- Major: Political Science
On Political Science
Kate Towson, BA Political Science ‘09, is putting her political science skills to good use as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer with Sacramento Steps Forward, an organization that works to end homelessness. Since December 09, when she began her position with the advocacy group, Kate has led efforts to organize community events such as Sacramento Homeless Connect, which provide the homeless in her newly-adopted city a myriad of one-stop resources, such as information about housing, health care and child care services, resume workshops—even makeovers and pet care.
Kate got her feet wet as a community activist during her time abroad in the Spring of 2008, when she volunteered at an AIDS clinic in Grahamstown during her semester abroad at South Africa’s Rhodes University. Moreover, for a requirement in Dr. Christine Wade’s Human Rights and Social Justice course that Kate took in the Spring of 2009, she led an effort with several classmates to sponsor a screening of “The Greatest Silence” on campus, which documents mass rapes that have occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in order to raise awareness about this understudied and often overlooked topic. Her time in Dr. Wade’s class and her time in Africa led her to complete her senior thesis on violence committed against women in African wars.
In her current job in Sacramento, Kate is using statistics software—SPSS, which is employed by policy experts, pollsters, and professional political scientists—that she first learned as a student in Dr. Deckman’s Empirical Political Research class, when groups of student researcher polled WAC students about various political topics. As she recounts, “One of our committees conducted a Homeless Employment survey at a big event we just had; they conducted a total of 186 surveys in all. Our consultant who drafted the survey wanders through our cubicles and goes, ‘anyone here know how to use SPSS?’ Without even thinking, I shout out, ‘yes, of course!’” After a quick refresher tutorial offered by one of her workmates—she said using SPSS is “like riding a bicycle”—she is currently analyzing the data that gives her organization and others a more accurate picture of what the homeless look like in Sacramento—and what sorts of resources they need.
As Kate writes of her experiences in college and of her budding professional career now, “It’s funny to think that I spent four years working on issues regarding women’s rights in Sub-Saharan Africa, and now I’m working in the chronically homeless community, which is mostly single, white, old men. You really can’t predict the future. But I’m so happy for the crazy adventure this job has taken me on, and am eternally grateful to feel like I am making a difference every day of my life. “