Three years ago, the future seemed pretty straightforward to David Wemer ‘14. As a first-year student at Gettysburg College, he planned to focus his studies on American history, go on to earn a Ph.D. in the field, and come back to teach as a professor. Now that he is more than halfway through his college career, his path has changed.
Wemer has yet to take a class on the Civil War, but is active in theatre productions, serves as an undergraduate fellow in the Eisenhower Institute, and is learning Russian in preparation for a study abroad experience in St. Petersburg. Instead of working toward becoming a professor, he hopes to pursue a career in foreign politics, and has used his time at Gettysburg to learn more about global issues.
Pursuing a passion for international politics
Last year, Wemer was selected for the Mellon Summer Scholars Program, a program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that allows selected students to complete faculty-mentored summer research. Wemer, who is majoring in history, conducted research on the shift in Ukraine-Poland relations from World War II to the present day. History Prof. William Bowman served as his mentor for the project.
“I set myself a pretty demanding schedule,” Wemer said. “I finished the summer having completed a 60-page draft of the article.”
Wemer had never taken on such an extensive research project before, but the experience proved successful and his abstract has since been accepted by the Council on Undergraduate Research. While working on this project by day, he was also teaching himself Russian in the evenings, in preparation for an intensive six-week program at the St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University next summer. He hopes to visit other countries in the region during this time and is especially looking forward to a class he will take on Russian politics.
Wemer’s interest in foreign politics developed after taking several classes within the history department during his first two years at Gettysburg College. His academic focus started out in Eastern Europe and has since broadened to include nations in Asia and Europe within a contemporary context. He has appreciated the opportunity to explore other academic areas, such as economics, political science, and theatre, thanks to the College’s liberal arts approach.
Integrating outside involvements
Outside of the classroom, Wemer is an undergraduate fellow at the Eisenhower Institute (EI), where he has worked as an office assistant since his first year at Gettyburg.
“In my second week as a first-year, I met with former Governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh through an event sponsored by the Eisenhower Institute,” Wemer said. “That’s what initially drew me in, and since then, I’ve been able to meet with and develop relationships with so many amazing people.”
Since joining the EI staff as a first-year student, he has participated in two semester-long programs—Inside Politics and Strategy and Leadership in Transformational Times (SALTT)—and collaborated with seven other undergraduate fellows to coordinate the institute’s fall programming. Last semester, Wemer worked with Rose Kane ’13 to organize two presentations on the role of religion in the 2012 presidential election.
As he prepares to complete his junior year of college, Wemer is excited for what the future holds. Besides working for the Eisenhower Institute, he plans to remain active in extracurricular groups such as Gettysburg Student Musical Theatre (Gburg SMuT), a student-organized group that puts on a full scale musical every other year in addition to several smaller productions each semester. He currently serves as the vice president of the Owl & Nightingale Players and participates in four or five shows each semester.
“[Theatre] is a big time commitment, but it’s a hobby that I really enjoy,” said Wemer. “I like how it’s so separate from EI and my major. It’s great to do something completely different.”
After graduation, he hopes to attend graduate school for diplomacy and begin a career in foreign politics. But as Wemer has discovered in his time at Gettysburg College, his plans could change, and he is prepared for that.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Article by: Liz Williams '13, communications & marketing intern
Contact: Nikki Rhoads, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803
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