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Student Spotlight with Olivia Rothstein

Posted by: knottshg | March 16, 2018 | No Comment |

Sophomore Olivia Rothstein is a double major in political science and historic preservation. She is from Gainesville, Florida, and is an active member of the Student Government Association and has served as a Peer Facilitator for the Honors College. Olivia is also a student worker in the Political Science Department. In addition, she is part of the American Politics Research Team (APRT) and has pursued independent research projects exploring the intersections of political science and historic preservation.

What led you to majoring in political science?

I’ve always been interested and passionate about politics. I have been helping my Dad volunteer on campaigns since I was six years old. My whole life my entire family has [told] me I am going to be a lawyer like my Dad, but I never listened. I came to College of Charleston knowing I would absolutely not major in political science and not attend law school. However, I got lost during orientation and by chance I ended up at a session that Dr. Knotts was leading. He started talking about his Campaigns and Elections class, and I knew I just had to sign up for it. Two weeks into the class I knew I had to meet with him and five minutes into the meeting I knew I wanted to declare my major in political science. He was just so welcoming and informative, and I saw that this really was my passion. To this day my siblings won’t stop bothering me, saying “I told you so” but it’s worth it.

Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement on campus?

College of Charleston has so many amazing clubs, organizations, and departments that I constantly want to be involved. In the fall semesters, I work as a Peer Facilitator for the Honors College, helping incoming students adjust to life here at CofC. I absolutely love it because I enjoy meeting all the different people, learning about their interests, and helping them overcome the various challenges of college. I’ve also learned so much about the school that I never knew before! Additionally, I am a Senator for Student Government Association which has been so much fun. It introduced me to different people and ideas around campus, and I have been able to feel like I am truly making a difference in my community. Just last week, a couple fellow senators and I wrote a resolution regarding gun control on campus and in the state of South Carolina. To see that bill pass and to be able to talk about something I am so passionate about was amazing. In addition to Student Government, I am on the Executive Board for College Democrats. This gives me the opportunity to utilize all the great knowledge I learn from political science by organizing events that range from simple meetings to panels to writing letters to congresspersons. Finally, I am deeply involved in the department itself. As a student worker I help run the social media and put together the advising newsletter.

I also serve as a Lead Mentor for the nonprofit organization Kids on Point which partners with the College of Charleston. This group connects college students and community members with local youth from underserved areas, and it’s truly an incredible organization. All the kids at the program participate in the sport of squash, along with receiving mentors to help with homework and developing necessary life skills. The organization has truly changed my life, introducing me to the most amazing kids.

How do you balance double majoring and how do you see your majors intersecting?

I am a double major in Political Science and Historic Preservation and Community Planning. It’s an interesting mix that often spurs a lot of questions in people. At first glance they don’t seem to intersect, but in actuality they are deeply intertwined. Politics is involved in everything, including preservation. It’s through studying preservation that I learn so much about America’s history; various cultures and their practices; and the impact preservation has on building and uniting communities. The first example that comes to most people’s mind is the issue of Confederate and Confederate-sympathizing statues. Though this is hardly the only example where preservation and politics connect, it is timely. You cannot fully understand that issue until you take a look at the politics surrounding it and its history along with the history of the monuments themselves and why people want to preserve them. That is the only way an adequate solution can be reached, through understanding, and that is only possible by looking at both the fields of preservation and politics. These connections between the two fields makes it a lot simpler to double major, it never seems like a burden or inconvenience. It gives me the opportunity to pursue many of my interests at once and seeing where those interests intersect. Like everything else in college, its mostly just about time management and careful planning!

What kind of research projects are you working on right now?

I am working on two main research projects right now and revising some others. I am a member of the APRT and am helping Dr. Knotts and Dr. Ragusa compile research for a book they are writing about the presidential primaries in South Carolina. I have been looking at South Carolina politicians since the 1970s to see if they had any involvement in making South Carolina’s primary, “first in the south.” Additionally, I have been looking through newspapers for any mentions of the primaries and to see which politicians have visited the state on campaign stops, where they visited, and when. It’s been really interesting to learn so much more about South Carolina since I am an out of state student. Additionally, I am working with an art history professor Dr. Nathaniel Walker studying Thomas Campanella’s City of the Sun. I am reading about Campanella’s utopia, particularly focusing on the urban design and then using Google SketchUp to create a model of the City of the Sun. This is another great example of the intersection of political science and preservation. I am reading about this utopia and its society, ranging from education to governance to religion. I am then taking this information and seeing how that would look in real life and how someone would try to preserve a city like that. Finally, I am reviewing the research I completed last semester about cultural property destruction in the Middle East, another intersection of politics and preservation. I will be presenting the paper at the annual William V. Moore Student Research Conference in April.

What advice would you give to students who are looking to do research in political science?

Find a topic that interests you and meet with a professor! Whether it’s a professor you are taking a class with, one you saw speak at an event or panel, or one whose research just really interests you: schedule a meeting! One of the great parts about CofC is the availability of research for undergraduate students, so take advantage of it! You can either work on a project a professor is already working on or create your own and ask them to advise you on it. The options are essentially endless when it comes to research with the department and the professors are always willing to help.

What do you like most about working for the political science department?

My favorite part about working for the political science department is the people. They are all friendly, engaging, and helpful. It has been fabulous to get to know Tracey Andrews, the department’s new administrative coordinator. She is always there to help everyone and put a smile on your face. We have a blast in everything we do. The entire department is like that. They make tasks that might seem boring fun, just by being themselves. Also, everyone is so welcoming and anytime I need anything I know the doors are open and they will be there to help me out. It has given me the chance to meet more students majoring in political science and to talk about my passion for the subject and department at multiple events such as Accepted Students Weekend and Honors Interview Weekend. I love being able to share my excitement with so many other people here.

What are your plans for after graduation? How do you think being a political science major will help you reach those goals?

After graduation I want to take a gap year to work in either the nonprofit or public sector, learning even more about local and state government. Then, I want to attend a joint program where I receive my Masters in Preservation and a law degree. In the long term, I want to work on using the law to protect and promote preservation, whether this means through lobbying, working for the public sector, or owning my own firm. I wouldn’t be able to do this without my political science degree. In addition to helping me truly realize my passions, it is through this program that I have learned vital skills such as critical thinking, research, and advanced writing. Additionally, the knowledge I have gained through this major is invaluable, teaching me about law, policy, legislation, governance, and more. This will give me a great foundation as I continue to pursue my future goals and endeavors.

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