Sierra Wiese is a freshman here at IU Bloomington. She is involved in many organizations on campus, however her biggest achievement as of late is something that took her off campus and up to the Statehouse in Indianapolis. Sierra is a Cox Research scholar, so this means she is able to choose a topic to research and become an expert on it under the mentorship of an IU professor. Her topic of choice is Gerrymandering and on February 15th, she testified in front of the Indiana House of Representatives on her research. She has been working with Representative Steve Stemler of Jeffersonville for the past 5 years and when he informed her that the hearing on House Bill 1014 had been moved to that day, she had to scramble to finish her classes and head to Indy to testify. When she arrived at the State House, the Representatives got her on the floor before the rest of the public so she as able to have a seat and they were also able to speak with the Committee Chairman to let her be the first non-legislative person to testify. Watch her testimony (Sierra begins to speak at 23:54): http://iga.in.gov/information/archives/2017/video/committee_elections_and_apportionment_0500/. We are so proud to call Sierra a PACE program student. I was lucky enough to have talked to Sierra a little after her hearing and ask her a few other questions that help to get to know her a little better.
1. What made you decide to get involved in the PACE program?
Last semester I fell in love with PACE under the influence of Professor Sandra Shapshay during PACE-C 250, Leadership and Public Policy. I am currently enrolled in PACE-440 and find myself enjoying being a Public Issue Forum Moderator for the class. The PACE program, thus far, has challenged me to be a better activist, stand firmly in my beliefs and remain civil while discussing political issues, and to never stop seeking opportunities to enhance my leadership skills. The PACE program provides opportunities that are “once in a lifetime” for students that are seeking to be in leadership and political roles and for those who seek to be political advocates.
2. What year are you and what is your major?
I am a freshman here at IU, but I came here with 69 applicable Credit hours from high school. I am a Cox Research Scholar working with Professor Bianco on the topic of gerrymandering. My major is Political Science, my minor is International Studies, and I’m pursuing the PACE Certificate. I am also working on writing up a proposal for the Independent Minor Program for a minor in American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Studies.
3. Have you thought about what you would like to do after college? Grad school?
After my Undergraduate studies I will be attending Law School, hopefully here in Bloomington at Maurer. Then practice as a Lawyer for a few years before deciding between going down the path of becoming a Judge or a House Representative for Indiana. However life is funny and I could end up somewhere in D.C. after law school for work as a lobbyist. I have the motto of taking the opportunities we are given and running with them even if you didn't see yourself doing that thing specifically.
4. Have you had any moments so far in college that have really helped you to figure out what you want to do in the future or that have helped reaffirm what you want to do?
Most recently, at the request of Representative Steve Stemler, I was asked to present my Cox Research regarding gerrymandering and was one of the first speakers during an Indiana State House Bill 1014 committee hearing. (http://iga.in.gov/information/archives/2017/video/committee_elections_and_apportionment_0500/. Select the meeting for February 15, 2017. My speech/testimony begins around the 23:40 mark.) This will be the day I will always remember as the moment I knew I was home in the world of Law and Politics. I hope that it will not be my last time speaking in front of the Indiana House of Representatives.
5. What made you want to get involved in the political word?
My interest in the convoluted and mysterious world of political and civic engagement began around the tender age of nine years old when I would attend school board meetings with my father. He was heavily involved in the local Teacher’s Association as a public school educator by which he was very much an advocate for his fellow colleagues. I remember the year my father won his election as President of the local teachers association, it was the same year our family of six attended many political speaking events, bean suppers, and door-to-door campaigning for my mother as she ran for a non-partisan seat on the local school board. I loved listening to both of my parents speak at public meetings and events. My parents were well versed and spoke to me like a young adult being aware of my understanding and interests.
As I entered middle school, my interest in public advocacy and political matters grew as I began participating in the Builder’s Club and led as Co-President thus providing service to the community and volunteer hours as well as joining the Speech and Debate Team in an effort to enhance my public speaking skills and leadership skills. As my interest in political advocacy and civic engagement was cultivated by both of my parents and supportive teachers, I sought out opportunities to participate in the Indiana State Page Program and paged for the entirety of my high school years for Republican Indiana State Senator Ron Grooms and Democratic Indiana State Representative Steve Stemler, thus being exposed to views by both political parties and ideals. My leadership skills were enhanced during my high school career as President of the Student Council, in which capacity I organized many events, and took part in social and community service projects, including organizing the Walk For Elijah and speaking in front of the Jeffersonville City Council and Jeffersonville Mayor as well as TV station interviews.
My favorite political event my Junior year was during an election year where four school board seats were available and I not only campaigned at the polls for the candidates supported by the local teachers association, but also for a local judge, who later became the judge with whom I spent my senior year as an intern. Judge Vicky Carmichael is now up for candidacy for the Indiana Supreme Court.
Another glimpse into the political arena came the summer before my last year of high school, I was one of three female students in my school of 2100 students to attend Hoosier Girls’ State where I was voted to be the Speaker of the House and held sessions. At its closure, I was presented with my gavel as a gift to remember the time I served as Speaker of the House. All of these things have prepared me for where I am today as a freshman at Indiana University where I remain engaged in various ways: Hutton Honors College, Cox Research Scholar, Events Manager of the Indiana University Journal of Undergraduate Research (IUJUR), and Member of a pre-law national co-ed fraternity Phi Alpha Delta (PAD).
*As you can see, I have had a nearly “life-long” interest in political advocacy and leadership*
6. If you had to pick one famous politician, alive or dead, from history to have lunch with, who would it be?
Abraham Lincoln, hands down. He was a man that never gave up, he started off from modest beginnings and made it to the White House. I have always admired him, he managed to gain knowledge while working on his family farm, then proceeded to achieve greatness from captain in the Black Hawk War to Illinois legislature, to circuit courts, finally to presidency. While in high school I was involved in Lincoln-Douglas debates coined after the debate that made his name known and helped him win the next presidency. His drive and his courage staring down the Civil War due to his bold Emancipation Proclamation is something that I want to be able to emulate when faced with tough decisions. Also, I admire him for signing into law that Gallaudet University had authority to issue degrees in 1864, the now best known liberal arts institution worldwide available to deaf and hard of hearing students.
Thank you Sierra for your time and all you are doing to help keep democracy alive and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your experiences with fellow students.