Three student clubs, three very different agendas. Yet, the College Republicans, College Democrats and Students Fostering Conservative Thought at CSB and SJU share one thing in common: they are led by women.
CSB students Ashley Bukowski (College Republicans), Bridget Cummings (College Democrats) and Katie Zuroski (Students Fostering Conservative Thought) all lead or co-chair their respective clubs.
This is the first time all three political clubs at CSB/SJU have been led by women.
Bukowski, a junior and economics and history major, is aware of the rarity of her position. "I ran for my position because I wanted to bring in a new perspective," she said.
Cummings, co-chair of College Democrats with first-year SJU student Kyle Smith, agrees.
"With women stepping up and taking leadership positions, it's indicative of what we're going to see in the future," the senior economics and political science major said. "This is the direction that our country is going and Saint Ben's students are kind of the trail blazers."
Before becoming chair, Cummings was the community liaison of the club. "I've always been a leader. But my involvement at Saint Ben's has helped me develop and take new risks."
Zuroski is the president of Students Fostering Conservative Thought. For her, a senior majoring in political science, the goal is to showcase women in politics. Zuroski joined the club as a sophomore after attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, where she noticed all spectrums of female politicians.
"I ran for president because I wanted to make it more appealing to women," Zuroski said.
And she did just that.
At the club's first meeting, there were more females in attendance than total members from last year.
"I'm encouraged by how many CSB students are stepping up into leadership roles," Zuroski said.
Although these are three separate clubs with different perspectives, the groups organize many of their events together.
"Right now, there is a lot of gridlock in Congress," Cummings said. "It's important that our clubs work together if we want our political leaders to work together."
During fall semester, the three clubs visited first-year classrooms to explain the purposes of the groups in a non-partisan way. Recently, the clubs worked together to organize a mock caucus event for students.
Matt Lindstrom, political science professor at CSB and SJU, is the co-director of the Washington, D.C., Summer Study Program. The 35-year-old program has developed into a competitive process for CSB and SJU students.
In the midst of this competitiveness, Lindstrom has noticed an increase of CSB student applicants throughout the last 10 years.
"Women are participating at equal rates if not higher rates than men," Lindstrom said.
However, those numbers don't mirror the gender breakdown of current members of Congress. In the 113th Congress, 19 percent of representatives and senators are female. That's an increase since 2000, when 12 percent of the members of Congress were women.
As Bukowski, Cummings and Zuroski declare their place in politics, they know their experience at Saint Ben's will be a significant factor in shaping their character.
"At this school, it's not necessarily about the career track," Bukowski said. "But more about the knowledge you gain and skills you develop along the way."
Lindstrom believes the individual skills students develop at CSB and SJU set them apart from undergraduates at other schools.
"We push our students to involve themselves on-campus and off-campus," Lindstrom said, "These involvements are what empower them for their future endeavors."
And these three students are well on their way to becoming future leaders on the political front.
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Founded in 1913, the College of Saint Benedict embraces the rich heritage of bold leadership and pioneering spirit of its Benedictine founders, the Sisters of Saint Benedict's Monastery. The college’s dedication to the power of the liberal arts is a cornerstone of the Benedictine wisdom tradition. In addition, the college expresses its Benedictine character through the practice of enduring Benedictine values, including community living, hospitality and respect for persons.