Former Student Spotlight: Political science graduates influence the world
Years after graduating, two former political science students make a difference in their big cities. From working on Hispanic voter outreach to investigating international affairs, these graduates are movers and shakers in the government sector.
By Hannah LeGare ’19
Benjamin Freeman and Michelle Gamboa are making headways in their respective localities. Freeman works in Washington D.C., proving that a liberal arts degree makes a city cultivated and sophisticated. Gamboa works in Houston, Texas using her talents and passions to influence statewide measures. While these former students have political science degrees in common, their experiences in working for the government have been unique and special to them.
Freeman earned his doctorate in Political Science with a focus in International Relations in 2009. He has written articles for The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and has been on National Public Radio twice.
His interest in political science developed after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
“Prior to that I honestly didn’t care much about politics but started paying a lot more attention after September 11 and the decision to invade Iraq,” Freeman said.
These life-altering events made Freeman question his future — he could go into the family business or he could go to graduate school for political science. He chose political science.
“I really just wanted to understand politics and international relations more,” Freeman said. “Specifically, I wanted to get a better sense of what led us into the Iraq war and what we could do in the future.”
In pursuing his Ph.D. in political science at Texas A&M, Freeman had the opportunity to work with renowned political scientists and theorists. They gave Freeman intellectual freedom to pursue a research agenda that was highly undiscovered at the time — the impact of foreign influence on politics in the U.S. — which ultimately led him down his career path.
This career path is the direct result of the research Freeman did at Texas A&M.
“After the 2016 election I was one of the only people who’d written a book on foreign influence (which stemmed from my A&M dissertation), so it was a natural transition to running a foreign influence investigative program,” said Freeman.
He is currently the Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy. The program investigates what other governments are doing to influence our political process, with a particular focus on the factors that seek to promote a more militarized U.S. foreign policy. Needless to say, there’s never a dull day in Freeman’s office, which is how he likes it.
Freeman accredits his success to his liberal arts degree and Texas A&M being a distinguished institution.
“Washington D.C. is fueled by liberal arts degrees, so it’s essential here,” Freeman said.
It is apparent that a liberal arts education has prepared Freeman throughout his career path. From a Ph.D. in political science to a directive position, doors have been opened that would otherwise have been closed. He has job security as he explores the conundrum that is the U.S. political process.
“Liberal arts is life. It’s real people-to-people interactions.”
Michelle Gamboa completed her undergraduate studies in political science in 2016. Her biggest motivation to influence change is her family, faith, and love for her local community.
Ever since she was a young girl, Gamboa has been enthralled with politics. She was born in Mexico and moved to the United States, which influenced the way she viewed the American Dream. The American Dream was not far out of reach if she worked hard, studied, and applied herself.
“I am proud to have worked diligently, graduate from a prestigious school like Texas A&M, and now have the career of my dreams,” said Gamboa.
In working toward her dreams, Gamboa completed a study abroad program, Summer European Academy, which is designed for students who are interested in entering into public service, law, or international affairs.
“Studying abroad and learning hands-on about different political systems and cultures really incentivized me to pursue politics full force and get involved,” Gamboa said.
Gamboa’s involvement in political processes doesn’t stop at a study abroad program. To achieve her goals, she participated and worked with political campaigns and organizations that aligned with her values and morals. This meant that while in her undergraduate career, she would intern for Senator Bryan Hughes and Governor Greg Abbott’s respective campaigns.
After graduation, Gamboa went from campaign intern to the Regional Director for Southeast Texas during these campaign cycles. After Abbott’s election, Gamboa became the Executive Director for the Texas Latino GOP PAC and the Engagement Director for the Harris County Republican Party. She works on Hispanic voter outreach for the Republican Party in Texas. These spaces allow for Gamboa to be true to her dreams and vision in politics.
When Gamboa is not on the long road between her hometown of Longview, Texas and her work in Houston, she runs her family’s roofing company and is the East Texas Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children. All of these opportunities wouldn’t be here unless she had a liberal arts degree.
“After graduating, I was able to secure a position with Governor Abbott’s team because of the work I did at Texas A&M,” she said.
Her political science courses taught her how to network, develop a work ethic, and gain the necessary skills to be successful after graduation. Her degree prepared her to juggle her many hats and roles in the local and state communities.
Gamboa and Freeman agreed that there would not be as many opportunities or doors opened to them if they didn’t have their liberal arts degree.
“Senators have to call me Dr. Freeman, which is pretty cool,” said Freeman. “But all jokes aside, having a political science Ph.D. from a school as well-known as Texas A&M really opens a lot of doors and has given me some incredible opportunities in Washington D.C.”
“Having a political science Ph.D. from a school as well-known as Texas A&M really opens a lot of doors and has given me some incredible opportunities in Washington D.C.”
A liberal arts degree has taught them time management, critical thinking skills, and care for their neighbors. A pursuit in political science enables them to interact well with people, problem-solve, and think-on-their-feet. It prepared them for life after graduation.
“I am very thankful to Texas A&M for teaching me the skills that were necessary to be successful after graduation,” Gamboa said.
…and they certainly are successful in their respective fields.