Westmont Magazine A Politician in Training
Nicole Schouten ’05 hopes that president of the Westmont College Student Association (WCSA) is the first of many elected offices she holds. After graduating with majors in political science and philosophy, she plans to go to law school.
“I love the strategy involved in politics and enjoy being an advocate,” she says. “We chose the WCSA theme ‘Your Voice’ this year to make sure we represent the voice of students.
“I have three goals as president,” she adds. “The first is to educate students about events on campus, in the community and around the world. We make information available on our Web site, hold office hours and go into the dorms several times a semester to talk directly to students.”
Nicole has also arranged for the Santa Barbara News-Press to donate newspapers everyday for all the student lounges. To encourage students to vote, WCSA ran a voter registration drive in the fall.
Another goal is asking students what they want changed on campus. Responses range from improvements in the dining commons and the shuttle service to extra time to study for finals. Nicole has worked with faculty and staff on a proposal for a study day at the beginning of finals week.
“Students appreciate the fact that we ask them what they want and let them know what is happening,” she says.
Nicole’s last goal is to accurately represent the voice of the students. Student leaders sit on most college committees; Nicole participates in five herself. She also meets informally with President Stan D. Gaede and Vice President of Student Life Jane Higa.
“Administrators listen to students,” Nicole says. “I expected they would be receptive, but I didn’t realize how attentive they would be to student needs. And the integrity they show in dealing with opponents to the master plan has inspired me. I’m proud to be part of the college when I see how Stan Gaede and other staff respond to criticism.”
Three significant internships have enriched Nicole’s education. She worked for her congresswoman, Rep. Mary Bono, for a summer as a staff assistant. While she answered the phone and performed clerical duties, she also did research, talked to constituents, gave tours of the Capitol and coordinated intern activities.
During her junior year, Nicole spent a semester in Washington at American University studying public law and interning at the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives with Karl Rove. Her duties included doing research and compiling policy notebooks on faith-based initiatives, education, welfare reform and volunteer programs.
Last summer, she worked as an intern for Ed Meese, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former attorney general for President Reagan. In addition to doing research, Nicole wrote a paper on Reagan’s legal legacy and presented it to Meese and others at the Foundation.
A Heritage fellow writing a biography of Meese has asked for Nicole’s assistance, and she travels to the Reagan library in Simi Valley once a week to review Meese’s papers.
One day Nicole hopes to do pro bono work for the International Justice Mission and become a motivational speaker for young adults. “Helping others is important to me,” she says, “whether it’s securing educational opportunities for the poor, protecting religious liberties as the framers of the Constitution intended, fighting for the rights of oppressed people overseas or encouraging the youth of our country to follow their dreams.”
Before law school, Nicole hopes to work in Washington, D.C., possibly at the White House. “The more I study the law, the more I like it,” she says. “The issues are fascinating and have the power to improve the lives of so many people around the world.”