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The Philosophies of Trevor Jones ’16

Posted by: andrewst | May 31, 2022 | No Comment |

At the start of our virtual interview, Trevor Jones (‘16) gives me a brief tour of one special wall in his suburban Maryland apartment. “Here’s me with Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the congressional baseball game,” Jones beams as he points to the photograph. “And this one’s with Mr. Dellums, the former mayor of Oakland and the first African-American to chair the Armed Services Committee in Congress.” Immediately I get a sense of the pride he feels ­ about his connections to these icons on his wall and in being asked to do this interview. He’s a humble man with a giving heart: “Growing up, everything for me has always been rooted in service. I’m always looking for ways to make things better.”

Trevor Jones with Rep. Ronald V. Dellums

Jones’ interest in policy took off while studying under Dr. Marguerite Archie-Hudson, a political science professor at CofC and a former member of the California State Legislature. Dr. Archie-Hudson’s classes inspired him toward wanting to experience D.C. politics firsthand. Since he had most of his undergraduate coursework completed, Jones decided to make that dream come true. All he needed was the opportunity to make it happen. Jones decided to apply for the highly competitive W.N. Looper Award, which helps to cover living expenses for a humanities undergraduate hired for a summer internship on Capitol Hill. Jones’ philosophy is “I will always just try, the worst thing they can tell you is no. And if it’s a no, it’s fine, because you’re in no worse position than you were before.” Jones happily accepted the Looper Award and then used that same philosophy to secure an internship in the office of U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn (SC-06), the (then) Assistant Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives.

After his internship with Rep. Clyburn’s office ended, Jones returned to D.C. by securing a coveted spot in the internship program of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF). Along with housing, CBCF supports participants with a stipend, office placements and a wealth of opportunities to interact with legislators and leaders on the Hill. Jones was successfully placed within the office of U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09), and although they had no openings when his internship ended, they were helpful during his job search, which led to a position with Rep. Kathy Castor (Fl-14). Jones then returned to Rep. McNerney’s office and stayed for another three years. During that time, Jones would serve as a staff assistant, legislative correspondent, and eventually a legislative aide.

Trevor Jones with Congressman Jerry McNerney

Jones valued the experience he gained in Rep. McNerney’s office, but something happened in 2018 that propelled him to change course. “It was kind of a culture shock you could actually feel” says Jones, referencing the new class of representatives, mostly female, who came into town like a whirlwind and hit the ground running. The excitement generated by their arrival piqued Jones’ curiosity about the electoral side of politics and prompted him to seek his next position: as a Special Assistant at EMILY’s List, a Political Action Committee and “the largest resource for women in politics.” Although Jones was uncertain as to how he would fit in at EMILY’s List, he was so inspired by the moment that he knew he had to try. He now manages board operations at EMILY’s List. In the process of collaborating with consultants, creative teams, politicians, celebrities, and endorsed candidates, Jones and his team plan and execute effective strategies that “connect the dots in all the right places to support and elevate Democratic pro-choice women.”

Jones often thinks about CofC and credits his political science classes and his time as an office assistant in Women’s and Gender Studies as having given him the tools to participate effectively and appropriately in many different types of spaces. “As a man I know I shouldn’t always be the first person in the room to speak. It’s so important to be able to distinguish the times to be vocal and the times to create space and opportunity for other, especially women, to be heard.” This final statement from Jones tells you all you need to know, we think, as to why his voice and leadership are so important in today’s world.

Despite his busy schedule, Jones donates his time as a volunteer in our mentorship program and has inspired many of our juniors and seniors to take the next bold step toward their dreams.

Trevor Jones with Joe Cunningham, Candidate for SC Governor

Trevor Jones with Rep. John Lewis

Note: We just received the news that Trevor has been promoted to Director of the Office of the President at EMILY’s list.  Congratulations, Trevor, and thanks for sharing your story!

 

 

 

 

 

Experiential learning – whether it be an internship, academic research, job shadowing, study abroad or any other experience where there is hands-on learning – sets you apart from your peers. Discover more about experiential learning opportunities on the Career Center’s website at https://careercenter.cofc.edu/students/internship-experiential-learning-opportunities/index.php.

under: Alumni, Careers, Internships, Mentorship Program
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An activist behind the lens, Tom Laffay ’11

Posted by: andrewst | January 10, 2022 | No Comment |

Tom Laffay (’11) double-majored in political science and Latin American and Caribbean studies, in addition to receiving a minor in Spanish while he attended CofC. His career was heavily influenced by his experiences abroad (Cuba 2009), a summer working on a farm in North Carolina, and his membership in the Portuguese Club. The totality of these experiences awakened the storyteller in Tom, and he now works as a visual journalist in Bogotá, Colombia.

So, how did Tom get from Charleston, SC to Bogotá, Colombia? For starters, he spent a semester abroad in Cuba, where he learned about Latin American socio-political issues unfamiliar to him at the time. Upon his return, he took a job on a North Carolina farm for the summer and worked side-by-side with migrant farmworkers. Laffay considers this period in his life to be the beginning of his “personal, political, and social transformation.” He listened to the frustrations of the migrants and learned how they were forced to live in the shadows of the U.S. legal system. This left Laffay with a nagging feeling and fueled his desire to return to Latin America. He wanted to better understand the reality of the migrant experience and find ways to make an impact. Documentaries, screened frequently in the Portuguese Club at CofC, would later become his medium of choice.

After graduation, Tom started his career in Nicaragua managing the communications team for La Isla Network (LIN), then a small public health and labor rights NGO. This dedicated team of Nicaraguan and international activists was working to bring attention to a kidney disease epidemic affecting agricultural workers by exposing the companies who were exploiting workers and leading health interventions to protect the laborers. “This was an incredible opportunity [for me] and I eventually went on to work with LIN on similar projects in El Salvador. As it turns out, these projects were the first steps of Tom’s career in photojournalism.

In 2016, Tom moved to Bogota, Colombia, and met Bram Ebus, an investigator with expertise in mineral trafficking, and Gustavo Faleiros, a data journalist who runs an online platform focused on storytelling from the Amazon called InfoAmazonia. At the time, Ebus and Faleiros were already conducting an investigation regarding mercury trafficking in Ghana, Venezuela and Brazil. Eventually, the three would work on Laffay’s first freelance documentary Mercury: Chasing the Quicksilver, supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Journalism Fund & IUCN Netherlands. This film follows the health effects of small-scale mercury mining in the Amazon, while also considering how the prohibition of mercury impacts the livelihoods of miners and communities.

Filming Mercury was what Laffay describes as a “22-day road trip across Guyana and Suriname going to gold mining regions to examine the tertiary economies that sprang up around them.” Despite Bram making a few contacts prior to the journey, the investigation was largely “on the fly.” They met people directly affected by the situation – from miners, smugglers, and women affected by the economic crisis – to ecologists conducting research and foreign businesspeople buying the mercury. “We really tried to do a thorough look and make it entertaining as well, in terms of finding interesting characters who were willing to talk about these things.” The multi-lens approach used in the film has already helped transform the way people and governments view and respond to the mercury trade. Canada, for instance, reviewed the amount of gold they were buying after realizing it was mostly smuggled out of Venezuela – an especially jarring fact considering the country’s current economic and humanitarian crisis. Dr. Whip, an ecologist featured in the film, brought some attention to the effects that mercury has not only on the health of the miners, but also on the air and water quality in the region.

Another of Laffay’s projects, Nos Están Matando (They’re Killing Us), started in 2016 after ‘peace’ was declared between the Colombian government and FARC, (then) the largest guerrilla group in the world. Human rights activists and community leaders were being targeted and killed across the country, but the media continued to cover only the ‘peace’ story. So, Laffay decided to follow known-targets Feliciano Valencia and Hector Marino and document the personal sacrifices of just two of the more than 200 people assassinated while trying to create change in a ‘post-war’ society.

Nos Están Matando struck a chord. It earned more than 2 million views following a viral open-source release and was screened to more than 50 groups of Colombians in the diaspora in Europe, the U.S., and South America. “It was incredible that people reached out to us just out of nowhere and wanted to hold screenings at colleges or cafes or wherever, to talk about this issue of violence against civil leaders.”

Laffay’s films have been screened by the United States Congress and the United Nations at Geneva and featured on websites like The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Currently, he’s producing his first feature documentary that follows the Siona Indigenous Nation in the Colombian Amazon, supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center’s Amazon and International Rainforest Journalism Fund.

Laffay’s high job satisfaction comes from seeing the impact his stories have on others, and the quiet moments on the side of the river speaking with elders – “it’s just a really unique way to see the world. It’s those moments where you’re just there, and you look around and check yourself and it’s almost like, how did I get here?”

How indeed? Laffay’s curiosity, passion, and insights, cultivated on and off the CofC campus, allowed the storyteller within to emerge. Tom is remarkably skilled at illuminating stories found in the larger narrative and presenting multi-layers of opinion from a variety of viewpoints. His documentaries are sure to have an impact on the lives of those who are often too invisible to the rest of the world.

You can find out more about Tom Laffay and his projects at https://www.tomlaffay.com/

[This article was written by Rachel Simpson, the office assistant/social media manager for the political science department. Rachel is in her final semester at CofC, pursuing a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Writing, Rhetoric and Publication.]

under: Alumni, Careers

Alumni Spotlight: Erin McPherson

Posted by: andrewst | May 11, 2021 | No Comment |

Erin McPherson ’10 entered Charleston School of Law immediately after graduation, for that had always been “the plan,” but found herself questioning the decision shortly thereafter.  Her “willingness to pivot” away from that path, as difficult as it was, is what ultimately led her to a career she now loves.

Erin is a Senior Editor* for a local news outlet in Raleigh, NC where her two majors (PoliSci and English) and an MA in English have coalesced into the job of her dreams.  The mission of 6AM City is to “educate and activate” within the community – a mission I’m certain her favorite CofC professors (Dr. Jack Parson and Dr. Kea Gorden) also shared.  Erin finds her work “highly fulfilling” and mentioned shared an unexpected consequence of her work: motivating others inspired her to become a more active citizen herself.

Being an active citizen is one of the reasons that Erin chooses to be an alumni mentor in our political science mentorship program – she feels compelled to support undergraduates as they identify their own paths forward.  While a good percentage of political science majors may think they’re headed to law school or a career in government, many of them will find fulfilling careers elsewhere. “A PoliSci degree is just as useful to a marketer or a journalist, as it is to a government official,” she says and encourages students that “your 20s, and sometimes even your 30s, are a time to explore, shift, grow, change and dive in.”

Erin’s best advice to undergraduates is to “throw everything you have at your goals and if you realize that those goals have changed or something doesn’t match your expectations, give yourself space to change course.”

Obviously, Erin wouldn’t be where she is today without allowing herself this space.  When she returned to CofC for her master’s degree in English, after a four-year pause due to some personal upheaval, she intended to pursue a career in academia, the only other path she felt drawn to besides the law.  During her final semester she secured a fellowship with The Local Palate, a “Food Culture Magazine of the South.”  This fellowship launched her into work as a digital and print editor for lifestyle and trade magazines and eventually landed her at 6AM City’s Raleigh product, RALtoday.

Erin emphasizes “don’t be married” to that vision of yourself you held when you declared your major (or the ones your parents hold for you).  Give yourself time to explore while you are still in college.  Find some internships that spark curiosity in you to see where they might lead.  These experiences will either strongly confirm or absolutely negate your desire to pursue that path, but no matter which occurs you will have learned a lot!

*Promotion to Senior Editor was announced right before we went to print – Congratulations, Erin!

 

under: Alumni, Mentorship Program

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Hyokyung Kwak

Posted by: andrewst | April 20, 2021 | No Comment |

Hyokyung Kwak, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Dr. Kwak joined the Department of Political Science in Fall 2020.  We recently posed some questions to get to know her a bit better.

Dr. Kwak, were you born and raised in South Korea?

Yes, I was born in South Korea. I grew up in Seoul, the Korea’s capital, but I lived in Iowa for about 4-5 years when I was little.

What sparked your interest in political science?

One of the biggest and most important forces that operate on our lives is politics and government and I find it fascinating.

What drew you to the College of Charleston?

After talking with people during the onsite job interview, I could envision myself successfully developing my career as a teacher-scholar. Everyone I talked with showed enthusiasm in teaching and doing good for the community utilizing their scholarly expertise.  They were also optimistic about where CofC is heading with its core values. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to work with this group of people and eventually contribute to the community.

I also appreciate being in a warmer area near the beach.

Is this your first teaching experience?

I guest-lectured when I was in my Ph.D. program, but this is the first full-time teaching position I have held since earning my Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I am still in the process of developing my teaching style, and I am sure it will change and evolve over time.  However, for my 100-level undergraduate course, I’ve been trying to make sure students absorb key pieces of information by delivering a lecture, but also let students interact with each other and learn from their peers while engaging in small group discussion-based activities.

What has it been like for you starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic?

Starting a new job in the middle of this pandemic has been a mix of excitement and a bit of frustration.  However, I have been feeling lucky and grateful that I have such warm-hearted and caring faculty colleagues and administrative staff with whom to work.  Also, thanks to technology, I have been able to “meet” students via Zoom during the pandemic.  I cannot wait to return to normal and have more lively interaction with my colleagues and students.

How has the first semester gone for you? 

My first semester has gone okay although it was somewhat challenging.  Being nowhere close to tech-savvy, I was burned out as I needed to learn and be familiar with these new online-teaching tools.  A positive side of it is that this whole situation challenges me to think harder about how I can improve my delivery methods so that my classrooms can be more interactive and inclusive.  I was able to turn this challenge into an opportunity to learn thanks to the many people at CofC who are more than willing to help and share innovative ideas.

What research projects are you currently working on?

Continuing my research interest in welfare policy in the American states and expanding my research agenda to incorporate equality and equity concepts, I am working on a project that focuses on how second-order devolution (the flow of power and responsibility from the states to local governments) affects welfare policy outcomes.  Also, I am working on finalizing papers from my previous research which examines the dynamics of state welfare policymaking in the post-welfare reform era.

What do you consider unique about you, personally or professionally?

I always have thought that I has been lucky to live abroad when I was young and expose myself to many different cultures in my 20’s.  I believe these experiences have made me a person who appreciates diversity.

under: Faculty

Student Spotlight: Ryan Thompson

Posted by: andrewst | March 3, 2021 | No Comment |

In Fall 2020, political science junior Ryan Thompson participated in the Washington Semester Internship Program (WSIP) through the University of South Carolina’s (USC) Honors College. The WSIP program “gives students in universities and colleges across the state of South Carolina the opportunity to spend a semester working and taking classes in D.C., gaining valuable experience while earning academic credit toward their degrees.”  For Ryan, this experience led to an internship with a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a very memorable semester.

Ryan was accepted into the WSIP program in February of 2020, just a few short weeks before the pandemic began, and then spent the summer wondering if the program would be able to move forward.   Luckily it did, and after a two-week quarantine when he arrived in D.C., Ryan began his internship in the Office of Representative Joe Cunningham, having been hand-picked by Cunningham’s staff after a series of interviews.  Ryan says he felt like the “pick of the litter,” having been chosen as the one and only intern out of his cohort.

The internship experience itself turned out to be “incredibly formative” and Ryan feels extremely lucky to have been chosen for this assignment.  Rather than doing coffee runs or “busy work,” Ryan was given the opportunity to be involved in projects that made a difference, such as writing policy and decision memos. He even helped write some of the tweets that went out on Representative Cunningham’s official twitter account. Though much of his time in D.C. was spent working virtually, Ryan still had the opportunity to network and experience much of the city – a city with a lot on its plate including the Black Lives Matter protests and the upcoming presidential election.  A particularly memorable moment came on the day that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.  Ryan was walking home with friends and they were nearing the Supreme Court just as news of her death first broke and  the flag was being lowered to honor her.  As they stood in silence, more and more people came to pay their respects.  Ryan describes it as a “very poignant moment.”

Ryan saw this unique opportunity to gain professional experience as a major step in preparing him for a career in politics. He was grateful for the Washington Semester Internship Program at USC and was quite pleased overall with their political science department but found himself missing his Poli Sci family at CofC more and more.   Ryan is thankful for the nurturing he receives here at “home” and credits the faculty in the department for the overall sense of preparedness he feels already towards life post-graduation.  His advice to fellow majors would be to “engage with your advisors and professors, because they’re there to help you find opportunities to explore your interests.” He also strongly recommends checking your email – a place where many great opportunities were discovered that could easily have been missed.

Ryan wholeheartedly recommends WSIP to others, and especially to students of color, a demographic that was certainly missing from his cohort.  “There are scholarships and financial aid available,” says Ryan, “and CofC and the Political Science Department will do everything they can to help make this experience possible for students.”

“If you want a job in politics, especially in D.C., after college, having an experience like this on your resume just gives you that extra boost.” Ryan hopes that more students will take advantage of this “once in a lifetime opportunity” in the future and benefit from it as much as he has.

under: Internships, Student
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Alumni Spotlight: Caroline Fowler Allen

Posted by: andrewst | November 11, 2020 | No Comment |

Caroline Fowler Allen graduated in 2008 with minors in African studies and geography.  In her first year at CofC, Caroline took a class with Dr. Chris Day, which inspired her to become a political science major.  The topic of the Rwandan genocide grabbed her interest that year and held her focus as she completed her undergraduate degree and went on to receive her master’s. While finishing her master’s in International Development from Tulane University, Caroline accepted an internship with the U.S. Department of State, in the Bureau of African Affairs.  Shortly after, she began interning with EcoVentures International, a Washington, DC-based non-profit that focuses on economic development.  Within six months, Caroline was hired, and several short months later was off on her first trip to Kenya to support an ongoing project.

Caroline is now the International Program Director for EcoVentures and lives in Mexico.  She attributes her growth in the company to the fact that it is a small organization where, “with fewer people to do the work, you have to get your hands dirty” and take on tasks where you may not feel initially comfortable.  This environment forced this self-described “shy” young woman to stretch in ways she could not have previously imagined, particularly when tasked with facilitating large group trainings – an element of the job she has grown to love.  Caroline loves the variety of her position and finds it “hard to get bored!”

Caroline’s work sounds fascinating and rewarding.  EcoVentures supports local project teams for a number of donor-funded projects globally, mostly within agriculture. They apply “systems thinking lenses” to international development challenges, aiming to avoid “quick fixes,” but rather supporting the “development and sustainability of local market systems.” The one negative of the job is when “politics gets involved” – when a decision is made just to meet reporting requirements or to please the donors, but overall she is very happy in her work.

Despite being quite busy with her career, Caroline still makes times to volunteer as a mentor in our department’s mentorship program.  As an alum who has navigated her own path toward a rewarding career, she has much to share with our juniors and seniors who may be struggling to find their niche or just need a little support or guidance as graduation draws near.  Her number one piece of advice for students is “don’t undervalue your full range of experience and skills.”  She explains: “In today’s world, experience outside of the classroom is important, including extracurricular activities and even hospitality jobs (which show that you can multitask and stay calm under pressure!).” Equally important is experience with online software and tools: “when the world shut down due to COVID-19, we had to quickly adapt to taking all of our usually in-person activities to an online space, so these kinds of skills are highly valued.”

Additional advice from Caroline, especially geared toward freshmen and sophomores:

  • Take some classes with Dr. Mark Long and Dr. John Creed, two of her favorite professors!
  • Fine-tune a foreign language – “it would have been more useful, in hindsight, to be fluent (or close to fluent) in one language, rather than dabbling in many”
  • And “remain open to whatever opportunities come your way”
under: Alumni, Mentorship Program

Alumni Spotlight: Carmen Conley

Posted by: andrewst | November 9, 2020 | No Comment |

Carmen Conley (’88) may not have been the top student in her first two years at CofC, but once she discovered her passion for political science, things started to click.  Dr. Jack Parsons (emeritus professor) had a lot to do with that.  He piqued Carmen’s interest in Africa and got her involved with the Model Organization of African Unity program, a conference that took place annually at Howard University.

Carmen began her career domestically, working four years as a staff member to a U.S. Senator. Carmen then pursued her master’s degree in Africa Regional Studies, with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University School of International Service in Washington, D.C.

As a huge proponent of internships “to get your foot in the door at organizations you (think) you want to work with,” Carmen targeted the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs as a grad student, worked as an intern and upon graduation secured a long-term job.  She also worked as a consultant for the United Nations Development Program.  “Seeing that (organization) up close,” Carmen admits, “made me realize that I did not want a career in the UN system.”  She also worked for two years in public relations for the private sector, which confirmed that her “heart was really in the development field.”  Glad for these “comparative experiences,” and using them to evaluate her own aspirations, needs and desires, Carmen eventually landed at Development Alternatives Global (DAI), a large, for-profit, development organization based in Bethesda, Maryland, with project offices in 60 countries.  The organization’s focus is on political and economic development in developing countries, and includes climate mitigation.

Obviously, the work agrees with Carmen; she has been employed there for 17 years, all within the realm of Democracy and Governance, which at times has been combined with a focus on “rapid response in post-conflict environments.”  Her work is very fulfilling and Carmen loves the “highly collaborative environment” modeled within the company and around the globe. Though it can be very deadline driven and at times challenging when responding to clients (like the US government and other European Donor agencies), Carmen has learned how to “walk the tightrope” and “manage expectations.”

Though her position typically requires a lot of travel, COVID-19 has put a temporary halt to that and Carmen misses the interaction that she typically has “in the field” or at the home office in Maryland.  Though she works from her home in Charleston, and has for the last seven years, the company is now managing now remote staff in countries that span the globe during this pandemic.

Carmen volunteers as a mentor in our mentoring program here at CofC and happily shares her support and guidance to juniors and seniors who seek her input.  Her main piece of advice for everyone to take in is to “have a little humility” and do whatever it takes to get your foot in the door – she once applied to be a receptionist for a Senator, making a “barely livable” wage in D.C.  Though she did not get that job, they did call her several months later to offer her a temporary position answering constituent mail.  She accepted the position, lived with relatives and waitressed to make ends meet, and was offered full-time employment when the temp job ended.  When she left (four years later), her title was Director of Constituency Relations, which definitely enhanced her resume.  So, although you may not find exactly what you want initially, having those experiences – both positive and negative – will give you insights that will either confirm your path or cause a change in course, and only good can come from that.

under: Alumni, Mentorship Program

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Ali

Posted by: andrewst | November 5, 2020 | No Comment |

Sarah Ali graduated from the Honors College in 2008, sold her car and moved to Palestine with the “hope of finding a job!”  Though her first adventure was short-lived and she returned to the U.S. for a few months, she has “no regrets” about the choices she made in that “rocky first year.”  “Sometimes, and especially in your twenties,” she writes, “you really need to make risky moves and follow your passions.” Though offered a position – in many ways her “dream job” – in a congressional office on Capitol Hill (after a short temporary position) Sarah declined the offer and flew to Beirut, Lebanon, where she found a job paying $10 an hour.  Though living “paycheck to paycheck” Sarah was living on her own terms.  Two years later, she accepted a position to teach at an international school in Erbil, Iraq, where she met her husband.  She then pursued her master’s degree in Arab Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service; she graduated in 2014.

Sarah’s education and experience eventually landed her a position as a Business Development Specialist for the East Asia Pacific sub region at Catholic Relief Services, a position she loves.  Her job entails working together with country teams in the Philippines, Indonesia, Timor Leste and the Pacific Islands to “design projects that support the most poor and vulnerable people in society in ways that are sustainable and dignified.”  Sarah helps to design the projects and translate them into “winning proposals” so that they can win funding for implementation.

Unfortunately, Sarah transitioned to this position just as COVID-19 hit, which delayed her move to the Philippines.  She and her family had already vacated their apartment and put all their belongings on a ship to Manila when they received word of the delay.  Somehow, Sarah (along with her husband and two young children) have been able to take this all in stride.  They are riding out the pandemic in an Air B&B in Baltimore, Maryland and are focused on the “silver linings: living in a familiar area with a big backyard and lots of grass, and (hopefully) spending the upcoming holidays with the grandparents.”  Still working from “home” in Maryland does have its challenges: “As much as I love having calls with the teams,” she says, “I don’t love doing it late into the night!” (There is at least a 12-hour time difference!) In addition, she really misses that feeling of teamwork and the collaborative problem solving that is intrinsic to the job and easier to accomplish in-person. That being said, Sarah knows she is blessed and feels quite lucky that her kids and husband “have been able to thrive” through the pandemic thus far.  They do hope to get to Manila eventually, pull their things out of storage and “resume the expat life” they love so much.

Sarah’s bold spirit is warm and welcoming.  Her take-charge, positive attitude is a tonic in a world that is often fear-based and negative, which is, no doubt, one of the reasons why she has landed in this fabulous career with Catholic Relief Services, and why she makes a great mentor to our juniors and seniors through our mentorship program.

Sarah volunteers as one of our mentors to give homage to some of the many influential mentors she has had in her own life, including the “infamous John Creed,” who supervised her bachelor’s essay and made “a huge difference in where (she) ended up.”  In addition to Dr. Creed, other favorite political science professors include Dr. Lynne Ford and Dr. Claire Curtis.

Sarah is the first to admit that much of her career progression has been a function of privilege; she comes from a white, middle-class family with two working parents.  She acknowledges this with humility and is ever so conscious of the fact that not everyone will have the advantages she has had in life, nor will everyone have a safety net around them that allows as much freedom as she has been granted, but her best advice for all undergrads remains:

  • “If you are able to take some risks during and after college, take them!” And, Sarah would add, extracurricular activities should be among those risks! One of Sarah’s favorite places while at CofC was the South Carolina Student Legislature, where she made “lifelong friends” both from CofC and other colleges.
  • “If you can, give yourself some time to be (a little bit) more sure of what you want in your career” and, don’t rush to grad school: “Be careful – very careful – about taking on more student debt.” See how far your undergraduate degree can take you first and then build on that if/when needed.
  • “Although it is very important to respect your parents’ hopes and advice, at the end of the day you need to own your path…don’t suppress your own passions in order to please anyone else!”
under: Alumni, Mentorship Program

Beyond George Street

Posted by: andrewst | November 5, 2020 | No Comment |

Madi Methvin, Caroline Reece and Erika Golden are not only busy introducing the class of 2024 to the College and beyond, they are three majors who are actively participating and giving back to projects they love. Click here to learn more: BeyondGeorgeStreet

under: FYE, Student

Meet one of our newest faculty: Dr. Douglas Rivet

Posted by: andrewst | November 3, 2020 | No Comment |

The Department of Political Science welcomed Dr. Douglas Rivet to our program in Fall 2019.  With a specialization in geography, the addition of Dr. Rivet to our program brings focus to our geography minor and the myriad of ways these two disciplines complement each other in today’s world.

According to Oxford Languages, “geography is the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources, land use, and industries.” The first half of that definition is where Rivet’s love of geography began, but it is that second half that shows where his love has taken him.

While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Dr. Rivet became quite interested in GIS – Geographic Information Systems – and truly came to appreciate its vast capabilities. His first job out of college was as a property tax assessor in Brighton, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit), where he refined his skills in GIS and gained valuable experience on suburban development and local government practices.

Rivet then pursued a master’s in geography at Western Michigan University and worked with GIS systems to analyze and assess the risks of agricultural disease on potatoes in the Great Lakes region.  While pursuing his master’s, he reconnected with his love of the classroom and decided to pursue a Ph.D. in order to become a professor.  He was accepted to a doctoral program at Western University in London, Ontario, and fell in love with life in Canada and its people.  Rivet was particularly fascinated by the Canadian universal healthcare system and its political processes, which are vastly different from the U.S.  Rivet worked for eight years as a transportation policy advisor for the first bus rapid-transit system in the region, which is now under construction.  He consulted on everything from where the structure should go, to how the region would pay for it, using – you guessed it – GIS!  He left Canada only because he received his “dream offer” to teach at the College of Charleston.

Dr. Rivet’s hobbies include golf and darts (a game he became fond of in Canada, where darts is practically a national “sport”).  He lives with his wife, Heather, and their two dogs, Dexter and Theodore, in Goose Creek, SC.

under: Faculty, Geography

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