WriterThe UCSB Alumni Association presented a panel of alumni in government and politics for students considering careers in public service on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The panelists included Senator Sam Blakeslee, graduated ’89, Supervisor Janet Wolf ’76, Undersheriff Jim Peterson ’83, Rock The Vote Co-Founder Steve Barr ’82, Assembly member Das Williams ’05, Supervisor Salud Carbajal ’90, and Assistant City Planner Shine Ling ’03.
“I know we are probably the only thing keeping you from a keg tonight, so bear with me,” said Carbajal. His joke, however, was catered toward a room filled with students eager to hear advice and learn from their fellow Gauchos alumni experiences.
Students were surprised by the diverse panel of people who all work in politics, but studied various majors while here at UCSB. It was apparent the presenters’ desire to solve problems drove these alumni into their designated career fields.
“Public Service is a lot like science, it’s about problem solving,” said Senator Sam Blakeslee, who majored in geophysics and began his career in politics after working for Exxon.
On the other hand, Undersheriff Jim Peterson always knew he wanted to go into policing, but also wanted to advance as far as he could. He advised students to set realistic and incremental goals that can be amended.
“It takes a lot of luck and fate, and some hard work too,” said Undersheriff Peterson. “Never really settle for the status quo. Always challenge yourself. You learn so much more from failure than you do from success.”
Supervisor Janet Wolf represented the female population and provided her perspective and experience as a woman in politics. Her entrance into politics coincided with the introduction of the Feminist Movement.
“I knew that I had a passion. Whatever you do, when you get into politics you have to have a passion. I loved being on the school board because I had a voice. There is nothing like having a voice and being able to vote on really important issues. It is great to be in office but it’s not easy running for office. You learn how to develop a thick skin,” Wolf said.
Wolf credits her accomplished career goals to her great college experience.
“The skills you develop here at UCSB – whether academic or social – are so important,” Wolf said.
Student participation was highly encouraged throughout the event and fourth-year political science major Mike Gillooly took advantage of the opportunity. He questioned the panel for advice to students in the premiere years of their career and how one narrows down a focus in regards to what sector of politics to choose.
Isla Vista local Das Williams emphasized the importance of making the most of our community.
“Balance your school work with your work around campus. Academic knowledge is complemented by experience,” said Williams.
The most important message all panelists agreed on was the necessity to identify your passion and then ask ‘what kind of impact can I make in my community and in the world?’ There are plenty of ways to get involved at UC Santa Barbara and become successful in government, as demonstrated by our alumni.
It doesn’t take political science classes to make all of the difference. Registering to vote, as well as being an informed student are both important facets of politics as a whole. So ask yourself – what type of impact do you want to make?