Jessica Kergo is nothing if not persistent.
The honors political science major applied three times for an internship with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican who is as popular with Democrats as among members of his own party.
The third time was the charm.
During fall semester of her junior year, Kergo worked two days a week in Baker’s constituent services office, answering phones, accepting petitions and listening to people who came in looking for help or to advocate for a cause.
“I loved working at the Statehouse,” she says. “It felt like a dream.”
Kergo, who is minoring in journalism and professional writing and also taking courses in digital media, is interested in a career in political communication and public opinion. She describes herself as a libertarian who believes in free markets, minimal regulation and social tolerance.
Kergo has found great opportunities to put her growing knowledge to use, both on and off campus. As a reporter for the student newspaper, The Connector, Kergo says she’s learned to balance her personal beliefs with open-minded inquiry, while practicing clear communication.
“The Connector has me looking at the university through a different lens, meeting people I wouldn’t have met otherwise and going to events I wouldn’t have gone to,” she says.
Kergo is also a passionate advocate for ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. She served as president of Active Minds, a student club, for two years, and she also works with CAPE, Campus Advocates for Prevention Education, a peer education group focused on preventing suicide and sexual assault.
“Mental and emotional illness is so common and such a big issue, but the people struggling with it still tend to feel so alone because it’s so stigmatized that no one wants to talk about it,” she says.
Originally a criminal justice major, Kergo switched to political science after taking Assoc. Prof. John Cluverius’s Introduction to American Politics class. Cluverius then recommended her for a position as a field representative on U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s 2016 re-election campaign in New Hampshire. Ayotte, a Republican, lost by a few hundred votes, but Kergo said campaigning was a great experience.
In January 2017, Kergo traveled to the nation’s capital for a two-week program on the transition of power that culminated in attendance at Donald Trump’s inauguration as president. The program was offered through the university’s partnership with The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, and Kergo and the other students who attended got financial support from the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
As a rising senior, Kergo is working in the communications department of an Albany, N.Y., think tank, the Empire Center for Public Policy. She is being paid a stipend by the Charles Koch Institute under its nonprofit internships program.
“There’s an emphasis on real-world experience at UMass Lowell. Those opportunities are what drew me here,” Kergo says. “We’re not just learning in the classroom. We’re encouraged to go out and experience the things we’re planning to do, and the faculty are so supportive of that.”