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Kaden Bolton ’24 explored civics and public policy on campus and studying away in Oxford

Kaden Bolton ’24 explored civics and public policy on campus and studying away in Oxford

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Kaden Bolton smiles while standing with his arms crosssed. He's standing on PLU's cmpus with two black and gold PLU flag pole banners behind him.

Image: Kaden Bolton ’24 is a political science major from Enumclaw, Washington. (Photo by Sy Bean/PLU)

June 12, 2024
By Mark Storer
PLU Marketing & Communications Guest Writer

For the graduating class of 2024, freshman year was online and confined. So by the time fall came around for sophomore year, they embraced in-person classes, study groups, lunches, dinners, and more. That’s true at least for political science major Kaden Bolton ’24, who graduated summa cum laude in May.

“I didn’t really get to experience what PLU was like, or do a lot of the cool things the school offered, and was mainly doing everything on Zoom. So I forget a lot of my freshman year. It was mostly spent in my dorm,” Bolton says. “I wanted to make the most out of the next three years.” 

For Bolton, that meant taking advantage of PLU’s study away program. He went to Oxford, England three separate times – two spring semesters and a J-term. As a double major in political science and global studies with a concentration in international relations, Bolton felt that he wanted to dive in and start learning as much as he could about the world abroad. He even did an independent research project at Oxford.

“There’s a region there that they made a pedestrian-only zone,” says Bolton. “My research project was about the public’s reaction to that, and if that significantly affected their view of their city council and the political parties at play.” 

“My hypothesis was that the younger people would be happy with the policy and pleased with the pedestrian-only area, and that older people would be less happy with it. But what I found was that support for the policy was relatively stable throughout, and that in the youngest residents, between about 18 and 25, people were actually fairly skeptical of it and they felt that it was a way to placate the environmentalists who lobbied for it.” Bolton says the project helped understand how a local policy is seen by residents of an area.

Bolton is planning to do a master’s degree and, possibly, a PhD in international relations. When he does so, he’ll go back to Oxford, a place he felt part of.

When he wasn’t studying overseas, Bolton served as a resident assistant in the German wing of Hong Hall, the international dorm (he minored in German), and was an active member of the Associated Students of PLU. He also got involved in PLU’s Late Knight comedy show, which allowed him to practice public speaking. But diplomacy and international relations are still closest to his heart.

“I had Dr. Peter Grovesnor for five classes. That’s part of the small school environment that’s so great,” Bolton says. “I owe a lot of my understanding of international affairs and of the world to his classes.” Bolton also appreciates what he learned from several classes with Professor Maria Chavez and from his research project supervisor, Professor Michael Artime.

“The world has a lot of problems,” Bolton says. “I want to be part of the solution. I’m interested in a future working in foreign diplomacy.” He cares a lot about the Pacific Northwest, and wants to work, for a time, locally and regionally. Bolton grew up in Enumclaw, and currently lives off campus in Parkland.

Part of PLU’s allure for Bolton was the emphasis on civil discourse. He cited a debate about the issue of a universal basic income that featured members of the Pierce County and Tacoma city councils. 

“It was great, because it was engaging with the greater Parkland and Tacoma communities, and it allowed students to talk about something in a way that was respectful, even though not everyone in the room agreed.” 

The experience wasn’t lost on Bolton, and he plans to make use of it.