During spring semester in 2021, Eliza Mclaughlin, a senior studying public policy and administration, accepted the call to resurrect the BYU-Idaho political affairs society after the coronavirus pandemic. She had only been a member of the political affairs a year before becoming president.
“I was nervous about it,” Mclaughlin said. “I really like it because I think it’s giving me a bit of a taste of what life after college will be like planning things, running things, working with groups of people. I think it’s honestly preparing me for that, which is a very confidence building aspect of it.”
Mclaughlin first joined the political affairs society last year after being asked by Travis Smith, a political science professor. This semester is her first time in a leadership position. She wanted to help reactivate the political affairs society by reinstituting society activities. Her experience with other clubs in high school included robotics, academic Olympics and student council. Her desire to be politically active was sparked in high school while working for the homeless shelter.
“It really showed me the importance of doing that study to see how bad (homelessness) was in my area and to continue that research further,” Mclaughlin said. “You want to ensure that there are people who can take care of that and if there are people who can’t take care of those problems, then either you need to be them or you need to find them.”
Mclaughlin pinpointed political polarization as the main problem keeping students from being politically active and aware.
“I think this is one of the biggest problems everywhere, not just for people our age,” Mclaughlin said. “People have just divided themselves based on what they think they believe. They haven’t even done the research to realize that that’s what they believe. It goes both ways, which is the sad part. I think that’s what really is negatively impacting our generation from being involved in politics.”
However, there are many things that students can do to be involved and stay involved both on campus and in their communities. Mclaughlin suggests finding something you’re passionate about or something that impacts you directly as a gateway into politics.
“You’re never going to become involved or aware by sitting back and watching others,” Mclaughlin said. “You have to take the first step. You have to want it.”
Kamala Anand, a senior studying public policy and administration, has participated in the political affairs society for several years. When she came to BYU-I as a freshman in 2016, she began attending meetings. While a mission and the pandemic may have diminished her activity for a time, she is back with a new leadership position: the career coordinator.
As the career coordinator, Anand has several responsibilities. She leads workshops on topics including federal government resume writing.
“Last semester, I led the team, albeit a small team of two, to expand the federal government resume resources we have at the Career Center on the school website,” Anand said. “I feel like I am fairly knowledgeable about federal government resume writing especially. And so I’m really looking forward to giving a workshop on resume writing where we can focus on that.”
Her love of politics and political science also started young. It’s been the driving force that directed her to change from an international study major to a public policy and administration major. She’s stayed involved and informed by being part of Facebook caucuses aligning with her political party and keeping up with what they are doing in the community.
“It’s really important to try to be really knowledgeable about not just current events and things that are labeled in the newspaper as political, but the issues behind the politics,” Anand said.
In order to get your voice out there, Anand recommends attending a “town hall.” A town hall, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “an event at which a public official or political candidate addresses an audience by answering questions posed by individual members.” These questions can vary from upcoming legislation or positions on a leader’s position on a certain issue.
“It might be boring, but I feel like it’s good sometimes to see the boring side of politics just because as we’ve seen lately, social media has an incentive to promote stories that are rage-inducing,” Anand said. “Seeing that there’s a really quiet, boring underbelly is just a great way to get some balance and perspective.”