Jefferson Scholarship


The Political Science Department offers the Jefferson Scholarship, a multi-year scholarship awarded to a student who has shown an interest in participating in public affairs to advance the common good, to first year students.

In addition to majoring in Political Science, the selected student will be expected to complete at least one service learning course and one public affairs internship.

Previous Winners

Emily Wakefield
Class of 2013

Hometown: Spokane, WA

Political & Civic Resume includes:

  • Now working at a non-profit called The Artisans that provides employment support to persons with disabilities in the Spokane area. I am a job coach there and will be continuing to work there after I graduate!
  • Coordinator - Summer 2012 - Feds Feed Families Food Drive, Richland, WA.
  • Public Policy Associate - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Public Policy Office - Washington DC - Fall 2011, as part of the Washington Semester Program
  • Washington Semester Program Fellow
  • HERO (Helping Educate Regarding Orientation) Member, 2010-Present

Why I chose political science:

When I was growing up, I went to a rural high school where most students would not go on to college and where derogatory terms towards minorities, the LGBT community, and women were not only accepted but encouraged. As a first generation college student graduating from this type of school, I wanted to help make it easier for others to go to college and to change the ignorant beliefs held in my community. I figured that political science was the best way to do so and coupled with a major in history I couldn't have chosen a better field of study to accomplish this goal!

The best part of Gonzaga's Political Science Department:

The complete open door policy. I have an advisor in the poli-sci department technically but every professor I've had continues to be a mentor and a sounding board. I love being able to drop by to discuss current events or ask for advice whenever I want.

Henry Piaskowski
Class of 2014

Hometown: Kirkland, WA

Political & Civic Resume:

  • Legislative Policy Analyst for Senator Maria Cantwell, June-August 2013
  • Parliamentary Policy Research Assistant with the Office of Chuka Umunna MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation, and Skills, September-December 2012
  • Summer Political Community Organizer with Organizing for America, May-August 2011
  • Volunteer for the Obama '08 campaign rally in Seattle, February 2008

Why I chose political science:

When I was younger, I had dreams of working in politics. I wanted nothing more than to be in government affecting change and helping others. I view politics as one of the most powerful methods for improving the lives of everyday citizens. Examples are everywhere. From infrastructure like roads and public transportation, to safety (fire fighters, the military, and the police), to organizations such as the FDA and the SBA, politics has helped shape our country. Politics is also helping improve the lives of people outside of the US in many ways. I chose to study political science because I have dreams about helping others through politics. I don't want to read about positive changes happening around the world, I want to help create those changes.

The best part of Gonzaga's Political Science Department:

I don't think there is one "best thing" about the Political Science Department at GU. I honestly cannot narrow down all of the departmental aspects I like to just one thing. The faculty are incredibly supportive of students who are trying to follow their passions even off Gonzaga's campus. Several professors wrote letters of recommendation for me that helped me intern in the UK Parliament last Fall. Several others helped me network with people working in politics, which eventually led to me securing an internship with Senator Cantwell's DC office. Every faculty member I've talked to has always been open to discussion, debate, and everyone is incredibly helpful. On a similar note, every poli-sci professor I've taken a class from has been unbelievably passionate about their work. One of the best aspects of the Department is that many professors have "lived" the subjects they teach. We discussed the Berkeley student protests in Dr. Waterman's class and got to hear his stories about being a student at Berkeley during the protests. Dr. Brunell used her experience living in Poland to lend a unique view on the EU during her "New Europe" class. I'm pretty sure Dr. Garvin worked on the Hill in DC, which made him a great fit to teach "Congress and the Presidency". Those are only a few examples. The best word I can use to describe that experience is awesome, in the most literal sense of the word.

Peter Sorense
Class of 2015

Hometown: Roseville, CA

Political & Civic Resume:

  • Volunteer for Gonzaga Athlete's Mentoring for Excellence, 2012-2013

Why I chose political science:

I chose to study political science simply because I love it. It sounds cliché, but it is an honest answer. My dad told me to find something I am interested in and find an area of study I excel in. I chose political science because it gets me excited to examine the history and watch the drama of daily politics unfold. Politics affects everyone. There is no escape, making the subject of study relevant to every time period. One aspect of life most people fail to recognize is that almost every aspect of life is political. This idea fascinates me and helps motivate me to want to learn more about political science. I agree with my Dad that it is easier to do something well if you like what you are doing.

The best part of Gonzaga's Political Science Department:

The best thing about political science is there is always something to read. I’m always adding topics and book titles on aspects and issues in politics that seem interesting. Knowing how governments work and different political ideologies makes me feel more useful. I love working with people and consider myself a team-oriented person. Gonzaga’s Political Science Department teaches me how to work with people. An educated student studying political science knows to be open to both sides of an issue despite their political bias. Finally one of the most important things I have learned at Gonzaga is to learn with an open mind and realize that compromising is a way of life in the world of politics.

Alexandra Gomes
Class of 2016

Hometown: Pacifica, CA

Political & Civic Resume:

  • Policy Intern for the Children's Defense Fund - DC National Office, June-August 2014
  • Intern for Vanilla Singh for Congress, May-June 2014

Why I chose political science:

I chose to study Political Science because of its influences on many other different subjects and how broad a topic it really is. I learn about history, political philosophy, geography, law, economics, and so much more all under the realm of political science. Politics has an impact in all of these areas, and I study it because I am a person interested in many different topics. Political Science allows me to learn about many different fields and how they all work together to make up our government.

The best part of Gonzaga's Political Science Department:

The best thing about the Political Science department at Gonzaga is it challenges previously held thoughts. I came from a rather homogenous political environment growing up and I love that the professors and my classmates expose me to new ways of thinking and new viewpoints on topics. The worst hole we can fall into is only hearing our own opinions repeated back to us. The faculty of the Political Science department is an intelligent group of questioning people and they encourage all their students to be of the same mindset.

Ryland Ploeger
Class of 2017

Hometown: Lake Stevens, WA

Political & Civic Resume:

  • Half the Sky Campus Ambassador, 2014-Present
  • Students Advocating Sexual Health Awareness Social Media Chair, 2014-Present
  • Gonzaga Model United Nations Delegate, 2014-Present
  • Experiential Leadership Institute Member, 2014-Present
  • Gonzaga Mock Trial Member, 2013-2014
  • American Legion Auxiliary Member, 2011-Present
  • Operation Comfort Warriors, 2011-2013
  • Operation Homefront, 2011-2013

Why I chose political science:

I chose to study political science because I wanted to learn how to fully participate in my government and make my voice heard. As I've become more conscious of the various issues affecting different groups across the globe, I realized how passionate I was about creating positive change, and I knew the best way for me to create this change was through government. A political science degree from Gonzaga is the most direct path for me to achieve my goals and positively impact the world.

The best part of Gonzaga's Political Science Department:

The best thing about the political science department at Gonzaga is both the accessibility and the involvement of the professors. I've never had trouble speaking with a professor about a problem I was experiencing, and every time I have approached a professor with a question or a concern, the professor has always been genuinely interested in what I have to say and truly puts in effort to help resolve the problem. At GU I know my professors know my name, care whether or not I learn their material, and genuinely want to help me succeed. Besides this, professors often suggest fascinating, relevant speakers, seminars, and events outside of the classroom, which really helps me apply my classroom knowledge to the outside world.

Want to connect with the Political Science Department?

Send a message
502 E. Boone Avenue
Spokane, WA 99258-0053