One of the things Michelle Wozniak ’15 has loved about her time at Stonehill is that Boston and Russia are so accessible. Granted, one is virtually next door and the other 4,500 miles away, but Stonehill’s commitment to experiential learning and developing global perspective puts them both easily in reach.
That worked out well for Michelle. A political science major from Spencer, Massachusetts, she had the opportunity to see firsthand the politics of two big players on the world stage. The first chance came in 2013 through the College’s study abroad program. Michelle went to Russia, partly because of family heritage but mostly because it gave her the chance to explore the political discord between our two countries. “I was fascinated to learn more about the relationship from the other side,” she says. “For so long, Americans have had either a skewed or romanticized perception of what Russia is really like. I wanted to find out firsthand.”
While studying in St. Petersburg, her primary focus was on an intensive nine-credit language program. In addition, she took two political science courses: “The Communist Phase,” a Russian political history class focused on the Soviet period in the 20th century, and “Contemporary Russian Life,” which looked at Russian political, social, and economic conditions following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Gaining Perspective and Self-Confidence
Michelle says the experience gave her a unique understanding of world affairs and also further developed her self-confidence. “Living in Russia helped me learn how to overcome (obstacles) and adapt,” she says. “I improved my resourcefulness and ability to be flexible. I also gained confidence in my ability to interact with people from all over the world.”
When she back, she turned her focus on the American political system and she got to experience it in Boston, the Cradle of Liberty. The opportunity came through an internship at Liberty Square Group, which advises political candidates on strategy and project management. “I love that (Boston) is so accessible,” she says. “Stonehill couldn't have made it easier to work an internship into my schedule.”
The next summer, her experiential learning continued but it happen right here on campus, where Michelle was selected to participate in the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience program (SURE) and worked with Political Science Professor William Ewell on A Political History of the Appropriations Process, exploring how the procedure has become the epicenter of partisan politics in the 21st century and how lessons from history might help restore what has become a “broken institution.”
Passion + Opportunities = Success
A big part of the reason Michelle has been able to take advantage of these opportunities is her passion for political science. In addition to being president of the College Democrats Club at Stonehill and vice president of the Sylvia Donaldson Society for Women in Politics, she also has participated in the National Education for Women (NEW) Leadership New England Conference, a program designed to educate and empower young women and to give them the skills needed to be part of the next generation of women in leadership roles.
But Michelle says none of these experiences would have been possible without the support of her professors.
“The faculty is amazing and always willing to provide individualized attention,” she says. “Without a doubt, two faculty members that have been most influential to me are William Ewell and Peter Ubertaccio. Professor Ewell is easily the best professor I have had at Stonehill. His classes have helped me improve my writing and critical thinking skills, and inspired me to pursue a career in public policy. Professor Ubertaccio has been invaluable to me in opening me up to networking opportunities, and guiding me every step of the way as my academic advisor.”
Her professors, in turn, enjoy the satisfaction of watching a student begin to realize her full potential.
“Michelle is the type of student that teachers want to work with and learn from,” says Ewell. “She has faith in her talents and abilities, passion in her life objectives, and a work ethic to achieve whatever is necessary to make those goals a reality.”