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Whether she’s studying political science, interning for a state senator, attending the Democratic National Convention or traveling abroad, Anna Augustyn immerses herself in politics any way she can.
With that kind of motivation, perhaps it’s no surprise that Augustyn is on track to earn her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Global Studies from Northeastern Illinois University in May after only three years. But not before leading a half-dozen student organizations and completing the rigorous academic challenges of the University Honors Program.
“I think my eagerness comes from the enjoyment I get from helping students out,” she said. “I think it is vital to be actively involved on campus to not only be a part of something bigger, but to also form friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Augustyn traces her interest in politics back to her days at Harry D. Jacobs High School in Algonquin. She was selected to be on a legislative district high school committee for state Rep. Michael Tryon. While on the committee, Augustyn and her classmates created a bill calling for high school students to be able to receive physical education class waivers based on the number of Advance Placement courses they took. The bill did not make it far after Tryon submitted it, but the experience proved to be a valuable lesson on the process of state politics.
“To me, politics means the opportunity for people to come together and really make a change and we can try and do that through our government,” Augustyn said. “When you become involved even in local politics or go further into state and national politics, you can be the voice for whole groups of people, and I think it’s very important that everyone is able to say what they want to say.”
Augustyn’s interest in politics further grew in high school when she took an AP Government class. By the time she was ready for college, Augustyn knew she would major in Political Science.
With such an impressive academic and extracurricular record, Augustyn was one of only six incoming freshmen awarded Northeastern’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship in 2014. (After arriving at Northeastern, Augustyn added Global Studies as a second major.)
Presidential Scholars receive full in-state tuition, fees and an allowance for their books. They are required to participate in the University Honors Program and encouraged to take advantage of study abroad opportunities and volunteer in one of the University’s many student organizations.
“Northeastern has provided me with an abundance of opportunities to expand my textbook education by applying what I have learned in the classroom to real-world situations,” she said. “Personally, I would not have been able to experience the amazing opportunities I have been able to experience during my time at Northeastern had it not been for the scholarship.”
That’s particularly true when it comes to travel. In less than three years as a Northeastern student, Augustyn has made academic trips to Ireland, Philadelphia, the Middle East and Arizona—and she’s not done yet.
This May, Augustyn will embark on a study trip to Switzerland with the help of a $1,200 Brommel-Hahs-Steinberg Scholarship for Global Studies. The trip is being led by the Department of Justice Studies.
“For the trip to Switzerland, our main focus will be to visit the United Nations in Geneva and other organizations that work with human rights,” said Augustyn, whose dream is to become a lawyer on an international level. “We will be in Paris for a few days as well, which I am excited to go back to because I visited Paris a year ago when I was studying abroad in Ireland.”
In July 2016, Augustyn represented Northeastern at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia as a participant in an academic seminar by The Washington Center, an organization that aims to “provide students with transformational experiences that foster academic and professional achievement, leadership and civic engagement.”
“My position with the security team gave me the opportunity to take pictures with the European Union ambassador to the United States and other diplomats,” Augustyn said. “I had wonderful conversations with many of the ambassadors I was helping and was able to see the speeches by Hillary Clinton, President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and more.”
If that trip sounds amazing, Augustyn was only getting started.
“Less than a week after coming back from the DNC, I hopped on a plane to Israel,” she said.
Selected to join a special delegation of American students who work in student government, Augustyn described her week touring Israel and the West Bank as “by far the coolest experience” of her life. “I learned a lot about the conflicts between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors from the perspectives of both sides,” she said.
Augustyn has taken advantage of student leadership opportunities and participated in numerous student organizations since the moment she set foot on campus. She participated in the Freshman Leadership Institute program in which freshmen sign up for a two-day retreat to Camp Duncan. Last year, she was one of the student leaders for the trip. In 2015, she was selected to go on an Alternative Spring Break trip to Arizona through the Office of Student Leadership Development. And before she graduates, she will lead an Alternative Spring Break trip to Arizona and Mexico to learn more about immigration along the border.
And that’s not all! Augustyn is the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Committee representative for the Student Government Association, president of the Presidential Scholars Student Association, vice president of the Pre-Law Society and vice president of the French Club.
“It’s great to see how she has taken on various leadership roles and does so well,” said Veronica Rodriguez, director of the Office of Student Leadership Development. “She is so great at communicating what she has learned and wants others to get involved. It’s great to see her growth as she has had to balance a lot, and she does well.”
Fellow student government representative Yessica Garcia said Augustyn takes great pride in being a Northeastern Golden Eagle.
“Anna is super bubbly,” Garcia said. “She is always singing in the office. She is really easygoing. That’s how I believe she is really able to connect with the students because she is so good to get along with.”
Augustyn’s thesis, a requirement of the University Honors Program that she will complete in May, is centered on the acceptance of refugees in European countries. She is concentrating on the political, economic and social conditions that combine to create an environment in a country that will either willingly accept asylum applications at a high percentage or not.
Augustyn values the work and travel experiences she has had as an undergraduate and hopes it all leads to her ultimate goal.
“I have had enough exposure in the political arena so far to know that I may want to run for a political office if the time is right,” she said.