Making Politics Personal

Two men posing in a book-lined office
Kyle Fradkin ’11, left, chose a career in public policy to make a difference in the world, thanks to his UC Davis mentor, Professor Ethan Scheiner. Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo

The lessons learned best are often the ones that affect us personally. 

Alumnus Kyle Fradkin graduated in 2011, but he still remembers a particular political science assignment where his actions had the potential to impact not only his grade, but those of his classmates.

“Professor Ethan Scheiner asked us to devise our own electoral system to determine when to hold our midterm,” Fradkin recalls. “We picked a type of voting system, argued our positions and ultimately decided our own fate.”

Professor put him at ease 

Fradkin also recalls his political science professor’s warmth and friendly nature, which immediately put him at ease when he started his first quarter as a freshman. 

“Professor Scheiner knew your name, even in a class of 200,” Fradkin says. “He was excited about taking his class on a journey, to help us develop an awareness of what was happening in the world around us.”

And, from this, Fradkin found a mentor.

Degree in political science

The Los Angeles native took three more of his mentor’s classes before graduating with a degree in political science and a minor in history. He says Scheiner opened his eyes to the workings of elections, the rules used to govern them throughout the world and their effects on society. 

He cites Scheiner’s mentorship and candor as instrumental in his decision to pursue a career in public policy. 

After graduating from law school, Fradkin joined the Bay Area offices of political advocacy organization J Street, based in Washington, D.C. As northwest regional associate, he researches political candidates, builds relationships with local community leaders and tracks media coverage. 

Making a difference in the world 

“Professor Scheiner's courses made me realize that I could work in politics and make a difference in the world,” Fradkin says. “I feel like I get the privilege of doing that every day at J Street.”

Scheiner, who also serves as the undergraduate director of international relations for the political science department, says training students to think critically and then supporting them to be socially and politically responsible are a critical part of his job.

“My aim is to nudge students to define the political issues that matter most to them, and then encourage them to figure out the best way to get involved,” he says. 

“Former students like Kyle give me a feeling of pride in what we are achieving at UC Davis."



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