Student Spotlight: Erin Fitzpatrick ’21 says her BC professors have opened many doors for her

Young lady wearing a mask sits in front of a laptop

Erin Fitzpatrick ‘21 spent the summer of 2020 completing an internship and a research project at Bridgewater College. And she did it 680 miles away from campus, at her home in Wyoming, Mich.

Because of the accessibility of Bridgewater College’s professors, Fitzpatrick has been able to pursue different areas of interest. Her new experiences have included conducting research, completing an internship and serving as co-president of the campus chapter of Virginia21, a student leadership-development program that connects young people to elected officials, business leaders and citizen advocates.

“My professors have opened many doors for me and offered me many opportunities,” Fitzpatrick said.  

One of those opportunities came in the form of a Research Experience @ Bridgewater award with Fitzpatrick working on a summer research project, “Elections in Latin America,” with Assistant Professor of History and Political Science Dr. Kevin Pallister.

“As a political science major with minors in Spanish and peace studies, it made sense for us to work together,” Fitzpatrick said, “especially after I expressed a need for something to do this summer.”

Fitzpatrick assisted Pallister with a student textbook he is writing on Latin American elections that will include general information on election laws, with specific case studies and examples to explain each aspect.

Collecting data from social media posts from the two most popular candidates—Alberto Fernandez and Mauricio Macri—in Argentina’s recent presidential election, Fitzpatrick recorded the elements of personal touch, general appeal, use of slogans and specific policy proposals that were included in each post. This data shows how candidates used social media to appeal to voters.  

“Once the data collection is complete, we plan on co-authoring an article on campaigning in Argentina,” Pallister said.

“I am enjoying learning more about Argentinian politics and culture and am excited to see what the results of the data collection produces,” Fitzpatrick said.

While Fitzpatrick was home, she also completed an internship with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC).

Fitzpatrick credits Associate Professor of History and Political Science Dr. Bobbi Gentry, who was Fitzpatrick’s professional development professor, for giving her the tools she needed to obtain the internship.

“[Professor Gentry] taught us to always write thank-you notes following an interview, and after interviewing with WMEAC, I sent a quick thank-you email to the woman I spoke with,” Fitzpatrick said. “She told me that was the reason I was chosen out of a number of competitive candidates.”

Fitzpatrick’s internship offered many opportunities for personal and professional growth.

“This internship relates to my study of public policy and state and local politics [at Bridgewater College],” Fitzpatrick said. “The WMEAC spends a lot of time working with or influencing local governments in West Michigan.”

Through the encouragement of the Student Life staff and her classmates, Fitzpatrick attended a summer virtual leadership-training program hosted by Virginia21. Through this program, she gained insight into what it means to be an engaged citizen and how to advocate for issues that are important to her—attributes that will serve her well throughout life.

Gentry has played a large role in Fitzpatrick’s connections at Bridgewater College. She has guided Fitzpatrick as her academic advisor, her internship advisor and as the faculty advisor for Virginia21.

“[Professor Gentry] is a true advocate on behalf of students. As a professor and advisor she is very accommodating and supportive,” Fitzpatrick said. “Over the summer, she offered me multiple solutions for fulfilling internship hours when it was difficult to work due to COVID-19.”