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Inside Politics: Willamette Student Wins D.C. Fellowship

In high school, Nathanael Stice '06 worked with a group that doesn't exactly scream "exciting" to most teens, or even to many adults: the local planning commission. But Stice saw his interactions with the organization in Umatilla, Ore. -- as well as his service as a member of the Umatilla County Commission on Children and Families -- as a chance to make his hometown a better place to live.

"I haven't given up that dream of one day coming back and sinking a bunch of money into improving Umatilla, putting up a few sidewalks and trees and maybe a park or two," he says.

After Stice graduates from Willamette University this spring, he will embark on yet another adventure uncommon for people his age. He will be one of six recent graduates from across the country to spend a year in Washington, D.C., as part of a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Junior Fellowship.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a private non-profit dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and actively engaging the U.S. in the international scene. Through research, the organization seeks fresh approaches to government policy. During his fellowship, Stice will assist the organization's senior fellows with their research. Stice, who double majored in politics and Russian, will work in the organization's Russian and Eurasian Program.

Because of Stice's experiences in Umatilla, he came to Willamette thinking he wanted to study local government. Instead, a newfound interest in the Russian language pushed him toward international politics, specifically the issue of civil societies and how people overcome problems using collective action.

He witnessed such action firsthand during his junior year, when he studied in Ukraine. He observed local protests as part of the Orange Revolution, a breakthrough for the country as a still-emerging democracy. Ukrainians took to the streets in response to corruption and electoral fraud during the country's 2004 presidential election. "They're a country in transition, so it's pretty shaky there," Stice says.

Stice dabbled in several politics-related groups while at Willamette. He helped start a student-led course this year, "Examining Progressive Values," where he and his classmates compare different progressive movements and try to find connections among the values of people involved in them.

He downplays the importance of his fellowship, calling it "not a big deal" and "just a job." But he can't ignore the exciting prospect that he'll be living in the nation's capital for a year, the perfect place for someone who dedicated his college -- and high school -- years to studying and being a part of government. "It's going to be a ridiculous amount of fun living there," he says, with a grin.