L-R: Caroline Beach, Dahlonega Mayor JoAnne Taylor, Jesse Kronen, Sen. Steve Gooch, Rep. Will Wade, Hannah Sartain 

 This past April, PSIA students attended Lumpkin County’s annual State of the State Luncheon hosted by the Dahlonega-Lumpkin Chamber of Commerce. The five students were: Caroline Beach, Political Science, ’23; Gabriella Bartlett, International Affairs, ’23; Orla Fennell, International Affairs, ’23; Hannah Sartain, Political Science/American Politics, ’23; and Jesse Kronen, Political Science/American Politics, ’24. 

The agenda included presentations from several businesses, such as Northeast Georgia Health System, critical to the County’s economy and citizens. Following the business presentations, State Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch and District 9 Representative Will Wade took the podium. Senator Gooch relayed all the major legislation he headed this past session, and how it would impact Dawson and Lumpkin counties. Representative Wade continued with detailed descriptions of each of the bills scheduled to be on the docket for the upcoming legislative session. 

University Advancement’s director of development for the College of Arts and Letters, Josie Toney, who sponsored four of the attendees (Caroline Beach attended courtesy of her position as intern to Sen. Gooch) and attended with the students, believes in capitalizing on opportunities where students can engage with elected officials, community leaders, stakeholders and alumni in real world scenarios outside of the classroom. 

“When this event popped up in my inbox from the chamber newsletter, I wondered how many students had heard about it and were planning to attend.” Mrs. Toney said. “Students interested in political science, leadership, and public administration would certainly benefit from attending this simple, affordable, local event that includes a BBQ lunch for just $25.” 

Most chambers host legislative update events like this a couple times a year. This year, the elected officials attending also happen to be UNG alumni. Senator Gooch received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNG, having been one of the first students to graduate from our Master of Public Administration program. Representative Wade received his finance and accounting degrees from UNG. 

Everyone who attended the luncheon seemed genuinely happy to see UNG students in attendance. And as Mrs. Toney said: “Students gain invaluable experience from participating in a real-world scenario within a real community, made of differing personalities and perspectives. Where else can students get an experience like this a mile from campus during a lunchbreak?” 

 All the PSIA attendees highly recommend students (particularly political science majors) attend future events if at all possible. Students Hannah and Jesse shared that the experience of meeting Senator Gooch and Representative Wade was “energizing” and “motivating” as they both aspire to work in the political sector in the future. Our two international affairs majors, Gabriella and Orla, found the event extremely interesting “as it provided a better understanding of the state level politics which ultimately have national and thus, global effects.” They all agreed that networking and speaking with Ben Jarrard, PS ’13 who took time out of his busy schedule as Sen. Gooch’s Chief of Staff, was a highlight of the event. [As a side note, although not a direct result, Ben’s student internship in the office of then Governor Nathan Deal helped open doors into his current position.] 

[author: Gabriella Bartlett, IA ‘23]