ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Political Science FirstGen Endowed Internship Award

Political Science FirstGen Endowed Internship Award

First-generation political science (POSC) majors can now receive financial support for completing an internship within the political science field. The POSC FirstGen Endowed Internship Award has been made possible by a generous endowment created by Dr. Ronald (Ron) Schmidt and Rosemary Taylor Schmidt. The award fund will start making awards to students in the Spring 2023 semester. 

As first-generation college students themselves, Ron and Rosemary are grateful for the support they received from earlier generations of California taxpayers. They are both highly motivated to “pay it forward.” Ron and Rosemary both had long careers at CSULB and developed a deep love for the campus and its students. Rosemary was in Student Affairs, advising the Political Science Student Association, and after Ron became the faculty advisor to the same group, they became friends as well as colleagues. Ron and Rosemary have now been married for forty-one years. Throughout their marriage, Ron and Rosemary have been donors to several units on the CSULB campus, as well as to UC Riverside, where Ron earned his Ph.D., and where they started a “pay it forward” scholarship fund for first-generation UCR political science students. 

A major inspiration for both Ron and Rosemary in starting this award is the support they received for earning college degrees. Ron and Rosemary both came from Depression-era families that lacked steady incomes and opportunities for higher education. For Rosemary, she was accepted to start studying art at Immaculate Heart College, a small private college in Los Angeles. Rosemary recounts how shortly after her acceptance and registration, “my dad came to tell me one day that they raised tuition, and he couldn’t send me, and I am not going to college.” Luckily, Rosemary found CSULB, but it was a thirty-minute commute from her house to campus. She had no car and she often relied on rides from other people. She said there were “times where I had no idea if I would get where I needed to go.” However, Rosemary believes the extra time at school enabled her to be highly active in student clubs and organizations. Rosemary’s hard work gained her recognition from the dean of women students, who hired her to be an activities coordinator after she graduated. Rosemary spent over forty years on the CSULB campus between being a student and starting her career. Rosemary retired as assistant vice president for Student Services in 2000. Since then, Rosemary was finally able to pursue her love of art as a full-time student. Despite all the challenges, Rosemary said “CSULB was a place where I found mentorship, outside and inside the classroom.”    

Before Ron arrived at CSULB in 1972, he grew up in a San Joaquin Valley farm town, attended the local community college, and then transferred to UC Berkeley for his BA and MA. As with Rosemary, public support for higher education in the form of low tuition, work-study programs, and low-interest Federal student loans allowed him to gain higher degrees at California public institutions. He later attended UCR, and then came to teach at CSULB. Ron was department chair in political science twice, 1977-80 and 1984-90.  

Ron’s experience as a professor, chair and internship director allowed him to see firsthand how many first-generation low-income students could not get involved in unpaid internships because they must work while going to college. This became a major factor that inspired this endowed award program. Both Ron and Rosemary believe that education should connect with and contribute to the well-being of the community, and they want to support a program that will help political science majors engage with the public good in a direct way. 

Ron and Rosemary worked in collaboration with the Political Science Department Chair, Dr. Amy Cabrera Rasmussen, and the Development Director of the College of Liberal Arts, Howie Fitzgerald. Dr. Cabrera Rasmussen believes the POSC FirstGen Endowed Internship Award will “give students a chance to explore different career paths, start to translate their political science knowledge into professional settings and build the connections and experiences that will help them find meaningful employment after graduation.”  

POSC Internship Director, Dr. Charles Mahoney, shared that “while unpaid internships provide students with important professional experiences, they can place a financial burden on students.” An unpaid internship balanced with a paid job and full class load is a difficult workload to maintain. Mahoney believes that the “POSC FirstGen Endowed Internship Award will both encourage students to seek out internship opportunities and provide financial assistance to deserving students who might not otherwise be able to work in an unpaid internship. The award will truly make a significant impact on the lives of many future CSULB political science students.” 

Rosemary’s message to alumni is: “If anyone that worked with us, separately or together, feels like they got something from us or with us, then they might want to give to this fund, to appreciate the work of those who came before.” Ron adds, “if you feel you have received something of value from CSULB, it is time to pay it forward, to the degree that you can. Because paying it forward is how we are going to ensure the future of California and ensure the future of our common world.” 

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