Oliver Young (Class of 2018)

photo of Oliver Young

  • senior Political Science major
  • minor in Ethics, Society, & Culture
  • from Chagrin Falls, OH
  • participated in Inside Washington program (Spring 2017)
  • member, Janus Forum
  • AlcoholEdu administrator in the Office of Student Wellness
"I've been able to apply what I learned in courses outside my major and minor, such as statistics and environmental biology and others, seeing how they fit into politics and how governments work. Had I not taken those different courses, I would not have the same appreciation I have for the others."

Why Miami?

"I transferred to Miami as a sophomore from a small school in Seattle, the University of Puget Sound. Over there I realized that I wanted to study political science, and I came across Miami University and its Inside Washington program. I grew up in Ohio, and I chose Miami ultimately because of its size and the faculty's commitment to undergraduate education, particularly in the Department of Political Science. I felt that Miami students had a strong commitment towards their major, their department, their club, and to each other. The smaller circles of Miami's academic setting were a big draw for me.

"As a transfer student, I decided to choose a random roommate, and I was very fortunate that the roommate I received is still my off-campus roommate today. I quickly got involved with the Janus Forum and organizations like the College Democrats. I also found work opportunities in the One Stop office. By making new friends and finding a sense of structure with clubs and a job, I was able to quickly find a good rhythm. I felt like a Miami student almost immediately.

"There's something intangible that Miami provides: a sense of pride, meaning, and passion in what you're learning and doing. All of this grows out of your experiences here, which to me has been the most valuable experience. I've found direction and my calling, along with other people who share passionate interest in the same things. They all may not agree with me on politics, but I feel a sort of collectivism in all these intense discussions and late-night conversations about everything under the sun. This sort of passion and drive is something that everyone feels together.

"I had begun my college experience in Washington as a business economics major, but my family had lived in the Balkans for a number of years during the breakup of Yugoslavia, and I began developing what I call a politics bug very early on — an interest in international relations, domestic policy, cultural diversity, and so on. I felt that in economics you're studying numbers more than people, and I wanted to be more engaged with other human beings rather than just looking at the data. About 20 minutes into my first introductory course on American politics, I knew I had to switch over to political science — and that's exactly what I did!

"For a Democrat I'm fairly conservative, and at Miami I've found a healthy environment debating politics with students from all over the spectrum. I feel this has genuinely made me a better person — even when I'm around people who I could not fundamentally disagree with more! Again, it's due to Miami's collective optimism that students can get along, regardless of their political or socioeconomic divide. We can talk about the issues while still maintaining our pride in our school, education, and friendships."

Best Miami Experiences

Oliver Young (R) on a fishing trip with former Miami University president David Hodge

"Inside Washington, which I joined in spring 2017, has been a big part of my experience. Lots of people talk about Miami's great commitment towards its study abroad and away programs, and Inside Washington could not have made a bigger positive impact on my life. I was there in DC for the presidential inauguration, and then the Women's March on the next day, and then for the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.

"One of the experiences that pushed me towards Inside Washington was the Janus Forum, which I joined during my first week here on campus. It's a club that really supports a strong political dialogue that is very focused on objective facts. I think we do a really good job of checking our biases at the door. We've brought in some great, interesting speakers who engage in great conversations with each other and students and faculty members. It inspired me to go to DC, and my dream is to someday be invited back to speak at a Janus Forum panel — I'd do it for free!

"I probably owe Bryan Marshall, professor and chair of political science, and Pat Haney, associate dean and former chair of the department, an arm and a leg and probably the first 6 years of my salary after graduation. They have both been very helpful with everything — transferring my course credits, getting more involved on campus, introducing me to the Janus Forum and Inside Washington, writing me letters of recommendation. They still won't come fly-fishing with me, for some reason, but they are busy — it'll happen someday!

"I've been working in Miami's Office of Student Wellness with assistant director Leslie McNeill, who has long been an integral part of this community and has had a tremendous impact on me in understanding what a healthy and safe college environment looks like. As the AlcoholEdu and HAVEN administrator, I help administer online programs to get students into conversations about safe drinking habits, hazing, sexual behavior, mental health and depression, and much more. Along with Leslie, I work in conjunction with the student peer health educators, the HAWKS, and we have great, tough conversations that are often hard to have on a college campus — but topics we hope students will think about as they go forward.

"All of these experiences have greatly helped my interpersonal skills. Being able to put myself in other people's shoes, having constructive conversations about tough issues, engaging with others in a way that is not seen as much as it should be — the Janus Forum, Inside Washington, and the Office of Student Wellness have given me the foundational communication skills and tools necessary for my career goals.

"Over the summer I'll be participating in the 2018 midterm elections here in Ohio. I'm an intern for Democrat Steven Dettelbach's campaign for attorney general, and over the long run I'm looking to join a full-time campaign to help get him and other Democrats elected. I'm also taking the LSAT in September!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

Oliver Young delivers a speech during his Inside Washington study away trip.

"The liberal arts help provide the critical thinking skills necessary to contribute to an ever-growing, complex global community. Students also get a grasp of interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving that, I think, is lacking in a more linear, stringent approach to learning. Knowing your specific path and passion is great, but I lament the fact that many students complain about having to take courses they are not interested in. I came to Miami feeling nervous about required classes in math and science, but I found options that were vastly interdisciplinary in approach. My science courses on climate, environmental biology, geology, and others have been very applicable to my political science major.

"For example, Environmental Biology (BIO 121), taught by senior biology lecturer David Russell, was great and highly recommended. Dr. Russell teaches with this fascinating, interdisciplinary approach, where we incorporate current events in our nonpartisan discussions on politics and policy. The class helps us understand the factual evidence of why the climate and environment are changing, what humanity's role is in it, and a lot more.

"I love the optimism of political science. Too often, people view the current political landscape as this maelstrom of bad news, but our human nature is predisposed to focus on the negative. In my reading and writing, and just in understanding the sanctity of American politics and our understanding of freedom, it's extremely optimistic.

"I believe the overall trend is that Americans are a group of people who are committed to doing really great things, and we should never lose that positive attitude. Political science really captures that by studying the history of our country, our political thought and philosophies, and the transformative policies that have changed lives. There's a whole range of things to study, and I think the overall outlook of every political science class is that, in the long run, things are going to be OK. Everyone should feel the same way.

"Chris Kelley, a lecturer of political science, taught one of my favorite courses, Politics of Organized Interests (POL 357). People hear the word 'lobbyist' and think of this gross monster looming over Washington and stuffing money into the politicians' pockets. The class was really great in helping me to understand what forces shape our thought processes and how we consume media and politics.

"I'm also a philosophy minor, and this semester I took a philosophy course, Contemporary Moral Problems (PHL 312), by assistant professor Facundo Alonso. The course is brilliant and intellectually challenging, focused on things like moral obligations, promissory actions, and consent. Dr. Alonso asks these big, metaphysical questions that we don't think about everyday, and his class is contributing positively to our community."

Exploring the American Dream: Janus Forum and Inside Washington

Oliver talks about two of his transformative experiences at Miami.

A Passion for Politics Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"It's one of the pillars of political science and philosophy that I get to give advice to students, regardless of what they wish to study — I joke that I major in unsolicited advice!

"The whole notion of politics and philosophy in my mind is that it knows no bounds. If you know those subjects, you can't pretend that math and science don't exist, and you can't deny an interest in language. The very nature of these courses is to expand the understanding of how we interact as human beings; it's all about human behavior. Regardless of your major, if you don't have an understanding of how humans interact, you're going to have a hard time interacting with humans in general.

"Therefore, my advice is to keep an open mind. Everyone needs to have that intrinsic kind of knowledge, especially anyone who wants to study policy, political philosophy, or ethics. They will help you engage with those who have vastly different goals and thinking than you do.

"That's not to say that you need to understand things from all perspectives! I've been able to apply what I learned in courses outside my major and minor, such as statistics and environmental biology and others, seeing how they fit into politics and how governments work. Had I not taken those different courses, I would not have the same appreciation I have for the others.

"Finally, just say yes to every new experience. Saying yes to new things when I first arrived to Miami my sophomore year has made all the difference. These experiences have really changed my life and given me lifelong friends."

[May 2018]