What is your education background?
Schmitt first pursued an undergraduate degree in English at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, but transferred after her sophomore fall semester to Saint Norbert College, Green Bay, to complete an undergraduate degree in political science in 2015.
With the goal of becoming a teacher in mind, Schmitt entered the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy graduate program to earn her master’s and Ph.D.
The Ph.D. program naturally incorporated a master’s degree into the coursework and progression and, following the guidance of the program, she earned her master’s in 2017 in Government and Public Policy.
Schmitt then continued onward to earn her Ph.D. in Government and Public Policy, graduating in early 2020.
How did you become interested in the field in which you teach?
“I would say I grew up in a pretty politically interested family. My parents were always interested in politics and we would talk about politics … but when I started college I was an English major and a Journalism minor. I really wanted at the time to be a journalist or to be a professor of Victorian literature. I thought it would be great to read Bronte and Austin all day long and came to realize that, while that would be somebody’s reality, it wasn’t going to become mine.”
The semester before Schmitt transferred to Saint Norbert College, she took a general education Introduction to American Government course.
The topic and the classwork engaged her enough that, when she arrived at Saint Norbert, she entered as a political science major.
The decision, as she explained, was not because of one exact reason. The class, the captivating nature of the topic, her personal experience and the employability of political science compelled her to switch.
Schmitt was propelled forward and encouraged to go to University of Arizona by her professor of Women in Politics course her senior year.
Her advisor at University of Arizona was her “academic idol,” having contributed heavily to the literature surrounding the gender gap and women’s voting patterns.
Were you involved with any organizations at Mount Holyoke, Saint Norbert, or University of Arizona?
Schmitt’s experience at Saint Norbert provided her with many memorable opportunities, including the student newspaper, the Saint Norbert Times and the Cassandra Voss Center.
“I was a program coordinator, so it was my job [at the CVC] to research and propose different speakers and academics that we wanted to bring as invited guests. The whole goal of the center was to be a gender and sexuality center on campus to support students, faculty, and staff on campus and also be an educational tool for the campus and broader community … that was an amazing opportunity and position to hold.”
As being part of the political science program, Schmitt also had the chance to have a Washington Semester.
The Washington Semester program is an exchange program in which students spend a semester at American University in Washington D.C., interning in various positions and places.
“Being in the city that lives, breathes, and eats politics all the time was completely transformative in terms of my commitment to poly sci … it’s sometimes hard to make connections between the classes that you’re taking and the jobs that you can hold with that major so for me, being a poly sci major and then going to the place where politics happens really puts into perspective what people really do with political science degrees.”
Schmitt interned for a senator in their office, receiving phone calls and handling the innerworking of the behind-the-scenes.
“For better or for worse… we think of lawmaking as this grandiose thing that only great, great men and women are capable of, but at the end of the day some of it is just, ‘I signed a piece of paper and then I’m a cosponsor for a bill,’ like, come on, that’s it? I think it does give you a better understanding of the processes but also that anyone can work towards being an elected official.”
Though at times pulling the curtain back revealed rather mundane and simple procedures, immersion at the senator’s office exposed the realm of something most voters do not see: the office.
The day-to-day processes included receiving and tracking “passionate” phone calls from voters and organizing meetings with experts and consultants.
Such experiences motivated Schmitt to pursue studying voter psychology and to pusure personal research.
The Washington Semester is available to UW-Platteville for political science majors searching for an upfront view to the American government.
Have you taught anywhere else before UW-Platteville?
UW-Platteville is Schmitt’s first professorship position, but she has had teaching experience through grad school.
She was able to work as a teacher’s assistant for her advisor in similar coursework to what she teaches here at Platteville.
“The first time I ever lectured I was working with my closest friends as a TA, and my advisor was the teacher for American politics. She emailed us that morning and she had laryngitis, or bronchitis and said, ‘you’re up guys, get lecturing!’ so we scrambled to look over slides and familiarize ourselves with the material.”
After successfully completing the first impromptu lecture and gaining approval from her advisor, Schmitt’s confidence grew, and lecture became easier and more enjoyable.
She now teaches two courses at UW-Platteville: Introduction to American Government, a general education course, and Introduction to Political Psychology, an upper-level, political science and psychology course.
How did you become interested in teaching?
One of the driving forces compelling Schmitt toward teaching was growing up as the oldest child, performing for and working with family members.
“My mom has rolls and rolls of footage of me putting on those shows, like every Christmas and Thanksgiving, you get together with the cousins and the grandparents and all of that.”
Exposure through teaching ballet and jazz dance classes during high school and other leadership positions allowed her to explore her enjoyment of teaching.
After the CVC, the Washington semester and her graduate school experience, the dream of teaching and being a professor grew more and more real.
Do you have advice to share with students?
“Identify the things that you need to work hard at, and work really hard at them and then identify the things you’re really good at and passionate about, but don’t take you that much time, and dedicate an hour to that thing and that’s going to be it. That’s part time management and part identifying your passions and part knowing when to call it quits.”
“Take advantage of all the opportunities you have, whether it’s joining a new club, or working or interning for someone, or taking a class that you have room in your schedule for and sounds interesting. You never know what opportunities are going to propel you forward, whether that’s your educational or career journey.”
“Keep an open mind. The strange sounding philosophy class might just be the best class you take in college. I always tell people that the best class I took in college was oceanography … I loved it. I thought the ocean was a bathtub. It’s not, spoiler. There’s mountains and valleys and all sorts of crazy sea life … if you have to take a gen ed, take one that sounds the craziest.”