Posted: September 20, 2007
Jennifer Matystik '08 was recently selected as a 2007-2008 Presidential Fellow by the Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP) in Washington, DC. The Presidential Fellows Program was founded to address the decline in public service and interest in the history of the presidency. Every year the CSP invites 85 of the nation's top college and university students to Washington to participate in a series of leadership conferences in the spring and the fall that feature high-level government officials from the executive and legislative branches and the policy community.
"It's a wonderful opportunity and I feel so lucky to have it," Matystik said. "There are only 85 students so it's very personalized. I'm a politics major, with a minor in sociology, so this really allows me to pursue my academic interests." Her advisor, politics professor Chris Pyle, is pleased with her selection: "Jenni is not just an able young scholar, she is a stand-up woman with a strong commitment to civil discourse and the courage to resist those who might silence her advocacy."
The centerpiece of the CSP program is the research, writing, and defense of original papers on the presidency and their publication in A Dialogue on Presidential Challenges and Leadership. Matystik is planning to write about the causes and consequences of faulty intelligence in the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq. "Because it's been such a popularized issue I think it's important to examine both the myths and reality behind it," she said. She also hopes to use this research as the basis for an independent senior study.
Matystik is interested in international as well as domestic politics and has availed herself of the College's extensive worldwide resources to travel, work, and study. In summer 2006 she spent three-and-a-half weeks in South Africa with a group from MHC working with the Center for the Study of AIDS. She spent time working with AIDS awareness groups and also wrote an extensive research paper on the stigmatization of men infected with HIV/AIDS. The trip was part of a Community-Based Learning class and included students from the Five Colleges. After returning from South Africa, Matystik did an internship at the United Nations, working with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security. The internship, arranged by the College's McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, allowed her to pursue research on land mines in Colombia, among other subjects, and to research and write for the committee's Web site. "It was a great internship," she said. "It really honed my writing skills. It's nice to see your skills being put to use."
During the spring of her junior year, Matystik studied politics and sociology in Seville. "I took four courses, all in Spanish." She described her semester as "the culmination of what Mount Holyoke likes to stress in terms of experiential learning." She is seriously considering a career in law, but plans to take a couple of years off after college "to gain some work experience and maybe solidify my interest in a particular field of law." She spent last summer working as a legal intern at Thacher Proffitt & Wood, a law firm in New York City.
Matystik is grateful to the College for the support and opportunities it has provided her. "It's why I'm a tour guide for the admissions office here. I want to tell people there are so many ways the College helps you grow as a student and a person. I feel prepared to go out into the world when I graduate."