Chelsea McDonald ’16
Area(s) of Study
Majors in Politics and Sociology and Anthropology; Minor in Social Justice
Intern with Congressman Schneider, Senator Udall, Senator Bennet, 826CHI, World Bicycle Relief, Tammy for Illinois, Obama for America
Solly A. Hartzo Award in Politics, Foster G. McGaw Scholarship, Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Sigma Alpha, Alpha Kappa Delta, Lambda Alpha, Richter Scholar, Fulbright Summer Institute Scholarship to Queen’s University
How did you explore your interests and decide on your major?
I always knew that I wanted to major in politics. I started interning on political campaigns in high school for President Obama, and had at least one political internship every year of college. I didn’t plan on my sociology and anthropology (SOAN) degree however, but Professor Beer’s SOAN 110 was the first class I ever had in college, and I just never left Hotchkiss Hall.
What did you think of the faculty?
The professors at Lake Forest College are the best thing about the institution. Every professor is not only passionate about their field, but also about the students in their classrooms. All of my professors mean so much to both my education and my personal growth, because they take the time to get to know students beyond what we turn in for our midterms and finals.
What was your favorite class?
Qualitative Methods with Professor Swyers
Describe a moment or experience you had in college that helped define your career path.
My experience doing research for professors stand out to me as defining my career and life in different ways. In a practical sense, all of my research experiences taught me important skills, like how to do quantitative tasks while keeping larger research questions in mind and organize multifaceted tasks. Moreover, working for Professor Hartney taught me a lot about understanding how to view politics in a data driven sense, Professor Swyers research on the adulthood project taught me how not to measure success, and my Richter Scholar Research with Professor Abt-Perkins taught me about understanding power structures. All of which culminated with my own thesis research.
What steps did you take in college to prepare for your career?
I explored everything that interested me. By combining the on-campus experiences of clubs like Swan and research experiences with off-campus internships, I was able to learn what I actually liked, and what did not make long term sense for me to pursue. By enabling my curiosity, I was able to know if I was headed down the right path and meet the people who helped me get my first job.
What role did your internship experience play in shaping your career path?
My liberal arts education taught me how to think, my internships taught me about types of workplaces I am successful in and my research experience taught me how to not stop learning. By doing a lot of different internships in different environments, I was able to find out if I preferred non-profits or politics before being committed to one path.
How has Chicago impacted your Lake Forest experience?
The city of Chicago has had a huge impact on my Lake Forest experience. From being able to take great weekend adventures to the Art Institute or improv shows, to amazing internship opportunities, Chicago has shaped my college experience.
What would you recommend Lake Forest College students considering a career in your field do to prepare?
Try to experience the different types of politics as much as possible, such as campaigns, constituent work, and community organizing. It helps to understand how each one interacts with each other, and which type of work you like to do best.
How did the Career Advancement Center and the Forester community give you an edge on taking your first steps after graduation?
The Career Advancement Center gave me endless help in college from resume reviews to practice interviews, which prepared me for when I was in the job market. A fellow Forester was actually my connection to get my internship, that led me to have my job on the campaign, and then my job in Washington DC.
What have you found the most rewarding in your career and life after graduation?
Being able to have my dream job and meet my heroes like Elizabeth Warren. As well as being able to do things like adopt a rescue cat from a shelter.