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Another Alum's Triumphant Return from the Seat of Power

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On Thursday April 6, Dr. Alexander's Political Parties and Interest Groups heard from Mark Schloemer, who graduated from ONU with a BA in Political Science in 2008. Mark is currently Personal Assistant to United States Senator George Voinovich (R OH).

Mark described his career path, that included an internship with the Washington Center, working for a interest group seeking to end torture, a stint as a recruiter for the Washington Center, and finally his work with Senator Voinovich. He related that he learned of the opening for the Senator's Personal Assistant at a Washington party. While everyone else was in the main room, Mark was in a side room watching Buckeye football. Another party-goer kept poking his head in to check the score and finally they introduced themselves and the other Ohioan turned out to be the out-going personal assistant to Voinovich who told Mark the job would be open and how to apply for it.

This was a point that Mark made to the class; that a great deal of work and networking happens during parties and happy hour, and that students need to make sure they keep their wits about them to be able to take advantage of any opportunities that might present themselves. He emphasized that they can find a position such as his if they are willing to work very hard and be willing to make contacts.

Mark went on to tell students about his duties, which basically are doing whatever the Senator requires. This has ranged from writing speeches for the Senator, to driving him home to Ohio. Mark told the students that for his current post, the most valuable activity he took part in at ONU was writing for the Northern Review, which taught him to work on deadline and sharpened his writing skills. He mentioned that proofreading and writing was a large part of his job, and that accuracy was a must, and related his experience writing a 30+ page speech for the Senator in just one day. He told students that when he sat in their seats, he thought a 10 page paper was a stretch, but that he had learned to put in the long hours necessary to be successful at the next level.

He also spoke about the role of interest groups, mentioning that what Dr. Alexander told him in a Freshman class held true; that the most powerful tool that such groups have to use is information. No member of Congress can be an expert on everything, so they lean on interest groups. A moderate Republican like Voinovich will gather information from interest groups on both sides of the political divide to help him decide how to act.

He concluded by offering his opinion that the partisan divide in the Senate has worsened in recent years. He attributed this to a number of factors, including gerrymandering (redrawing Congressional districts to favor one party or another), the effectiveness of House and Senate leaders in "whipping" their members into line, and the nature of the people who become
Senators. He opined that he would like to see more mayors and governors become Senators, because they arrived with experience in working with both parties.

As always, it is great to hear from our graduates who go out to be successes in the "real world." Mark's tenure with Senator Voinovich is due to end when the Senator retires in December. Where he goes from there is uncertain, but his ability and experience will no doubt land him somewhere where he can continue to work for the public good. Way to go Mark!