By Helen Smith '19
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, WASH. (May 15, 2018) — Riley Dolan ’19 never intended to go into political science in college. That changed after coming to Pacific Lutheran University.
His time volunteering for LuteVote through ASPLU, the university’s student government body, and Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign inspired Dolan to pursue politics at PLU. Although Dolan may not currently have all the answers, he’s excited to start working on finding solutions to the world’s problems.
“I don’t know exactly how to solve these problems,” Dolan said, “but I know there are problems, and I want to be a voice for change.”
This summer Dolan will attend the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute held at Carnegie Mellon University. He will take four courses, starting June 14, in public policy and international affairs. The program spans seven weeks, wrapping up in early August. Dolan and 20 other program participants also will take a trip to Washington, D.C., and prepare for graduate school.
“I’m excited to go to Washington, D.C.,” Dolan said. “I’ve never been to D.C. before.”
Carnegie Mellon’s focus for the program is to bring together underrepresented voices in public policy. To be admitted, Dolan had to write an essay detailing how his voice would contribute to the program. Dolan talked about how his low-income background posed difficulties for him in college, and how he wants to advocate for lower-income voices.
“In the university and when I studied away I didn’t really see other people with the same background as myself,” Dolan said. “I really would like to bring that voice to this program and just in general in my life and kind of advocate for people from low-income backgrounds and who come from a low-income community.”
During Dolan’s other summer programs and study away experiences, he realized how much class was a barrier for low-income students. The public policy institute is fully subsidized — with students’ tuition, boarding, food and transportation covered — along with a monthly stipend for participants.
“I’m a huge advocate for trying to demonstrate that programs like these are possible. It’s not just people at Ivy League schools that are able to do things like this.”
– Riley Dolan ’19
“That they’ll be providing for all the summer expenses really makes it accessible for lower-income individuals since it’s really hard for people to not have to work over the summer,” Dolan said. “It’s really generous of the program and hopefully that will mean there will be more lower-income students there.”
So far in his ASPLU career as civic engagement director, Dolan already advocates for low-income students. Recently he and his ASPLU colleagues talked to state legislators about Washington’s State Need Grant. Dolan received the grant his first year at PLU, but wasn’t offered the funding the following school year. Dolan helped convince the Legislature to fund the grant so an additional 5,000 students will receive it for the next school year.
“I was able to feel the effects of losing financial aid,” Dolan said. “I received other scholarships to make up for that, but a lot of people aren’t that lucky and that means that they don’t get to continue their education and I think that’s terrible.”
As far as Dolan’s continuing education, Carnegie Mellon has that covered. Upon successfully completing the summer program, Riley will be offered admission to Carnegie Mellon’s graduate school of public policy with a full-ride scholarship.
“It was hard enough for undergrad trying to find ways to fund my education, let alone graduate school,” Dolan said. “I haven’t even been thinking about it really because I wanted to finish undergrad. But I knew that it would be tough, so to already be admitted with a full ride — it’s a very calming feeling to have.”
Dolan also is excited to share opportunities with his fellow Lutes. Dolan made a list of summer fellowships and opportunities that he’s happy to share with other students. He’s eager to help his peers who are looking to apply to programs like the one he’s attending at Carnegie Mellon.
“I’m a huge advocate for trying to demonstrate that programs like these are possible,” Dolan said. “It’s not just people at Ivy League schools that are able to do things like this.”