Alumni of Gustavus Adolphus College have a long tradition of involvement in Minnesota politics that dates back to the late 19th century when 1895 graduate Adolph Olson Eberhart served as governor of the state. Other alumni of Gustavus to serve as Governor of Minnesota include Luther Youngdahl ’19 and Harold LeVander ’32.
More recently, several alumni have had distinguished careers in the state legislature. Mindy Greiling ’70 retired from the legislature in 2012 after serving for 20 years in the state House, where she focused much of her efforts on education and mental health reform. Margaret Anderson Kelliher ’90 served for 12 years (1999-2011) in the state House – a stint that included four years (2007-2011) as Speaker of the House. In 2010, Anderson Kelliher became the first woman to earn a major-party endorsement for a gubernatorial election in Minnesota. David Hann ’73 was reelected to a fourth term in the Minnesota Senate in November of 2012 and was subsequently selected to serve as the Senate Minority Leader for the Republican Party for the current biennium.
Continuing this Gustavus tradition of service – one of the College’s five core values – are more recent alumni who are working their way up the political ladder, determined to become tomorrow’s leaders.
Working to Elect Women
Some students come to Gustavus with a clear career path already in mind, while others are influenced by a class they take or a faculty member they develop a relationship with early on during their four years on the hill. Meagan Bachmayer ’08 says that Associate Professor of Political Science Alisa Rosenthal inspired her to major in political science and set her on her career path.
“I had always been very interested in government, advocacy, and international relations. I took Intro to Political and Legal Thinking my freshman year with Alisa and shortly thereafter declared my major and asked her to me my advisor,” Bachmayer said. “I appreciated that Alisa asked a lot of us as her students, really encouraged us to think critically, and had a creative teaching style. She also took an interest in her students outside of the classroom and I would often find myself in her office after class just talking about how life was going in general.”
Bachmayer is currently the Marketing and Development Director at Women Winning, a political action committee that seeks to encourage, promote, and support pro-choice women’s leadership in all political parties and levels of public office.
“At Women Winning, we work to elect more women to all levels of office, from park board to President of the United States, in Minnesota,” Bachmayer said. “Women make up more than 50 percent of our population, but only 20 percent of the U.S. Senate and 33 percent of our state legislature here in Minnesota. Ensuring that women and other underrepresented groups in our society have the same access to and protection under the law is a core value for me.”
Bachmayer’s path to her current job with Women Winning started with a unique opportunity while she was still a student at Gustavus.
“Attending Gustavus was one of the best things I did for my professional career. I felt very encouraged to explore internships to learn about what it was like to work in the field I was majoring in,” Bachmayer said. “When I learned that Professor Terry Morrow was running for the Minnesota legislature, I knocked on his door, asked if he needed any help with his campaign, and off I went exploring what a career in politics could be like.”
Morrow’s successful campaign back in 2006 led Bachmayer to other internship opportunities in the congressional office of Tim Walz and at the Minnesota House of Representatives. After earning her degree at Gustavus, Bachmayer took a job as a field organizer in south central Minnesota for two State House candidates’ campaigns. Following that election, she worked as a legislative assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives.
“I had the wonderful opportunity to work for such a great group of legislators during my tenure at the capitol including Terry Morrow, Marsha Swails, Rich Hensen, Will Morgan, and the leadership team of Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Majority Leader Tony Sertich,” Bachmayer said. “I learned so much during the two years that I spent at the capitol, both about the political process and public policy, but also how to be successful as a professional in my field.”
Psychology Major to Politics
Unlike Bachmayer, 2009 graduate Kaleb Rumicho – a staff assistant for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar – did not major in political science at Gustavus. Instead, Rumicho settled on a psychology major with a political science minor.
“I ultimately chose psychology because it is a fascinating science concerned with the study of human mind, behavior, and what dictates it,” Rumicho said. “It has a broad range of real world applications in everyday life, ranging from stress, health, personal development, and social interaction. Therefore, I believed this would keep my career prospects wide open and would come in handy no matter what I decided to do.”
After graduation, Rumicho spent two years at St. John’s Preparatory School in a residential life position, but also taught a U.S. government and politics course at the school. After a short stint as a policy associate at the think tank Minnesota 2020, Rumicho signed on to help with Senator Klobuchar’s reelection campaign in October 2011. In January of 2012 he was offered a full-time position in the Senator’s Minneapolis office.
In his current position, Rumicho works with constituents on a daily basis by listening to their concerns, taking their suggestions on policy, answering their questions on various issues, and helping them navigate the federal bureaucracy. Rumicho is also involved in some immigration casework.
Like Bachmayer, Rumicho credits his Gustavus education for putting him in a position to create a career path that fits his interests, passions, and goals.
“I immensely enjoyed my four years at Gustavus. I met a lot of amazing people, made many great friends, and learned and benefitted from the rigorous courses offered,” Rumicho said. “Many of my professors were instrumental in not only teaching me the subject matter, but also in helping me to think outside the box, to be open minded, to think critically, and making me realize that learning does not stop at the end of class.”
“I was very fortunate to have professors Jennifer Ackil and Kate Knutson as my psychology and political science advisors, respectively,” he said. “They were phenomenal advisors. They helped guide me and provided the necessary support for me to be a successful person. Professor Knutson’s U.S. Government and Politics class was the first time I truly thought about working in politics.”
Mixing Politics and Agriculture
Amber Hanson ’10 was born and raised on a corn and soybean farm in the small town of Grand Meadow, south of Rochester in rural Mower County. She says the people, the quality of academics, and the College’s many storied traditions were the factors that drew her to Gustavus.
“It seems so cliché to say that it just felt right, but it really did,” Hanson said. “My four years at Gustavus were life changing. I was able to grow academically, not only in the breadth of topics and knowledge, but it also challenged my way of thinking and how I see the world.”
Today, Hanson is using her degrees in political science and communication studies to help shape state and national agricultural policy as the Associate Director of Public Policy for the Minnesota Farm Bureau. She splits time in Minnesota and Washington D.C., follows different legislative and regulatory issues involving agriculture and rural Minnesota, and builds and maintains relationships with government contacts, offices, and agencies, as well as Minnesota farmers.
“Being able to be a voice for farmers in the political arena has been my dream job for as long as I can remember because it mixes two of my biggest passions – politics and agriculture,” Hanson said. “Lobbyists tend to get a bad name because of the stereotypes of the profession, however, I find it to be incredibly rewarding. I am able to develop relationships with people from across the spectrum – from my farmers to members of Congress and their staff. Working on an issue for months and seeing something change for the better is a very rewarding feeling.”
Hanson received a strong introduction to the political process when she completed a summer internship in 2008 in then-Senator Norm Coleman’s St. Paul office. She spent time working with Coleman’s agriculture, energy, housing, and education staff and also assisted with constituent work such as phone calls and letter writing.
“That internship helped me to understand how a congressional office really works, who the key players are, and how things actually get done, which has all been valuable in my time as a lobbyist,” Hanson said. “This furthered my respect for congressional staff, and really helped me to realize that I like being on the issue side of politics.”
Hanson says that two professors in the political science department at Gustavus were and continue to be important mentors for her today.
“Professor Richard Leitch was my advisor and he was really the first professor to challenge me and make me grow outside of just my academics,” Hanson said. “He encouraged me to study abroad, which completely changed my life and the attitude which I face our global community. He also discovered my passion for agricultural politics. He has helped me get to where I am because he invested the time in me in order to find and encourage my passions in life.”
Professor Chris Gilbert was Hanson’s senior thesis advisor and is another faculty member who Hanson views as a mentor.
“Even now after graduation I am able to keep in touch with him and develop that relationship that I know I can always go to him for words of wisdom in this very crazy industry,” Hanson said. “Now that I am in graduate school, I look back at the relationships I was able to develop with my professors at Gustavus and realize that you don’t get that at every school. I am so thankful I was able to find mentors in my professors who take a genuine interest in their students.”