Majoring in political science, with the accent on science
"Policy decisions don't have to emanate from the legislature, but can start in the laboratory," Marc Fialkoff wrote in his successful application for Mellon Foundation funding to develop greener practices for organic chemistry labs on campus.
The grant — obtained through Gettysburg College's extensive undergraduate research program — enabled Fialkoff to spend the summer collaborating with faculty members to refine experimental procedures. His goal of reducing waste and recovering solvents and reagents is a perfect example of Gettysburg's commitment to sustainability.
By combining political science with a minor in chemistry, Fialkoff said, "I have begun to understand the uneasy relationship between science and government. With this Mellon grant, I hope to take the first step in becoming a more educated future policymaker."
He is also learning from a great policymaker of the past. As one of the undergraduate fellows chosen annually by Gettysburg College's Eisenhower Institute, he lives in a house formerly occupied by Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became a trustee of Gettysburg College following his presidency. Fialkoff — a member of the Class of 2010 from Setauket, N.Y. — and his colleagues are responsible for selecting, developing, and promoting a public policy theme with programming at the Institute's locations in both Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.
"The Institute is a great bridge between political science and science," he said, pointing to this year's themes, which include "The Future of Space" and "Safeguarding the Atom."
By focusing on environmental issues such as pesticide use, a first-year course called Fundamental Chemistry: Down on the Farm sharpened Fialkoff's awareness of the link between chemistry and policy. He has continued to recognize connections across Gettysburg's liberal arts curriculum. For example, he addressed scientific topics in an English course on Writing the Public Essay and confronted policy's human impact in a philosophy course on Contemporary Moral Issues."
Working closely with faculty members has also been a constant of his Gettysburg experience, from serving as an editorial assistant for an Africana studies professor to helping a chemistry professor prepare a forensic crime scene simulation as part of an outreach program for local elementary students. He also served as a teaching assistant in a first-year political science seminar and a course on constitutional law.
"When I came to Gettysburg, I thought I would just do political science and keep my head down," Fialkoff said, "but I've definitely grown since then."