Politics

Student Spotlight: Caitlin Grant

Caitlin Grant, a senior at Ave Maria University, has been a part of Ave Maria since the campus moved from the Vineyards, in Naples, here to its' new location. While her vocation has not always been clear, she has followed God's call for her life fearlessly and boldly and has decided to pursue a Master's degree in both Russian Studies and International Relations at NYU in New York City. In order to further prepare, this summer, Caitlin will be taking an 8 week Russian Language intensive course in Arizona and spend the remaining month immersed in the language while in the country of Kyrgyzstan. 

Have you always been interested in politics? 

Absolutely. I’ve always been in awe of different cultures and languages. I remember when I was little, I used to check out library books about other kids from around the world and look at what they did and what they wore. It was fascinating. I always wanted to learn languages… I wanted to be able to communicate with the people I saw and read about in the books. As I grew up, I became increasingly interested in what was going on around the world. My friend’s parents used to laugh at me because I would always know what was going on in Africa and Asia and South America. It made me wonder why more people were not as invested in international affairs. I guess that is how I originally got into politics. 

How did you decide to come to Ave Maria?

I looked into a number of different undergrad schools before I decided, but Ave gave me a great scholarship which of course helped my decision. I came down to visit for the first time in February of 2005, and when I sat in on Dr. Seana Sugrue’s International Relations class, I was sold. All I could think was “This woman is worth every penny that I will pay to go to this school”. I took her class when I came here and we read Henry Kissinger’s “Diplomacy”, which changed how I saw the world. I had grown up thinking that America was always “the good guy”, and I still believe that America is good and I love being American, but that book really kick-started my thinking about studying international relations. It's not that Americans are wrong, it’s just that we don’t always look at the whole picture…I want to change that.

I know that you are a non-traditional student. Could you explain the timeline of your studies?

I came to Ave in 2005 and I was here for 3 years before I felt that perhaps I had a vocation. I moved to Europe and discerned a religious vocation, living both in Spain and Italy. After I decided that the religious life was not my calling, I worked in Washington DC for the Art of Being a Woman Project. It was an amazing experience working for an organization with a mission that I felt passionately about. It was awesome to be able to get a feel for DC, but after that, I decided that it was really important to finish school, so I came back! I know that I’m a non-traditional student, but I’m so happy that I decided to earn my degree. I get so much out of learning from the new students, even though there is a big age gap. 

How has Ave changed since you started here in 2005?

I started on Ave’s old campus in 2005, and I was here the very first year that we moved out to the new campus. There were about 10 houses here at that point in time. There was no Publix, no Pub, no Field House… I don’t even think the Bean was here. There were only 3 dorm buildings and about 500 students, so that gives you a sense of how small it was. It’s funny to me now, because every day I see someone who I have never seen before, which is surprising! I think that there is more diversity, insofar as there are people who are coming here for different reasons. I love that. It is also amazing to me how many new majors that there are. Celebrating Tom Monaghan’s birthday last weekend just made me realize how one person can deeply touch so many lives. I hope Ave Maria never gives up on its dream of becoming a big school that is strong spiritually, academically, and athletically.

What did you do during your time abroad that helped you to develop your skills? 

After living in Europe, I really knew how to work with other people that thought differently than I did. I was in Spain for two years and Italy for another two, which was absolutely incredible. I did go to Europe to discern, I just wasn’t a religious the whole time that I was there. Part of the time, I worked for a news agency translating from Spanish to English. It was very humbling because my co-worker was a man whose first language was Portuguese, and he was translating from Spanish to English. We would check each other’s work, and he would correct MY grammar. He was translating from one foreign language to another and he was correcting me in my first language! It is just incredible how smart some people are.

Another amazing thing was being able to help with an organization called Aide to the Church in Need. I was in charge of working the camera or doing the interviewing, so I was able to meet some spectacular people. Being able to see and learn from so many individuals from all walks of life was a very moving experience. The most memorable was a man I interviewed who was from Iraq, who wouldn’t let us take a headshot. He was afraid for the safety of his family back in Iraq, so we had to take many precautions. It made it very real that people are living much differently than we are.

What are your plans for the summer?

I was told about a few different summer intensive Russian language programs when I spoke to Georgetown about grad-school, so I applied to a few of them and got in! The program that I will be participating in this summer is through Arizona State University, so I will be spending the summer in Phoenix! I was blessed to receive a scholarship too, which of course always pulls you closer to something. The neat thing about the program is that 8 weeks of learning will take place in Phoenix and for the last 4 weeks, we will be in Kyrgyzstan! I am super excited about that! Kyrgyzstan isn’t part of Russia, but it used to be, so it has very deep cultural Russian roots. The London School of Languages and Cultures has a satellite school in Bishkek, which is the capitol of Kyrgyzstan. That is where the intensive study will take place and we will be living with host families as well, in order to get the immersion aspect. Every weekend we will do an excursion to a different part of the country, which will allow us to see quite a few cultural sites. I am so excited because I know that this will help me to understand Russia from a different point of view.

Where are you going to grad school?

I have decided to go to NYU, which is an amazing school for politics. They are ranked #3 in networking for their alumni in the country, which is huge in the world of politics for gaining connections. NYU has awesome professors and really great alumni. I’m really open about what I will do with my degree because I know life takes you places and that you never expect, but of course you need goals, so my goal is to work as a foreign diplomacy officer for the State Department. I feel like by knowing Russian, I will be able to work with the people on a personal level. I don’t want to go over there and come across in a way that conveys, “We are the good guys, you are the bad guys, would you please behave?” I have never been to Russia before, but at NYU, you have the chance of going pretty much anywhere in the world that you want to study for a semester. My time at NYU will be two years, and then I’ll see where life takes me! My degree when I graduate from NYU will be a joint degree in Russian Studies and International Relations.

What is a goal that you have for the future?

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When I was in Europe, I discovered that I really love photography. I want to teach the West about the East, so I would love to do something like Humans of New York, but over in Russia.

What is the hardest part about learning a new language?

The embarrassment! When you’re learning a new language, you really need to put down your guard and make the sounds that seem weird to you, because if you don’t make them, you sound weird to them! You’ve got to come out of your shell in that sense. I don’t feel like you can really capture the essence of a country without learning their language. 

What gave you a desire to learn Russian?

Everyone knows that the Middle East is important, but Russia is an incredibly pivotal country as well, and no one thinks about them nearly as much as they do the Middle East. Historically, Russia has had a way of making their presence felt internationally through violence. I just want the West to see that we are open to listening in other ways. I want the world to see that Russia is more than Putin and communism. The passion to make that known grew in my mind and my heart and lead me to choose to learn the language. I enrolled in a Mango language course and have been learning Russian online for the past year, thanks to the Ave Maria library! I am so grateful that they provide that resource. I actually wasn’t going to go to Grad school for a couple of years, but then I realized that most people wait to go to grad school so that they can learn about themselves and I have already had that time to learn about myself. I also want to learn Russian because at NYU you need to be advanced in Russian so that you know Russian by the time that you graduate. In addition to the summer program that I have enrolled in, I will probably audit advanced Russian classes just to immerse myself.

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To help support Caitlin in her dream of becoming a U.S. Ambassador to Russia, contribute to her GoFundMe Campaign.

 

Student Spotlight: Gabriella Forte

Gabriella Forte, a sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida, exemplifies what it means to be a dedicated student. Majoring in Politics and minoring in Theology, she has a lot on her plate, yet carries the load with grace and poise. Gabriella spent last summer as an intern for the U.S. Attorney in Jacksonville, and looks forward to the exciting opportunities that this summer holds. 

How do you usually go about getting a summer job?

All of the jobs that I have had so far have been given to me. Each boss I have had has come to me and asked me if I want the position, which is not normal. This past summer, I was not sure if I wanted to go into law after college, so I figured that an internship would show me whether or not that would be the right path. I was looking for different legal internships but no one wanted me because I was a freshman, undergraduate, undeclared political science major, with no experience at all in the field. I was starting to get really frustrated. I called my sister during the process and I was telling her that I was really struggling to find an internship. She said, “Well, my AP calculus teacher’s husband is a U.S. Attorney, and she mentioned in class that he was hiring interns". She offered to put in a word for me, and he got my number through her. He called the next day at 8pm saying that if he could have my resume and cover letter by that night, he would put in my application. Unfortunately, at that time, I did not have a resume, but I stayed up until 4am writing a resume and cover letter and I submitted it to him and got the job!

What was it like to work for a U.S. Attorney?

Overall, it was incredibly exciting. I got to meet FBI, Homeland Security, and Secret Service agents. I was able to tour government facilities and go through a lot of exciting cases with my supervisor. Some were very gruesome because the man that I did most of my work for worked on child exploitation cases. Going through those cases was very hard and, at first, I did not like them at all. Over time, however, those became my favorite cases because it gave me something to work towards. I was able to see the effects of these peoples horrible acts and help to put them away for it. 

What was the highlight of your experience?

I think the highlight of the internship was my boss’ trial at the end of the internship. The case’s subject was a man that thought he was communicating with a 14 year old girl, who, thankfully, was an undercover officer. I had to transcribe his interview with the police, which was over 100 pages long! That was a lot of fun to do. It was really neat to see my work being projected on the screen during the trial in front of the entire jury. The trial was very difficult because all I had known about the case was preliminary, and at the trial, a lot of nasty details came out that I was not expecting. It really broke my heart and made me realize how much darkness there is in the world. That is definitely one of the scarier things that came out of the internship.

If an Ave student was interested, could they apply for this same internship?

Absolutely! My boss is Catholic, and the joke around the office is that he favors Catholic students, even though the work environment is not at all conducive to the Catholic faith. I know he would be very pleased to have another Ave Maria student!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I really would love to do something with religious liberty, but I’m not exactly sure where God is calling me. I’m still discerning.

What are your plans for this year to get closer to your goal for the future?

Right now, I am applying for two internships - one with with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in DC, and one with the Family Research Council, also in DC. I applied for a couple of study programs as well. I submitted an application for Alliance Defending Freedom Arete Academy, and by tomorrow I will have submitted an application for the Hudson Institute. All of them would be amazing opportunities so I will be happy no matter what happens, but I am really hoping to get into the Arete Academy because it integrates politics and the Christian faith.

What is the highest honor/ award that you have ever received? 

My high school was named “Bishop Schneider” after a bishop we had two bishops ago. He founded three schools in my area and started two summer camps for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. In addition to that, he volunteers on death row all the time and comes to the high schools in the area regularly for sporting events and to say mass. He has so much humility, peace, and joy and just exudes the love of Christ. There is an award given to a senior each year that, in essence, says, “You represent the qualities that Bishop Schneider exhibits”. I received that award when I graduated and it was very humbling. I definitely don’t think that I deserved it. He’s such an amazing man!

Do you have a favorite space in your home?

My favorite spaces are the kitchen and my bedroom. I love to cook. My sisters and I will go to Publix at one in the afternoon and not be finished cooking until my parents come home at 7pm. When we are home together, that is what we love to do…just be in the kitchen and cook homemade meals and desserts. Also, my bedroom at home is my favorite place to be if I get stressed out. Last year, Father Dunn told me about perpetual eucharistic adoration on the computer. I pull that up on my tablet and set it up so when I walk into my room it is like a mini adoration chapel. 

What has been your happiest moment?

Two summers ago, my family and I took a vacation to South Carolina and stayed in the mountains. We had never done anything like that before. We went white water rafting and zip-lining. My family usually likes to plan everything out to the smallest detail, but this vacation was not planned out, so it was just spontaneous fun the whole time! There was a lake that the cabin we were staying at was on, so we did some activities on the water, which was amazing. We also found out that there were waterfalls nearby, and being from Florida that was so exciting and so bizarre. Being outside together, laughing, and tripping over sticks was such a joy. 

Why did you choose Ave Maria University?

I wanted to come to Ave because I was going to study theology. I started looking for Catholic universities in the state of Florida, so Ave Maria stood out immediately and I fell in love with it. I wanted to make a prudent decision though, so I put Ave aside and looked at other places like CUA, Franciscan, Villanova, and Belmont Abbey. When it came down to the end of senior year, I decided that maybe I wanted to study politics instead. CUA had a great politics program, and it was right in the heart of American politics, but it had two barriers. First, the distance from home, and second, the cost. However, they had a Presidential Scholarship, which I met all of the qualifications for except for the ACT; I had a 29 and I needed a 30. I took the ACT again, and super-scored, it was a 30. Unfortunately, CUA doesn’t superstore the ACT, so I didn’t make the cut. About an hour later, Mary Reed, from Ave, called me and said, “We just got your new ACT score and it bumps you up into the next scholarship bracket!”. I was looking for a clear sign, and there it was.

Student Spotlight: Anna Kunza

Anna Kunza, a senior from Burbank, California, is a shining example of what it means to be an Ave Maria student. Her love for God is not only the most important thing in her life, but is evident to all that she comes in contact with. As a double major in both Music and Humanities, Anna plans to go on to graduate school to pursue a career in either Human Resources or Public Relations.

What did you do last summer?

This past summer was amazing! I spent the summer in Europe, working for two different companies as an intern. In addition to my internships, I traveled to Slovakia to attend the Free Society Seminar, which is a society that was founded by Ambassador Novak. 

The first half of the summer, I was an intern for the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. The GMF is a non-partisan American public policy and grant-making institution, dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues. The particular department that I worked for provides grants to companies and corporations who have shown leadership in civic society. Each summer, GMF selects a few citizens from America to come to Germany and spend six weeks traveling throughout European countries, getting to know the policies, politics, and the people, while interns from Germany go over to America and do the same. In addition to grant making and diplomatic efforts, GMF also does think tank work and research into political events which focus on issues going on in the political atmosphere. For example, when communism was prevalent in Eastern Europe, GMF worked to help create democracy by encouraging civic participation at a high level. It is a really interesting program! I would highly recommend that Ave students with an interest in pursuing careers in Politics and International Relations apply. 

After a stop in Croatia to see my family, I went to Bavaria for my second internship, where I led a work camp. It was a two week camp for youth from all over the world, designed to encourage them to come together, speak English, and work collectively on a project, while setting aside their differences. Together, we renovated a youth room and helped plant a field. We were able to explore castles in our free time and go on picnics in the park. It was a such an eye opening and rewarding experience!

How did your experiences from this past summer help you to shape your goals for the future?

They helped me to realize, even more so, what I am interested in, as well as what my most marketable skills are. For one, I really fell in love with Germany. If I could go back there for grad school, or a job, that would be great! What I loved most was the contact that I had with so many different people, both through the work camp, as well as through the German Marshall Fund. To have conversations with people coming from all different walks of life was not something that I had ever done, but it is such an important thing, especially with all of the cultural tensions going on right now.

What do you want to do after you graduate this year?

I plan on taking a gap year, hopefully abroad. During that time, l will be looking into possible options for graduate school.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Part of me could see myself in Germany, doing something like what I did at the German Marshall Fund, because it was an experience that I really loved. I could also see myself having a career in singing. I don't have a distinct “dream job”, honestly. I have a feeling of what I want to do with my life, and if it comes through my job, great, but if it comes through who I am as a person and the interactions that I have with people, that is great too!

What do you think are your three best qualities?

Insightfulness, articulation, and the ability to see and communicate beauty. These qualities have brought so much peace and joy into my life. In the book by C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, the artist was told that he could see things that other people couldn't because it was his job to help them see it. That is what I want to do for other people, whether it is through my work, my singing, or the way I live my life.

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?

I would love to travel through all of Europe! I’ve been to Europe quite a few times before because my mom is from Croatia, but I would love to keep going back. Every time I’m on a train over there I feel like I'm in a fairytale!

What brings you the most joy?

Taking time to see beauty. Watching sunsets, walking outside and talking to the people I pass by, listening to good music, and sitting outside in nature.

How would you like to help out our world?

I think there needs to be so much more dialogue about what causes the division and labeling that is going on in society right now. You hear people say things like, “I don't understand how people could think…” and that is the problem. When someone talks like that, it is a sign that they need to learn how to understand why someone is thinking that way. If society began doing this, rather than passing quick judgements, we would have dialogue, rather than blatant disrespect and hot headed disagreements. I think that is really important. I want to be able to help people see things more clearly and to desire to learn about all of the perspectives that go into an argument. 

What is your favorite book?

Lord of the Rings. There is so much depth and beauty in the books and the characters. What I really love is the overarching theme of light and hope and good versus the evil and despair and darkness that is encroaching on it. It is so important to realize that you have to fight for what is good and that it is worth fighting for, even in the darkest moments. One of the most difficult things is to see good things destroyed, but there is a deeper beauty that comes out from it, and I think this series really captures that.

What is your best study habit that you can pass on to the student body? 

I have been taking quite a few philosophy classes, and recently, I stared dialoguing with the book by writing in the margins. I know it sounds like a small exercise, but it has really helped me to get a deeper understanding and appreciation for the text, even if I disagree with what is being said. When it comes to our education, we need to shift our mentality about how seriously we take our studies. Schooling is not about the grades, it is more about growing as a person, especially because we came here to get a liberal arts education.

Student Profile: Victoria Antram

The first part of our weekly series to highlight students on campus focuses on Victoria Antram, a senior graduating in May with a degree in Theology and Political Economy and Government. Victoria is well-known among her peers for her cheerful presence, academic excellence, and active involvement on campus. But best of all, she is an introspective person who thoughtfully answers each question. We'll let her tell it in her own words.

What did you do last summer?

This past summer I interned for the Sisters of Life for a second year. It’s a development and marketing internship that’s coordinated through the university. We help the sisters to fundraise and get their order out there since they’re only really well known in the New England area. We also worked on their donor database, made prospective donor portfolios, helped them in trying to discern if they should have an intern do social media for them—things like that.

I also went to Washington D.C. for a conference with the American Enterprise Institute called “Values and Capitalism”. There we had a seminar-style conference on faith and politics. They also gave us opportunities to meet with different fields, like career fields that we’re thinking about going into, so I met with their development officers and talked about that. They also gave us resume advice, so it was really beneficial.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

Currently, I’m applying to graduate school. In fact, I just took the GRE (Graduate Record Examination Test) on Monday. I’m applying to programs in public policy—specifically on social and urban issues—and my dream would be to go to Hilsdale College in Michigan to get a Master’s in Statesmanship. Then, hopefully, I’ll work my way up researching for different think tanks at universities. My ultimate goal is to work for the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’ll be 27, so I hope I am married and I hope I have two (and a half) kids—I think it’s very important to balance vocation and work. I hope that I will be 3 years out of grad school—if I go to grad school—and hopefully in the D.C. area raising a family at the same time as researching and all that fun stuff. My dream is to be like Dr. Catherine Pakaluk.

What are you plans for this year to get closer to your goal?

I’m going to apply for a few fellowships this summer. The Koch fellowship is an internship where you work at a liberty-minded organization, non-profit. You can either do a public policy internship or the development internship. I’m also going to apply to the Hertog fellowship and different programs like that to get better skills in researching and to build experience because I still don’t have very much skill in that.

Which do you think you have the most of: talent, intelligence, education, or persistence? How has it helped you in your life?

I would say persistence. I actually don’t think I’m that smart. I’m definitely not common sense smart—“street smart,” as they say. I get good grades, but it’s only because I try very hard. Talent-wise I think there are a lot more talented people in the world than me, so I think persistence would be the answer.

It has helped me because I’ve never given up on anything that I wanted. For example, I was President of Students for Life my sophomore year. I really wanted Abby Johnson to come speak, so all summer I worked on making sure that she could come and—since it would cost a lot of money to bring her—that we were still able to raise the amount of money we needed to, and it all worked out!

What do you think are your three best qualities?

I think I am very analytical, so I’m good at connecting points—I connect a lot of dots and I’m very good a drawing conclusions. I love to write. I use a lot of metaphors and I think I can make words come to life, especially in academic writing, which normally isn’t the case. Academic writing is boring for the most part. I think that my temperament is also good because I’m quiet and I’m a good listener. I like to ask questions and get people to talk and think about why they think the things that they do.

What about your three worst?

I would say I am poor at small talk, like that networking thing—I’m not very good at it because…too much small talk. I am very detail-oriented so sometimes I get lost in details, which usually means I take longer to finish a project than I should. I will also get distracted and really excited about something else and sometimes I run out of steam before I can finish the project.

What’s the best compliment you ever received?

The Students for Life President position belonged to a gentleman who didn’t return the following year, so he emailed me saying, “I’m not returning. You’re the Vice President, so you’re going to be the President.” In the email, he told me that I had a gentle way of leading and I thought that was a good feminine trait to have. I like to lead but I don’t want to be bossy or be like, “I’m trying to play with the boys!” I want to hold on to my femininity and be able to lead at the same time.

What’s your typical day like now? How is it different from your daily routines in the past?

I have to wake up early, now. I try to go to Mass, eat breakfast (most important meal of the day), and then I go to work and I work until I go to class. Then, in the afternoon after my classes finish, I try to get as much work done as possible between then and dinner, especially since dinner can sometimes take a long time. After that, there are usually events at nighttime that I may have to help out with or that I may want to go to. So, waking up early and getting my work done in the morning or in the afternoon is how I adapted to being really busy.

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

Actually, when I look in the mirror in my dormitory, I have a picture of Mother Teresa right behind me, so when I’m getting ready in the morning and I’m putting on my makeup thinking, “Ah, I’ve got to look good!” I look at Mother Teresa and think, “You know what? She didn’t even care and she got so much good done in this world.” So, I try to remember that even though there’s this culture of perfection in appearance, I don’t need to play into that; there are greater things. Even though we fall into terrible things—like vanity and things like that—I see Mother Teresa in the mirror, in that picture behind me, and I remember that there are more important things to worry about.