Why I Am a Politics Major
In their own words
"When I think about all of the things I can do with a degree in Politics, and the changes I can make in this country, there is nothing else I'd rather do with my life."
-- Alana Aleman
"I'm a Politics major and I absolutely love it because the department is one of the most intellectually innovative at Ithaca and the faculty really stresses critical thinking and serious academic work. I feel well-prepared for graduate school and the professors are so involved and dynamic that it's hard not to feel inspired. The diversity of interests allows students to specialize in just about whatever intrigues them-whether it's Islam, feminism, law, identity, the Holocaust, or area studies around the world."
-- Jesse Katen
"Part of me has always been interested in politics--that's the part of me that wants to save the world. I believe that some of the most daunting challenges in the world today--poverty, disease, war--can be solved if people can put aside their petty differences and preconceived notions and do what they know to be right. I'm not saying that a B.A. in politics from Ithaca College will immediately lead to the end of world hunger, but for me to do my part in improving the lives of my brothers and sisters, I have to understand the causes of our problems and the institutions involved in developing any possible solutions. I think of my education as a framework for changing the planet--in ways both big and small."
-- Alexander Justice Moore
"I'm a politics major because I want to get into politics and make the world a better place."
-- Billy Robinson
"I chose the Politics Department because I plan to go on to law school following my undergraduate at Ithaca College. I feel that a politics degree from Ithaca will provide with me with excellent experiences and knowledge for when I go on to grad school."
-- Mike Hackenburg
"I came to Ithaca as a journalism major and soon realized that a journalist needs things to write about, and needs an understanding of the world and how it works in order to be an effective journalist. What I have learned through my classes in the politics department has given me just that--the ability to understand, analyze and critique world events and politics. I believe this is of the utmost importance in today's media, where too few journalists have the skills or motivation to do so."
-- Kate Sheppard
"The reason that I am a Politics major is because I am interested in giving a voice to those who have been silenced. There are millions of people in this country and around the world living and dying in poverty and sub-human standards under oppressive governments/societies and I am saddened by the fact that there are what I consider even more cruel people who are willing to look the other way. I feel that it is unacceptable to just not know that people are being systematically raped and murdered in places like the Sudan. I know that it is a cliche to say that I want to make a difference, but I feel that just learning about people whose struggles have been silenced is making a difference in itself."
-- Channon Lucas
"As a Park Scholar, I came to Ithaca College set on being a Journalism student. I was trying to decide whether to minor in either business or politics. After my first class in the Politics department (Intro to Global Studies), I knew that I not only wanted to pursue politics at IC, but that I wanted to double major and be able to take advantage of the departments full range of talent and curricula. I hope to be a political journalist for a newspaper or magazine after I graduate from IC."
-- Chris Baxter
"I am a politics major because I want to change the world. Politics is probably the most important subject to study, as it affects everyone and everything. Everything else just seems inconsequential by comparison."
-- Jared Wiener
"Politics shapes everything about our world, country, state, and city... it's everywhere; and because of this I want to be well educated in this area so that I can help shape and make these political decisions."
-- Abigail Chewning
"The Politics major is a special major not only because of the fact that everything in this world comes down to politics and power relations, but also because it can be the most depressing as well as the most inspiring thing a student can encounter, with the potential to change the course of his or her life. Whether you are interested in the sciences and technologies, the stock market and multinational corporations, social welfare and civil rights, or anything in between, a good background in the socio-political field of academia will only help you understand better all other fields of study and see the subtle connections between them.
"But more than anything, the politics major will create in you the incentive to seek the truth in life beyond the realm of norm and popular discourse; it will inspire you to be better informed and more aware of your surroundings and the realities in the world, the way that any person who claims to be living in a democratic society should be."
-- Ivan Topalov
A Day in the Life of a PoliticianPolitics has been with us for as long as people have had to cooperate to achieve their goals. Over a half-million people currently hold full- or part-time elective offices in the United States, making decisions that affect communities on local, state, and national levels. For those who wish to participate in society’s decisions, a career in politics should absolutely be considered. Politicians have a hand in thousands of decisions important to their communities, from questions of dividing tax revenue for local schools to police funding to issues of federal tax policy. The profession offers great rewards to those with a combination of negotiation and public presentation skills. In addition to full-time political jobs, many find that part-time community boards, town councils, or even state assembly jobs make valuable and rewarding adjuncts to their full-time careers. Politics is not for the shy. At all levels, it is characterized by publicity. Most successful politicians enjoy visibility, while those who leave the profession often cite loss of privacy as its greatest drawback. Whether in a small town or in the White House, politicians are subject to intense scrutiny. Elected officials have to campaign for reelection every time their term is up, but, for the most part, the first time is the real challenge; incumbency is a strong advantage in elections. More than 90 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives is reelected every two years, and the reelection rates at the lower levels of politics are similar.
Paying Your DuesThere is no one career path which reliably leads to an elective office. Working as an aide for an established politician is one common way to meet contacts in the local political party apparatus. Law school is another common first step to a political career, since many lawyers achieve public notice and visibility or do work for state political parties. In general, political careers begin with an elective office in state government; most politicians in Washington start as state legislators and work their way up the party hierarchy. In politics, however, the exception is the rule, and people of all backgrounds pursue successful political careers, from peanut farmers to actors. Charisma is important, and being independently wealthy to finance campaigns doesn’t hurt either.
Present and FutureModern democracy traces itself to the assembly of ancient Athens, but U.S. representative government bears little resemblance to the Athenian system. U.S. politics is a much more sedate affair, even though the public perception of politicians remains rather volatile. In any event, the profession will endure. Public questions will always need to be answered, and politicians will always be needed to answer them.
Quality of Life
PRESENT AND FUTURE
At this point, a politician is in the early stages of her career, holding a relatively low level or local office. This may be a school or community board position, a seat in the lower house of the state government, or a position as a small town mayor or town council member. In general, staffs, budgets, and campaign funds are small, and the areas of responsibility of the office are quite limited. Politicians begin to build relationships within their political party that they will depend upon throughout their career, attempting to gain the public notice which will provide the foundation for a successful run for higher office. Reelection is a significant concern in these first years, though each successful reelection in a given position reduces the risk of later challenge.
FIVE YEARS OUT
By now the politician has survived at least one, and probably more than one, reelection campaign. The politician has likely established a solid base of support in their local community and is beginning to gain more public attention. Their proposals and initiatives are starting to have a greater chance of success in the local government. The politician is establishing a reputation as a viable candidate for higher office, whether in the city government, the state senate, or Congress.
TEN YEARS OUT
Successful politicians have by now risen in the party ranks, and they likely have a secure hold on their office and can consider the extent of their ambitions. They are likely among those who have the connections and experience to run for senatorial or congressional office, or they could be one of many politicians who build satisfying careers at the state and city level. In any event, politicians who survive the first ten years can be reasonably confident of lifelong political careers, should they choose to pursue them.