Elsewhere at the Great Divide Ranch, junior political science and economics major Benjamin Foster worked in Vote Smart's speeches division, which collects all publicly released written documents—press releases, interviews, congressional floor speeches, etc.—to provide voters with a simple overview of every position a candidate or elected official has taken on any issue.

"Although my job included collecting statements from congressional members and candidates, each time a presidential candidate made a controversial statement, I had days of reading and categorizing statements on the issue," Foster says. "Often, minor issues brought up in the presidential race can create deeper tensions and division through the rest of the political system."

Junior political science major Liam O'Brien worked in the biography division, collecting and categorizing primary-sourced information about political candidates.

"Whether I want to go into politics or not is still up in the air," O'Brien says, "but it's allowed me to reflect and think about what I really want to do with the rest of my life, and what kind of an impact I want to leave on the world."

Throughout their work, the students were struck by the varied paths candidates take on their way into politics.

"There's no perfect formula to having a political career. For some, you go to college, get a degree, go to law school and become a lawyer," Diallo says. "But through my work, I read about some of the things they've done, people who are former accountants, engineers, community organizers."

The three envision different career paths. For Diallo, maybe an ambassadorship. Foster plans to enlist in the Peace Corps. O'Brien can see himself entering politics, or perhaps returning to Vote Smart.

All three credit Susquehanna with giving them not only the academic background, but perhaps more important, the drive and confidence to succeed in whatever path they choose.

"As a liberal arts college, Susquehanna has not only prepared me for the hard work of dedicating myself to a task, but how to take the information being thrown at me and learn and grow from it," Foster says.

Looking back, Diallo, a Muslim immigrant, admits that the outcome of the recent election feels very critical for her and her family, despite their legal status.

"It is very concerning," she says. "My parents dedicated their lives to their children's American dreams. It shouldn't be about what divides us, but about what unites us."

One of the most important things that unites Americans is their right to vote. And although she will need to wait for another presidential election to exercise that right, Diallo spent this election cycle serving those of us who could vote. Her hope, prior to the election, was for every American to take to the polls on Nov. 8.

"I encourage everyone to fulfill their civic duties and vote. Silence is never the answer, especially not now."

Amanda O'Rourke is digital communications and media specialist at Susquehanna.

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