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Learn more about political science from the students themselves


Jarrett Kellan

Jarrett Kellan
Age: 36
Senior (graduating in May 2011)
Hometown: Negaunee, Mich.
Major: Political science

Transfer student Jarret Kellan chose political science by accident when he came to UW Oshkosh.

“I used to be an engineering major, and when I came here I tried to enroll in biology, but it was full,” Kellan said. “I picked political science because I have always had an interest in current affairs and government.”

Kellan said he would like to pursue a career in public administration, because it is important to understand how government works and how society reacts to government policy.

“I think with a career in public administration you’re a civil servant,” Kellan said. “Everything you do represents the better good for society, so I think it’s important to really understand how your role benefits or affects society.”

Kellan’s political science courses have given him more insight into how the political process works, as well as more insight into what he believes.

“I definitely have a better understanding of the major issues instead of what I hear from the news,” Kellan said. “I can understand it (current affairs) on a much deeper level on both the domestic and global scale. I’ve definitely learned a lot more about myself, and I realize that a lot of my prior thought processes were just flat-out false. I was believing a lot of rhetoric that wasn’t really true and now I kind of have enough information to develop my own independent thoughts, as opposed to relying on someone else.”


Lee Schuchart

Lee Schuchart
Age: 22
Hometown: Marinette, Wis.
Majors: Criminal justice and political science

Senior Lee Schuchart added a political science major after he took comparative politics and determined he didn’t want to be a cop.

Through his political science courses, Schuchart said he became a better writer and learned to write a research paper.

“In political science you learn how to formulate a thought really well and do a lot of writing,” said Schuchart.

Schuchart plans on attending law school and said you do a lot of writing and are provided with a diverse set of ideas in political science courses, which is good preparation for law school.

“Political science diversifies you, introduces you to theories about how the world works and many different areas of study that I never realized even existed,” said Schuchart.

Schuchart said it seems strange to say it, but he has learned a lot on what it means to be professional from Professor James  Krueger.

"He taught me what I’ll have to be like in  the future," Schuchart said. "And I can talk to him whenever I want."

Although Schuchart is going into law school, he said that many people outside the political science field misunderstand it.

“The main misconceptions that others have about political science are that you have to be a lawyer and that it’s all American politics,” Schuchart said. “People don’t realize the intricacies of American government.”


Rachel Nutini

Rachel Nutini
Age: 32
Graduated in May 2009
Major: political science
Hometown: Menasha, Wis.
Currently: Business process analyst at Thrivent Financial

Alumna Rachel Nutini said she explored a lot of other majors before political science and said it was a journey to figure out what she wanted to get from college.

“I kind of discovered through time that what I actually wanted from college was not just money, but a real understanding of some part of the world, some part of how things work and to be able to have a framework for thinking about life and issues,” Nutini said. “I found that I really had a lot of ‘why?’ questions.”

Nutini said she had questions on why things are the way they are and why things happen and found that political science helped her answer those questions.

“I really found that political science fed that piece of me that really wanted to know why and wanted to think deeply about things,” Nutini said. “It also gave me some good tools for analysis and for finding the right questions to ask so that you can get down to the nitty gritty of what’s going on.”

Nutini described her courses in political science as mind-opening and transformative, and said her critical thinking was developed through her political science courses.

“This major has equipped me for any kind of life that I choose to have, and it’s one of the few majors I think you will find that really expands your world and doesn’t contract it” Nutini said. “Politics is often about conflict and choices, and if you get to know about all those things and learn to deal with them, you can do anything you want.”

The political science professors have an open door policy and welcome visits during office hours, according to Nutini.

“Professors are going to help shape you into a better writer, a more concise speaker,” Nutini said. “They’ll help you with anything from the formation of outlines to improving your writing--basically any type of skill that you need in any part of life.”



Hope Schuhart

Hope Schuhart
Age: 28
Senior (graduating in May 2011)
Hometown: Oshkosh, Wis.
Major: Political science

Senior Hope Schuhart chose political science to find out why the world is the way it is and why it is set up and structured the way it is.

“The biggest experience has been learning how to think in a more logical manner,” Schuhart said. “I could feel my brain changing as I took these various classes, learning how the world works, why governments do the insane things that they do and it turns out that they are not really insane; governments are rational actors.”

Schuhart recently was accepted to grad school at Arizona State University for physical anthropology where she plans on studying osteology.

“I think most people would be surprised to learn that in political science you don’t really have assignments in class, you just have to write tons of papers,” Schuhart said. “You can’t make it through grad school unless you know how to write, have a good grasp on how to research a topic and find primary and secondary sources and distinguish between the two. This program is excellent for preparing a person for grad school.”

The main misconception Schuchart said is that most people believe political science is boring.

“I don’t think people realize how political every aspect of their life is, and once they realize that then they’ll see that it’s not boring at all,” Schuchart said. “Political science is the underlying foundation of everything—every institution that you see, every government decision that is handed down through policy.”



Jess Schulz

Jess Schultz
Age: 35
Graduated in 2002
Major: Political science
Hometown: Oshkosh, Wis.
Currently: Trader/trading operations at an investment firm

With hopes to manage money and help others navigate through the investment world, Schultz said his political science classes increased his knowledge about the world market.

“Understanding the political process is the basis of understanding how to negotiate the twists and turns that political policies will have on market prices,” Schultz said. “The courses that  I took at UW Oshkosh have been a great benefit to me in this part of my career.”

Schultz said most people think of investing at an individual level with retirement savings and how the domestic economy affects those investments, but he said they should be looking more at the policies that affect their investments.

“Money flows across borders more easily than it ever has as the global economy becomes more and more tied together by the Internet,” Schultz said. “Investors today need to be more aware of policies or political issues taking place abroad if they are to maintain an awareness of how it will affect them individually.”

The political environment in the U.S. is becoming more and more divided with less and less civility every day, according to Schultz.

“I can think of no greater time to understand the political process than now because without a strong understanding of the political foundation, it is easy to get caught up in the political rhetoric,” Schultz said. “Having a firm footing in political theory, the political process and political history will provide a solid platform to evaluate the proposals that are being debated in the halls of the current government.”


Jacob Cochran

Jacob Cochran
Age: 21
Hometown: Kewaskum, Wis.
Major: Broadfield social science
Minor: History


Senior Jacob Cochran plans on using his broadfield social science major to teach high school or middle school social sciences and said his political science introductory courses gave him the foundation he needs to teach.

“All of the professors that I’ve had do their best to encourage students to participate in current politics or at least read into it and encourage an understanding of what is going on in the world,” said Cochran.

In his political science courses, Cochran was taught how to prepare for discussion and then allowed to lead discussions about topics he was concerned about.

“The professor gave us the tools to be prepared for the discussions we were going to have and then really allowed the class to discuss,” Cochran said. “I really liked that the class was going to go where we wanted it to go, as opposed to just the lecture format.”

Cochran said his political science courses allowed him to develop his own opinions and understand why he believed certain things.

“My political film class really gave me the opportunity to investigate a subject, find out my own position on it and then formulate my opinion on it, and then debate that with other people as opposed to going along with what other people say,” Cochran said. “It really encouraged me to go deeper and investigate things for myself, read into things and then interpret them based on my own values and opinions.”



Bethany Lerch

Bethany Lerch
Age: 22
Graduated in May 2009
Hometown: Oshkosh, Wis.
Major: German and International Studies with an emphasis in political science
Currently: MLitt candidate at the University of Saint Andrews, UK

 UW Oshkosh alumna Bethany Lerch is currently pursuing a master of letters in terrorism studies at the University of Saint Andrews in the United Kingdom.
Lerch said she would like to work in a position for the federal government and do something active that requires engaging with many people.

“Back in 2008, I had the opportunity to work as an intern at the Pentagon, a summer that continues to motivate me,” Lerch said. “While I would really like to go back to the defense department or to the state department, I am currently applying to a number of federal agencies within the intelligence and law enforcement communities.”

In her future career, Lerch said she believes she will be writing and reading a great deal, which she did in her political science courses.

“I was compelled to read a great deal and then be responsible for those readings for the following class. I was also expected to be able to write effectively,” Lerch said. “As a graduate student in an intensive program, I am assigned 40 hours of reading outside of class each week and have only two graded opportunities to prove myself.”

Lerch said she felt her interaction with the political science department was different from other departments because the professors displayed a definite openness and willingness to help.

“I felt like I was respected not just as a student but as a person and worked decidedly harder for my political science classes in comparison to others,” said Lerch.  



David Bebeau

David Bebeau
Age: 21
Hometown: Appleton, Wis.
Major: Political science
Minor: Religious studies

Junior David Bebeau said he remembers his first day of class standing out because of how Professor David Siemers showed that he values his students.

“I could see that he actually cared about getting students interested in his field,” Bebeau said. “It was just something that you don’t experience that often. Teachers sometimes take a ‘let it be-laissez faire’ approach where teachers allow students to show up or not, he actually had a vested interest in his students and his subject, which I thought was very admirable.”

Although Bebeau transferred to UW-Madison, he struggled with the decision to transfer because he said there are unique, positive aspects to the political science program at UW Oshkosh.

"In my experience, UW Oshkosh allowed for greater in-class discussion and individual attention," Bebeau said. "Additionally, exams are  graded by the professor rather than a graduate student, so feedback is then more astute and useful. UW Oshkosh is also generally more privileged to have smaller class sizes and active interaction with instructor and peers.

Bebeau said that there are misconceptions about political science, and he thinks they are fallacies.

“They imagine that politicians and political scientists are one and the same and they are all a corrupt bunch,” Bebeau said. “When all is said and done, I think political scientists really seek to understand the world around them, and they should get a little more credit for what they do.” 



Courtney Bichler

Courtney Bichler
Age: 22
Hometown: Appleton, Wis.
Major: Political science
Minor: History

Junior Courtney Bichler started her major in political science after taking Tracy Slagter’s comparative politics class. Bichler said she loved the course because of Slagter’s enthusiastic teaching, and she knew she wanted to pursue international law as a career.

Bichler said she plans on going to law school to study international criminal law and human rights law.

“I took a genocide political science interim class and it just really made me realize that there is a problem out there that needs to be solved, and I want to figure out how to make a difference,” Bichler said. “That’s really what I want to do for the rest of my life—help people who are victims of those crimes.”

Bichler said the political science professors realize students’ capabilities and challenge them to understand why we’re learning the concepts.

“I’m working on independent study right now,” Bichler said. “Political science professors get as excited about your research as you do, which is really cool. I think that is different from a lot of departments.”

The political science professors all have an open door policy, know everything about their students and really want students to do well, according to Bichler.

“My political science professors are amazing,” Bichler said. “I learn more in their office hours than I do in their courses, which is saying a lot because I learn a lot from them. I can go to any professor and discuss any project with them even if they are not the one I am writing the paper for or working on a project for.”



Nathan Leigh

Nathan Leigh
Age: 31
Hometown: Oshkosh, Wis.
Major: International studies with emphases in global and national security; European studies and political science
Minor: Political science


Senior Nathan Leigh said the inner workings between the people and the government, and how that interacts with foreign policy and national security has always interested him.
“My career goal is to do an intelligence analyst position for a federal agency or for a consultant working on policy,” said Leigh.

Leigh served in the Marines for four and a half years before becoming a student, and he said he was interested in why someone enlists in the military and does different tasks for the military.

“Some of the theories I can look at and I can see some cases where I had people above me who were actually applying these theories, where I saw whether they failed or were successful,” Leigh said. “Sometimes in some of my classes when they are talking specifically about something, I can relate because in some instances I was actually there.”

For Leigh the political research circles, which are organized by professors Tracy Slagter and Dru Scirbner who use them as a way for students and professors to bounce ideas off of each other and work through problems on papers, were an important aspect of his political science courses.

“The political science research circles are also a nice thing that other classes didn’t have,” Leigh said. “And the fact that if I have a specific question that might not pertain to class, I can walk in and discuss it with the professor, and that’s really nice.”


Molly Kopplin

Molly Kopplin
Age: 21
Hometown: Watertown, Wis.
Majors: Political Science and History

Senior Molly Kopplin began college as a broad field social science major, intending to become a high school history teacher.

“The political science professors make assignments that help students learn how to effectively produce a 20-page research paper that is professional and intelligently written,” Kopplin said. “It made me think more critically and analytically because usually I like to generalize but then political science made me realize there are all these exceptions and if you just tweak one little situation it can alter the entire scenario.”

During one semester at UW Oshkosh, Kopplin took four upper-level political science courses, which she said was like a rapid fire of drafts being due and meetings, and the political science professors helped Kopplin develop as a writer.

“Political science professors are accommodating if you work hard and are willing to do all that work, talk to them and just be honest with them,” Kopplin said. “I love every single political science professor we have. When I go to Sage Hall, I know there is someone I can talk to.”



Paul Beach

Paul Beach
Age: 22
Hometown: Prairie Du Sac, Wis.
Majors: Political science and economics

Senior Paul Beach was undecided on his major for the first year and a half of college, and he took exploratory classes in political science and liked them.

“Honestly, it just kind of fell into place and they both [political science and economics] kind of relate to each other in certain ways and it just fit,” Beach said. “Both deal with human behavior on some level and that is what I liked about it.”

During one of his semesters at UW Oshkosh, Beach had the opportunity to work with a political science professor doing research.

"We subsequently wrote a paper about what I found and we are going to a national conference to present the results," Beach said.  "That experience opened my eyes to what real academic writing is all about and helped give me an advantage over other graduate school applicants."

Beach  said his political science courses prepared him for graduate school by improving his reading and writing skills.

“I’m a lot better at writing and reading than I was. I learned to read documents to be able to see in-between the lines and be able to draw conclusions from that,” Beach said. “In graduate school there is a lot of reading, a lot of problem solving and all of our classes are discussion based, so it helps a lot to be comfortable talking in front of people and expressing your opinions.”

My political science classes were mind-opening, and I have an overall different view of how the world works, Beach explained.

“I was a little naïve when I first came to school and this helps me to take a look at the big picture,” Beach said. “You think you know a lot more than you do until you take a lot of courses in American politics.”



Austin Jones

Austin Jones
Age: 21
Hometown: Waukesha, Wis.
Majors: International studies and German


Because he is an international studies major, junior Austin Jones has completed many political science courses, which he says help him gain a better understanding of his own major.

Jones said he is not sure if he wants to go to grad school or not, but he wants to eventually work for the state department.

“That’s [political science courses] just one part of the foundation for more comprehensively understanding my major to better prepare me for whatever that next step is,” Jones said. “Whether it’s grad school or if I just want to go out and try to get a job right away.”

Jones said having a professor who worked in the field helped him understand the different avenues he could take with his major, and he said he enjoyed hearing about all of Professor Michael Jasinski’s experiences in the field.

Jones said he believes that the political science professors are very passionate about what they do.
“You can go up and talk to them at any time and they are very willing to help,” Jones said. “They really enjoy teaching their classes and that helps get students more excited about what they are studying.”


Vanessa Virtbitsky

Vanessa Virbitsky
Age: 25
Graduated in 2008
Hometown: Harrisburg, Penn.

Majors: Journalism and political science
Currently: Communications specialist, U. S. Olympic Committee

Alumna Vanessa Virbitsky began her undergraduate career as a journalism major with a minor in political science. As she moved further into her political science courses, she realized the value in learning about government systems, international relations and politics.

“This decision was a perfect complement to my work in journalism and enabled me to achieve my goal of combining my passion for sport, writing and politics,” said Virbitsky.

Virbitsky said her political science professors pushed her to be a better student and to expand her options and double major.

“Analyzing research and developing new directions for projects were among the most meaningful interactions I had with my professors at UW Oshkosh,” Virbitsky said. “I’ve always felt that my political science professors were deeply invested in helping me realize my career goals.”

Virbitsky explained that the political science courses also have refined her analytic skills and gave her experience with research projects.

“They offered me a better understanding of government, culture and issues at the international level, helping me to become a more strategic-thinking professional and better ambassador within the international Olympic movement,” said Virbitsky.













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by burgk32 last modified Dec 14, 2011 01:21 PM