May 11, 2015Vol. 45, Issue 5

From Chico to Capitol Hill

Nicole McAllister works on national policy issues affecting students, others

Graduating triple-major Nicole McAllister has spent the semester in Washington, D.C., working for U.S. Representative John Garamendi. She returns to Chico for commencement this week before finishing out this congressional session. (Photo courtesy Nicole McAllister)

Graduating triple-major Nicole McAllister has spent the semester in Washington, D.C., working for U.S. Representative John Garamendi. She returns to Chico for commencement this week before finishing out this congressional session. (Photo courtesy Nicole McAllister)

Nicole McAllister is ending her Chico State career in Washington, D.C.

The triple major in political science, women’s studies, and social science works for U.S. Representative John Garamendi. The congressman represents California’s Third District, which includes Sacramento and Yuba City (but not the Chico area). McAllister manages Garamendi’s schedule and travel and also serves as a legislative assistant.

She was offered the job in Garamendi’s office after working there as a Panetta Institute for Public Policy Congressional Fellow. She has spent the past semester, her last at CSU, Chico, balancing independent study classes with her work on Capitol Hill.

“I look at policy related to education, civil rights, and arts and humanities,” she says, adding that she has been doing a lot of research on reducing student loan burdens, especially for graduate students. Higher interest rates give “little incentive for students to go on to further their education,” she explains, and her employer is dedicated to changing that and increasing the pool of skilled workers such as physicians in his district and all over the country.

The Fairfield native revels in her chance to make a difference in student lives, and is particularly focused on making sure everyone’s voice is heard. She began her career in leadership and activism her freshman year at CSU, Chico, when she was elected to represent Konkow Hall in Hall Council. She also got involved with the Multicultural Affairs Council (MAC) (now the Diversity Affairs Council).

“It opened my eyes to the Associated Students,” she says. “A very, very important component to my college career was my time spent with AS. [With MAC], it was great to be exposed to all of these different student organizations bringing such great diversity and opportunities for engagement and discussion onto the campus. I was also surrounded by mentors. I think that's one thing the AS did really well for me, get me access to people who I could ask questions of, who could guide my exploration of Chico State."

During her two years on the Board of Directors of the California State Student Association, McAllister also continued her AS career as director of Legislative Affairs and director of University Affairs. “I really appreciated the opportunity to discuss issues on a statewide level and do legislation,” she says, “but I really wanted to focus in on Chico State.”

She is most proud of her efforts to boost student involvement in university affairs. She got the Student Senate, a deliberative body for academic-related issues, on the AS ballot, and fought to get a student on every university board or committee. “Shared governance is a tenant that is integral to the University, but I noticed that there were quite a few committees that did not have student representation,” she says.

McAllister, who also interned at GSEC and in the CLIC Family Law Program, sums up her CSU, Chico and Associated Students Government experience in one word: “responsibility.”

“I learned my role in the world, my actions don't happen in a vacuum—and that if I want to affect change, I can, in fact, do it,” she says. “I also learned to communicate with people who might think differently and come from different places than me— a very important tool to have on the hill, especially in such an interesting time as far as partisanship goes. The AS is for everyone, so when you go into a program or you walk into a room, you’re not walking into a room with people who think the exact same way you do. But you have to work together to get things done. And I think that that kind of intellectual diversity and ideological diversity has really helped prepare me for my work here on Capitol Hill.”

McAllister is flying back to California this week to walk in her commencement ceremony. Then it’s back to D.C. for the rest of this congressional session. She plans to work in the California state legislature or a nonprofit before returning to academia to get a PhD focusing on how women participate in the political sphere.

—Anna Harris, Public Affairs and Publications
Video link

What Would You Tell Your Freshman Self?

In this video, seniors share their touching—and funny—reflections on their college careers. Watch the video.

Commencement

125th Commencement

Four days of commencement ceremonies begin Thursday, May 14. Search #Chico2015 on social media for a live chronicle of events. See schedule.

click to comment on an article in this issue