa more times than I can count! I’ve also slept a lot and done some coloring and reading. I am looking forward to getting back in the classroom for sure. So much to discuss with students!

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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Annette Watson

Posted by: hutchisonch | March 15, 2019 | No Comment |

If you’re looking for geography professor Dr. Annette Watson, you’ll have to search anywhere from the salmon-filled Yukon River in Alaska to the banks of the marshy Stono River near Charleston. If you’re on campus you might find her in the political science building or over in SSMB where she fulfills her role as the Director of the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program. She was drawn to the College when she interviewed here in 2008. “When I got here for my interview people were amazing and obviously the campus is just gorgeous, and I liked the kind of working relationships that I could have here,” Watson said.

She was also drawn to the Lowcountry because of the opportunities she had for fieldwork, something that she even incorporates into a course called Reading the Lowcountry Landscape. “Anywhere that I live, I believe in doing local-based fieldwork,” Watson explained. “This place is very interesting in terms of its diversity of people and certainly the Gullah Geechee communities are of absolute interest to me. I didn’t even know about them before I got here.”

Throughout her time at CofC, Watson has done research with various groups of people, both in the Lowcountry and along the Yukon River in Alaska. She says that the initial stages of getting to know people are both the most challenging and most rewarding parts of the process. “You have to spend time talking to people and understanding and learning their perspectives. I’ve done plenty of fishing with people both here in the Lowcountry and in Alaska. I try to work alongside them for a time to try to get that insight or perspective, or at least identify a perspective in which I can communicate what it is they want other people to know.”

Before beginning her research, Watson didn’t even know how to fish. She learned all of her “outdoorsy” skills in the field, including camping and how to build a fire. She always tells students who want to do fieldwork that they should, “always be prepared by knowing how to start a fire. It is a real skill outside of the United States.”

Her new skill of fishing, coupled with being invited to new villages and communities to further her knowledge, have been among her favorite experiences. “I learned how to think about nature in a way that I never did as a person growing up in a suburb. That outsider perspective actually helps to focus and sharpen what it is I’m learning.”

Given her suburban childhood, you may be surprised to learn that Watson built her own house in Alaska, using Google and YouTube.  “I built a cabin by myself with my own hands with help from only a couple of people to lift the walls. That’s what I did during my sabbatical: I built myself a house that I could live in.”

One of her recent projects has been with the Arctic Council, working on an indigenous-led project to develop a fisheries assessment. She originally became involved with the group after spending six seasons with their chief, salmon fishing on the Yukon River.

After those seasons—sixteen hours a day being out on the river, cold and wet—the chief began talking about the Arctic Council and asked Watson to help develop a project. The goal of the project is to design a fisheries assessment from the perspective of indigenous peoples. “We want to think through what it means to be ‘salmon people,’ the people who rely on the salmon, and not just think of the salmon as unrelated to the human communities that it shares the rivers with,” Watson explained.

Her directorship of the MES program here on campus means that often times she finds herself teaching only one undergraduate class per semester. However, she stays involved with students through a variety of independent study projects. “Currently I’m working with an honors student on his bachelor’s essay doing ethnobiology.  He’s working on a project that is hopefully going to create a permanent garden installation over by the Stono River where the College has property. We’re calling it the Hidden Hands Garden, meaning the hidden labors and hidden knowledge of all the former agriculturalists in the area—especially the folks that were enslaved on these plantations brought over from Africa, who used their indigenous traditions and a whole host of knowledge about plants and techniques to do sustainable agriculture.” There will be a groundbreaking for the garden at the end of the month and the goal is that it would become a teaching installation not only for CofC students but for visiting K-12 schools as well.

Though she doesn’t spend as much time in the classroom as she used to, Watson’s philosophy on teaching is: “Let’s just get excited about what the possibilities are to change the world.” She teaches mostly online classes now, including Reading the Lowcountry Landscape in which she teaches students about local fieldwork. “The classroom is literally the Lowcountry, that’s an exciting way to think about teaching,” Watson said.

Her experience at the College of Charleston has been diverse: research, teaching, and administration. Beyond learning how to build a fire, her advice to current undergraduates is simple: “Find the right balance of being kind to yourself, while pushing yourself to do better.”

Interested in learning more about Dr. Watson’s work? Check out the geography minor at CofC, the Master of Environmental Studies program, and the Arctic Council.

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Student Spotlight: Zainab Dossaji ’20

Posted by: hutchisonch | February 28, 2019 | No Comment |

For political science major Zainab Dossaji ‘20, a major part of‘ the classroom’ has been the offices of the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, an elephant preserve in Cambodia, the city of Amman, Jordan, and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Public Policy Leadership Conference.  She credits the political science department with helping and encouraging her to participate in these experiential learning opportunities. “One of the great things about being a political science major is that it is flexible enough to allow classes that aren’t taken at CofC to count for major credits. This has been the biggest reason why I have been able to study abroad twice and spend this entire year away from campus. Every experiential learning opportunity I have had, from debating politics in DC to visiting UNICEF in Amman, has influenced my overall goals.”

Dossaji is originally from Spartanburg, SC and came to the College of Charleston unsure about exactly what she wanted to study. Since she already had an interest in politics after the 2016 election, she chose political science as what she described as a ‘preliminary option.’ It didn’t take her long, however, to know that she was on the right path. “I took Dr. Creed’s World Politics honors course and I was hooked,” Dossaji explained. “I was bouncing around between history, philosophy, and international studies as my possible major and his class showed me that political science incorporated all of those subjects. Being a political science major at the College of Charleston specifically has been an incredible experience. I cannot say enough about the department. All of the professors are so helpful and have a real passion for their students as well as their particular areas of interest. I’ve had a lot of meaningful discussions with the faculty and the students within the department.”

The summer after her freshman year, Dossaji joined a study abroad trip to Cambodia and Vietnam led by Dr. Jen Wright from the Department of Psychology and political science professor Dr. Chris Day. “This experience has been one of the most vital and influential of my undergraduate education. Studying genocide and international intervention in Cambodia is the reason I became interested in humanitarian action, human rights, and international NGO work.”

The experience also influenced her decision to travel to Amman, Jordan for a second study abroad. “Fast forward almost two years later and here I am studying refugees, health, and humanitarian action. Everything I learned on that first study abroad experience has helped me transition into this program. Being abroad showed me how to think critically and analytically about international work and demonstrated that it was okay to question the humanitarian institutions and systems that are in place.”

That doesn’t mean that Dossaji hasn’t experienced challenges or bumps in the road. “Spring semester my sophomore year was an incredibly challenging time for me,” Dossaji explained. “I was forced to make a lot of decisions about my future without having a solid plan of what I wanted to do post-grad. At the same time, I had applied to a couple of nationally competitive awards and failed to receive them. This was a hard blow because so much time and effort were put into those applications. A combination of the fear of the unknown as well as rejection made for a stressful semester. Mid-semester I learned that I had to take time to reflect and enjoy the moment, rather than stressing over the past and future. I stopped being daunted by the unknown and began to embrace the opportunities it could hold.”

Those opportunities included spending her fall semester in Washington, DC interning at the Department of Justice in the civil rights division. In her program, students worked full time at their internships and then attended night classes, which Dossaji was able to count toward her political science major. “Working full time is a completely different experience than being a student. It’s definitely more tiring in some ways, particularly with commuting and such, but it’s also nice to have a clear-cut time of when you’re working. In college it feels like the majority of your time is spent in classes and then studying afterward. It was great to come home after work and know that the day was over. I think working in DC is also an incredibly unique experience because you’re surrounded by politics regardless of whether you are working with a political organization or not.”

After a full year off campus, Dossaji is looking forward to returning to CofC this fall and to prepare for (hopefully) attending law school. “For me, personally, all my learning opportunities helped me confirm my dream of going to law school. I was able to realize that I wanted to play a role in changing the legal system to help alleviate social injustices that take place nationally and internationally. If it wasn’t for my experiences outside the classroom, I never would have known how law and policy truly intersect.”

Experience seems to be the keyword of Dossaji’s time at CofC, so it’s no surprise that her recommendation to underclassmen and incoming freshmen is to adapt and enjoy your time at school and to experience everything you can. “Allow your plans for college (and the future in general) to be adapted. You truly don’t know what the future holds and that should be exciting rather than daunting,” Dossaji said. “My best experiences in college have been the ones I never planned for. Join the clubs that spark your interest, engage in discussions that make you feel challenged and empowered, and take advantage of every opportunity–not with your resume in mind, but your passions.”

under: Student

As the 2018 midterm elections were closely watched around the country, several CofC political science faculty members weighed in with their perspectives on the contentious campaigns. Check out the links below to see featured news clips, articles, and published research by or about our faculty!

Dr. Karyn Amira

Do People Contrast and Assimilate Candidate Ideology? An Experimental Test of the Projection Hypothesis

Dr. Gibbs Knotts

Fox 24 Charleston: 2018 Midterm Elections with Dr. Gibbs Knotts

Dr. Gibbs Knotts, Dr. Karyn Amira, & Dr. Claire Wofford

American Politics Research: The Southern Accent as Heuristic in American Campaigns and Elections

Dr. Jordan Ragusa

Post and Courier: Democrat Joe Cunningham needs Republicans to win SC, but he might not need many

Post and Courier: Who are the voters in the 1st-District Arrington-Cunningham race? Most weren’t born in SC

Cistern Yard

The College’s Political Science Department Analyzes the Midterms

Politics with Pavlinec: Evaluating the Midterms

 

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Faculty Profile: Visiting Professor Dr. Shyam Sriram

Posted by: hutchisonch | November 19, 2018 | No Comment |

Visiting professor Dr. Shyam Sriram made the transition from Santa Barbara, California to Charleston this summer in order to join the political science department for the 2018-19 academic year. Currently he is teaching Contemporary Political Issues and American Government; this spring, in addition to American Government, he will be teaching Religion in American Politics, and Immigration and International Relations as a special topics course.

While working on his dissertation in Santa Barbara, Sriram saw a posting for a visiting professorship at CofC and was excited about the opportunity to move back to the southeast – he had previously lived in Georgia for 12 years.  “I interviewed with Dr. Creed, Dr. Curtis, and Dr. France,” Sriram said, “and they were so enthusiastic about the college. That’s really what drew me in.”

Dr. Sriram has been especially excited to bring his unique perspective as a second generation Asian American to his students at CofC; a perspective, he feels may be new to many and “has already paid dividends in the classroom.”

His favorite class this semester is POLI 102, Contemporary Political Issues. He’s excited to teach this course in particular because he now has a thorough grasp on immigration since researching and defending his dissertation, The Politics of Refugee Resettlement, last spring. Dr. Sriram has enjoyed the positive reception he’s received from students in all his classes. In the future, Dr. Sriram hopes to develop a course on Asian American politics, as well as one on campaigning.

If there’s one thing Dr. Sriram recommends to college students, it’s travel. “Experiencing as much travel as possible has made me a better political scientist. Not just international travel. I have been to 48 states and I think traveling a lot has made me a better political scientist than any book I could have ever read. [For instance], I’ve been to two native American reservations in New Mexico. That experience really opened my eyes to what it means to live in America in a place that seems cut off from the rest of the world.”

Since Dr. Sriram is only a visiting professor, he has his eye on where the future will take him. He has applied for jobs across the country, in Indiana, Colorado, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, New York, Florida, and Michigan. Sriram feels up for any opportunity, but doesn’t want to live in a large city and be at a downtown campus. “I want to move to a place that’s physically inspiring. I am inspired by nature. That’s one thing I really love about living here. I go kayaking here every week.”

People have a certain impression of Dr. Sriram when they first meet, but despite appearing as a typical professor, Sriram considers himself anything but ordinary.  “I have 50% of my body tattooed. I’ve been getting tattoos since I was nineteen. It’s probably my number one hobby. When people see me they just think I’m some nerdy Indian guy in IT, but then I have all these tattoos. I think it’s funny because people often associate tattoos with anti-authoritarian behavior. I’m a state employee, I’m teaching political science in college, and meanwhile I have a grumpy cat tattoo on my leg.”

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To say that immigration is one of the hottest topics in American politics feels almost like an understatement. One can hardly open the news application on their phone or go on social media without seeing at least one article pertaining to the issue. Immigration policy concerns were heightened this summer, as President Trump enforced a family separation policy that was viewed by many as cruel and unnecessary. As photographs of children torn from their mothers’ arms and held in cages spread throughout the nation, American citizens started to question the state of our immigration policies – some for the very first time. While Americans began to argue with one another about the humanity, legality, and necessity of such policies, political science professor and the director of the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center (GSEC) Dr. Hollis France began to wonder: How did we as a country even get to this point?

Thus, Dr. France was inspired to organize a panel with three of her colleagues about the history of immigration policy in America and, more specifically, its relationship with gender. She invited three panelists to speak: Mr. Mohammed Iqbal Degia, Professor Briana McGinnis, and Professor Julia McReynolds-Perez.

Mr. Mohammed Iqbal Degia is a senior international affairs professional whose dominant interests include human rights, gender and race. Dr. France asked him to speak about the deep relationship these interests have with immigration, particularly in America. To inform, he gave a presentation outlining the history of immigration in America and how that history influences the climate today. Degia reminded the audience that the U.S. was built on the idea that “white is the standard or the norm, and non-white is abnormal and ‘other’.” Thus, white is a priority, an advantage. Since the attacks of September 11th, the concept of the “other” has flourished, particularly through Islamophobia, and has been exacerbated by Trump’s controversial Muslim ban. However, Degia reminds us that discrimination against the “other” is not unique to today and has been around since Columbus and even earlier. He emphasized that it’s important to understand this long history of discrimination and to take a “holistic approach” so as to become empowered and encourage change. Degia ended with a reminder to all those present to vote on November 6th to make our voices heard.

Following Mr. Degia was Dr. Briana McGinnis from the Department of Political Science. While this may be Dr. McGinnis’ first year at CofC, this was hardly her first time speaking about immigration laws and policies in the United States. Public law and the ethics of migration are two of her key interests, as illustrated in her speech. For this event, she specifically focused on the Immigration Nationality Act and the Likely Public Charge Exception Provision, which has existed since 1882. She elaborated how these legal policies impact the American process of deportation, emphasizing the fact that “deportation is something we do because we choose to do it; it is not something we have to do.” She then expanded upon why we choose to deport people, even our own citizens in some cases, and what this says about our society. She concluded similarly to Mr. Degia, encouraging the audience to be vigilant and wary of history, as it has a habit of repeating itself.

The concluding speaker was Dr. Julia McReynolds-Perez, a Visiting Professor of Sociology at the College of Charleston who focuses on Latino/a immigrant experiences. Dr. McReynolds-Perez began by telling her own family’s story of immigration from Argentina. She then discussed the major misconceptions that plague America regarding immigration, debunking all of them one by one. The largest misconception she focused on was how immigration is administrative law, not criminal, and until relatively recently the government treated it as such. That is not to say problems with the American immigration system only appeared recently. Dr. McReynolds-Perez stressed how “We have an immigration system that’s just broken and has been broken for decades.” She then detailed the ways it is failing, particularly how harmful the current system is to women. She reminded the audience that “gender and race have always been a part of this story” and they will continue to be part of it well into the future. Like the other speakers, she concluded by encouraging audience members to look and work towards a future system that benefits all Americans and humans as a whole.

After Dr. McReynolds-Perez finished her remarks, Dr. Hollis France facilitated questions from the audience. Multiple students participated, asking speakers to elaborate on statistics and facts, while also asking them to provide their own opinions and guidance for the future. After all the questions had been answered, Dr. France reiterated her gratitude to all the speakers and audience members for attending. By the end, many had learned much about America’s history, our present circumstances, and had solidified some intentions for the future.

 

 

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While some students start their freshman year with a clear plan for their future, some find a passion during their time in college that shapes the whole trajectory of their life plans. For political science alum, Michael-Deveraux Louis Bertin ’16, a Health Policy class taught by Dr. Archie-Hudson in the fall semester of his senior was the moment that began his journey to becoming executive director of the South Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (SCHRC).

Bertin and his colleagues fundraising for SCHRC

“At the time I was looking to do something in the health policy field,” Bertin explained, “and I ran into a friend of mine in a criminal justice class who ran an on-campus club called Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). I ended up hopping on board with them at a campus level and we got legislation passed through the Student Government Association for a naloxone access bill.” Naloxone is a drug that can be used as a live saving measure against opioid overdose. Bertin and SSDP focused on increasing availability of the drug and providing training so that people were aware of how to use it as a life saving measure. SSDP talked with community groups and students about the drug (commonly known as Narcan) and how it can be used. Bertin said “It became like a job almost. It was a calling, a passion.” Bertin followed his passion and stayed with SSDP after college. “I was made president of the southeast alumni board for the organization and decided to implement the campus model statewide. I started calling legislators and local law enforcement, then reached out to a couple of churches who got me in touch with Charleston City Council members and then policy change started to become a real thing.”

Bertin was an influential part of the lobbying process for the Good Samaritan Act in South Carolina. “Previous to this policy, if someone was drunk or sick or overdosing and they called the cops, the cops would show up and arrest them. We’ve taken the fear out of the phone call. So you will no longer be arrested, you’re granted immunity. The only thing that happens is they show up, save your life and direct you to some kind of recovery or rehabilitation program.”

After the successful passage of that policy, Bertin knew they had laid a framework for harm reduction in the state. Today Bertin is the executive director of the South Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (SCHRC) where he works in lobbying and community outreach. He is often the contact point or face of the organization. “I’m always setting up meetings with non-profits in the area who share our mission,” he noted.

Though there have been many moments over the years that have kept Bertin motivated to continue fighting for harm reduction and sensible drug policy, a conversation with a Mt. Pleasant police officer sticks out to him the most. “I was leaving his office after a conversation about syringe exchanges. I left his office and he said something to me that just stayed with me. He said ‘Mr. Bertin, if you can stop me from knocking on another mother’s door telling them that their son or daughter is dead, you would be doing me and the state of South Carolina a great service.’ There’s nothing more key to harm reduction than to save somebody’s life. There are other things we want to accomplish in our mission, but that’s the main thing. My goal here is to save as many lives as I possibly can.”

Today the South Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition is partnered with organizations across South Carolina who are all working in various aspects of harm reduction. The value in the coalition, according to Bertin is that their reach extends beyond the scope of law enforcement and public health organizations. “We deal with people in sex work, we deal with people who are IV users, people who use drugs, and we also deal with the homeless and VA community. We deal with the people that most organizations write-off.”

The biggest lesson that Bertin has learned during his time working in harm reduction is to trust the people he works with and to learn to detach himself from what the organization does. “It is really easy for me to think that I’m the only person doing this, especially running an organization that’s so new and discussing something that people don’t really want to discuss yet. It’s hard to take yourself out of the equation for the greater good. I have to be honest, the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is trusting others and trusting myself. I have to make sure that I’m taking care of myself before I can do anything else.”

Bertin considers himself lucky to have found his passion in working for the SCHRC, and he encourages those still in college to find that drive. “My advice would be to be of service as much as possible. Invest your own personal time into something that you are interested in. In this day and age we have to find something to be passionate about and the only way to do that is to do it.”

under: Alumni
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Most college seniors are studying for the GRE, refining law school applications, or on the hunt for a post-grad job, but political science major Joel Milliken ‘19 has been spending his fall semester on the campaign trail as he seeks election for Charleston County Council. A James Island-native, Milliken is running in his home district to address what he sees as the district’s most important issues: development and the environment.

“I’ve grown up on James Island, I’ve lived there my whole life and I’ve seen how it’s evolved even in the last couple of years,” Milliken explained. “There’s a lot more construction and a lot more development going on. One of the biggest issues that has arisen is where development is going, how quickly it is going in, and what we’re doing in terms of infrastructure to support both the citizens we already have and the people who are moving here. One of my biggest issues is flooding. We’re in the midst of a few drainage studies now, but we need to identify all the drainage basins and how they are interconnected, the places that are at risk for flooding, and what impact additional infill would have on that. I’d like those drainage studies and also drainage system upgrades to be completed with additional half cent sales tax funding. We need to preserve the very fragile environment we have here.”

While it might initially seem to be a difficult choice to balance finishing college with running for office, Milliken believes it was simply the right time to seize the opportunity. “One of the biggest things I’ve been learning as a political science major is the importance of participation in government, the importance of putting yourself out there and working with people. And why not now? If not now, when?”

Milliken was particularly concerned with the lack of political competition in his district, which inspired him to run after a Republican primary victory left one candidate running unopposed. “There was no opposition to that Republican ticket. I feel like that’s not really how politics should work. It should be an actual dialogue, not so much a coronation, regardless of who wins the primaries.”

Prior to making the final decision to run, Milliken discussed his options with several of his political science professors including Dr. Gibbs Knotts, Dr. Claire Curtis, and Dr. Hollis France. “My advisor and professors were supportive and encouraging when I ran the idea by them, so I decided to put myself in the ring.”

According to Milliken, his goal is to start a dialogue in his community. “I’m here to give voters a choice, more or less. I’m here to give voters a choice, more or less. By voicing my opinions, and those I believe are shared by other islanders, and putting these ideas out here, I hope to make some impact at least.” He selected a local race because of the impact he felt he could make close to home. “The people who have the greatest impact on where you live, on your day to day life, are the people who are making decisions in your planning commission, your county council, and your municipal government. No one in my generation is really participating in that. [These decisions] are impacting the community we inherit, the community I’m going to be raising a family in.”

Milliken also cites his time as a political science major as influencing his decision to run. “Dr. Knotts’ class on public administration really opened my eyes to just how important local government is in terms of dictating policies that impact us day to day. It was a contributing factor to me wanting to run and wanting to contribute to local government. I always wanted to be a public servant and help people, and actually understanding the role of local government and the role of the people that we elect to local government is something that I have to attribute to political science.”

Recognizing that not everyone will run for local office, Milliken noted that being an informed voter is something that anyone can do to be a participant in local government. “November 6th is a very big date regardless of whether you’re running or not. Just by becoming informed as to who is on your ballot, making that informed choice and putting that choice on a ballot is one of the most vital acts you can do to be part of this system.”

Milliken also encourages young people to get involved in local government. “Local government is ridiculously vast. There’s so much that we as citizens take for granted as something that just happens on the sidelines, but by going out and actually participating and voicing your opinions, that is how actual policy gets changed. Almost every planning commission is an open forum, most town and city council meetings have opportunities to speak and just by walking in, putting your name down, and discussing what you’re most concerned about, real change happens.”

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