More students are majoring in political science and running for public office

Jennifer Lambert thought she wanted to be a nurse.

Then the Parkland School shooting happened in Florida and I watched thousands of young people march for gun control in Washington, D.C. She took part in a strike at her high school in New Jersey. It was 2018, when national politics was highly polarized amid the presidency of Donald Trump.

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Lambert decided to major in political science instead at Villanova University, which reports a 37% increase in political science majors since 2019.

Lambert, of Fanwood, NJ, said: “I certainly think it has to do with the state of our national politics and how divided they have become. It has been difficult for a lot of people to escape politics in the news cycle. Not being able to … is a big reason why we decided to study it.” .

This spring, Marcus Kreuzer, chair of Villanova’s political science department, said 328 students majored in the field, up from 238 in the fall of 2019. He said the department hasn’t seen such a rise in majors since September 11. Other local schools queried did not see the same rise. Drexel reports slight rise; It also notes a 20% increase this year in applications for politics majors. The numbers at the University of Pennsylvania have remained relatively flat.

Nationally, the number of bachelor’s degrees in political science and government in US colleges increased from 33,955 in 2015-16 to 36,715 in 2018-2019, an increase of 8%, according to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Students do more than just study the topic. Lambert, now very young, wrote a book, Vote Zabout political activism among its peers nationwide; It will be released this month.

Other students nominate themselves for a local position – and win. Lauren Som, a final year student at Villanova, was elected in November to the school board in Park Ridge, NJ, where she graduated less than four years earlier. Jacob Pride, a junior major in political science at East Stroudsburg University, was just 19 years old in 2019 when he was elected borough superintendent in Monroe County. Now Pride, one of more than twenty Generation Z (born 1997 and 2015), whom Lambert interviewed for her book, knows two other students vying for school board seats.

There is a growing awareness that politics is not just something that happens [in] “It’s a remote place but it’s something that affects people’s lives,” Crozer said.

He said that Barack Obama’s presidency pushed some students, while others were interested in law school and wanted to serve their country. Some wanted to get involved in social justice issues and pushed them through national policies. For the latter group, he said, racial unrest and the epidemic played roles.

“This has become the existential fight for the soul of America or the future of America,” he said.

Camille Vickers, 20, a sophomore from Newark, New Jersey, wants to see more representation of African Americans, like him, in government.

“I hope to be underrepresented in our country,” said Vickers, who plans to attend law school and possibly run for Congress one day.

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Vickers, who marched in Washington after the Parkland shootings, said his generation has watched the world change in unprecedented ways and make them stronger.

“We are a group of brave leaders,” he said.

Natalie Kristopol, 21, a student at Franklin Lakes School in New Jersey, said she wants to reduce political polarization.

“We need to re-learn what it means to be a liberal or conservative, and to understand how harmful social media can be to becoming an educated voter,” she wrote in an email to Kreuzer, explaining why she majored in political science.

Social media does not help people understand the other side; She said it only ignites disagreements.

“No one is able to respect the other party,” she said.

She would like to set up a club in Villanova that would allow people with different opinions to discuss issues civilly.

Som, 22, who specializes in communication and Spanish, was part of the alumni group in her hometown’s school district last summer that began discussing the need for more culturally sensitive approaches and policies.

“We were hoping to push for more diverse reading lists, more diverse history classes, more faculty of color and mental health support for students of color as well,” she said.

When there was only one candidate for three open seats, she ran for herself written. With the help of a friend, she conducted a social media campaign largely from her campus residence in Villanova.

“One thing I stand for is making sure students know they are more than capable of what they think they are capable of,” she said. “They are never too young to pursue change in the decisions that matter to them.”

She attends meetings almost at the moment but plans to move home after graduation while working on an internship in New York City.

Pride, a student at East Stroudsburg, said his interest in political science began when he was eight, and that George W. Bush sent his father, who was in the military, to Afghanistan.

“I wanted to understand why,” he said.

He’s a traveling student and lives in the nearby town of Smithfield, a community of 7,500 residents in the Poconos, where he became a superintendent in January 2020. He ran because he was worried there wasn’t enough housing and economic development in the town to sustain. youth in the area.

“I felt a younger perspective, maybe we could have kept more of them here and help move the district forward,” said Pride, a Democrat and chairman, and fellow supervisors in their 70s.

He’s campaigned on live broadcasts of moderators’ meetings and updated the site to allow for more transparency.

“I didn’t think at the time what would really push him forward and give him momentum is a pandemic,” said Pride, who earns $2,500 as a superintendent and an extra salary to work as a park coordinator and digital specialist for the borough.

He said Pride is balancing his supervisor’s responsibilities with his schoolwork and still makes time for socializing and his girlfriend. He said his job as a supervisor is another learning experience.

Kimberly S. Adams, a professor of political science at East Stroudsburg, said her department expects students to become active in politics. Pride was not the first student to run for office.

“We try to create an environment in which that becomes the norm,” she said. “We don’t care, Democrat or Republican, just go and be that change you want to see.”

Adams lives in the town of Smithfield and couldn’t be happier when Pride knocked on her door while campaigning.

“I told him I would vote for him,” she said.

She said he took a class she was taking during his nomination and gave the students an important insight into his experience as a candidate.

Lambert, who has interviewed members of Generation Z nationwide about their political beliefs, electoral habits, and the politicians who inspired them, said writing the book gave her a new perspective on her generation.

“I see my colleagues as change makers, activists, people who really change our political system every day with their actions,” she said. “There are some positive reforms that this generation can make once in positions of power.”

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