WMU News

Students study presidential transition firsthand

Jan. 12, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Two Western Michigan University honors students are in Washington, D.C., for two weeks this month to study the historic presidential transition.

Heather Gott, a senior from Elwell, Mich., and Mercedes Varasteh, a sophomore from Martin, Mich., are taking part in an academic seminar sponsored by The Washington Center. "Campaign 2000: The Inauguration" runs Jan. 7-21. Both students are members of the Lee Honors College, which is sponsoring their participation in the program in conjunction with WMU's Office of the Provost.

Offered by The Washington Center since 1985, the program gives students the chance to be part of history in the making. During the first week, students are studying "Politics and the Media," and in the second week they will take on "Presidency in Transition." According to the Center, more than 400 students are expected this month "to not only celebrate one of the greatest rituals in American politics but also to delve into the important issues behind the pomp and circumstance of this historic political milestone."

Varasteh admits she had little interest in politics before the 2000 election.

"It was fascinating to watch and learn about how the system worked," says the journalism and communications major who currently serves as news editor of The Western Herald. "Politics is so complex. I'm really looking forward to the section on the media, and I hope to come away with a better perspective on how politics should be covered."

Gott, an environmental studies and political science major, is planning a career in environmental policy.

"I was up all night for a week watching CSPAN during the election," she says. "Obviously, it's an exciting time in history to be studying the inauguration. I hope to gain a better understanding of what goes on in Washington, and perhaps decide if I'd like to work in that city one day."

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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