2013 grad Jon Palmer spent the spring completing a practicum for the Politics Department in which he was responsible for completing our alumni career database. Below are his thoughts on what he has learned in the process as he reflected over his time in the major.
Over the past four years of my College experience as a Politics major at Messiah College there are many things which I have learned that are important for all students of politics to learn, as well as anyone with the goal of interacting with the U.S. government and others as well. This compilation of things I have learned over the past four years have guided me in my personal journey of morality and ethics, as well as having taught me where I believe God is calling me in my life.
When I first came here to Messiah College I wanted to get a degree in politics so I could learn about government and at the same time try to learn about being a lawyer and what the laws which govern the country entail. Specifically I wanted to be a lawyer who specialized in constitutional law; I have always had a particular affiliation for those involved in its creation, as well as an affiliation for the ideals it embodies. I quickly learned that being a lawyer meant that I would be behind a desk for most of the time I was working and would inevitably end up debating many losing battles, or so it seemed to me at the time. However, I was mostly dissuaded from being a lawyer because I learned that the two most important things about being a lawyer was being both patient and good at research.
I may have learned that I was not cut out to be a lawyer because research takes a lot of patience, which is something I really struggle with, but I have also learned that law-enforcement is where I am called to. There is much that I feel this major has to offer for anyone who wishes to go into this field. (For example, pursuing a Criminal Justice major does not necessarily provide an advantage in getting into law-enforcement over other fields; if your goal is to be a police officer you will be taught everything you need to know in the Police Academy, as the practical application can only come from experience, according to the police officers I have talked to at my internship in the summer of 2012). Honestly I didn’t really know about everything that the major entailed and I had thought it was the best thing for me to be a major in. I did know that there were many different jobs you could get with a B.A. in Politics but after this semester of updating the Alumni database I learned that it was much more.
There are people who have degrees in politics that range from business owners, to lawyers, to police, to people who work in advertising, to editors and writers, all the way to people who work in government positions, or even non-profit organizations. The question to ask when looking at this major isn’t “what can you do?” it is “what can’t you do?” The answer to that question is “nothing”. With this major there is nothing you cannot do, and if you are not convinced, just take a serious look at the general education classes you take with along with the major. There are so few fields that have no relation to politics that it is truly astounding more students don’t take a more serious look at this major. Anything which has laws to govern it, anything that has institutions to run it, and anything involved with other countries has to have some connection to politics, government, or research and this major covers it all.
Another great thing about this major is that it can teach you about the inner workings of any institution related to government, and when you are looking for ways to motivate people in a negotiation, it helps to know why people make the decisions they do. The inner workings of institutions tend to be similar if not identical, because people have a tendency to want things to be simpler or run in a more efficient way and that means symmetry in institutions. This major also teaches about the various philosophies which spawned the Constitution and the ideas which prevail in all aspects of life today in the U.S.
One class which also stood out was “Preparing for Public Service.” I took the class this spring and was astounded by how few students took it, but the value of the class is and will be astronomical in my future. It has taught me so many practical things, like how to write a letter to someone you want money from, or how to ask someone to do something for you. These are life skills which can actually be translated across the board as well, because everyone who is involved with politics will at some point need to contact another individual and ask them for help. It taught me how to negotiate on the basis of my values and not from a single perspective, which creates a flexibility for me to negotiate with without losing sight of what I want to uphold. It taught me what is involved with fighting for what you believe in by having us create our own interest group on campus with which we are supposed to further the purpose of on campus for one semester. Keeping it organized, asking others for assistance or information, organizing an event or interview, and keeping our goals in check were all things I had to learn in order to survive the class. This class has made me able to essentially organize my own non-profit organization if I wanted, or even to start my own business to some degree. My public service skills and organizational skills have grown immensely as a direct result of this class. All majors should take this course.
All in all, this major has been an incredible experience and taught me how to do what I want to do in life. It taught me that a Christian can be both a politician and Christian, but that the politics major can be so much more than that. It is a pathway to anything involving public service, research, debate, politics, law, institutions, economics, philosophy, religion, and other topics I haven’t named. These things are all part of the treasure trove of information and wisdom I have found in my education and social life here at Messiah College.
Thank you, Jon, for sharing your thoughts on the Politics major. We wish you the best of luck in your professional career!
Readers, this is our first blog of the semester. Follow us as we embark in this new school year 2013-2014. Welcome Class of 2017!