Alumni find passions in the statehouse

<p>The Indiana Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis. <strong>Eric Pritchett, DN</strong></p>

The Indiana Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis. Eric Pritchett, DN

Many Ball State alumni have turned their passion for politics into a dedicated livelihood.  

While working in a tedious field, employees find that each day is somewhat like a new adventure, no single day is similar to the next. 

“Every day is different,” Jeff Papa, Chief of Staff and General Counsel, said. “If the Senate is in session, it involves all of the steps necessary for session to occur, policy, meetings, legislation and amendments, public postings, constituent assistance, and all of the other mechanics of lawmaking. Every day it involves personnel issues, constituent assistance, legal matters, Senate budget and spending oversight, interaction with the public, agencies, lawmakers, other branches of government, policy discussions, planning for Interim committees and the next legislative session, and many other considerations.  Each day is very different and changes minute to minute based on what priorities arise.”

Senate Republican Chief of Staff Jeff Papa. Kellyn Harrison, Indiana State Senate Press Secretary, photo provided

Organization and creativity is key when holding positions in the Statehouse, especially when in session. Although employees have certain primary duties to uphold, they also have different side tasks they have to perform as well.  

For example, Stuart Purcell’s primary duties are to pertain to healthcare benefits, the Senate’s payroll and payable or receivable accounts. But when in session, he also serves as the reading clerk for the Senate, which can be extremely time consuming. Without proper structuring, the work could potentially be very taxing. 

“It’s stressful at times, especially during session,” Kristen Gorksi, Digital Communications Specialist and Press Secretary for the Senate, said. “We have a lot of requests come in when all the senators are at the Statehouse all the time. For example, there was a session year that I had to make five videos, and those five videos all had to go out in the course of a month. So, it was very stressful to get that together.” 

But even when times get tough, there’s always going to be a bright side. When eager and interested people work together on something they’re passionate about, a support system builds with the time spent. Employees are able to create core memories with their coworkers, as well as their community. 

“The best part of my position is watching the crafting of legislation from the inside of our agency,” Purcell said.” We have the ability to transform an idea that comes to us from a member of the public into a law that can improve the lives of over 6 million people. I've been here 11 years, watched it happen hundreds of times and each time I'm reminded of how unique this is in the world and how lucky we are to be here.” 

These successful individuals got their kickstart at Ball State University, applying what they learned into the community today. 

“Attending Ball State was fantastic,” Papa said. “I completed a master's degree in Applied Business Economics and was also a Graduate Assistant and a Teaching Assistant during my time at BSU. The professors were outstanding, and the campus was just the right size. It really felt like Ball State was a community, not a place that just counted you as a number. I use the education in applied economics and policy issues that I received at Ball State nearly every day, both in my work and in the nonprofit field.  It certainly prepared me to co-found YETI, which built and funds an orphanage in Nepal. I was also able to participate in a work abroad business experience in Korea via BSU, which also helped prepare me for this type of work.” 

Senate Republican Press Secretary Kristen Gorski. Kellyn Harrison, Indiana State Senate Press Secretary, photo provided

The Statehouse provides numerous opportunities for young students to pursue their ambitions in the political atmosphere.  

 “If you’re right out of college or you’re looking for an internship within college, the intern program [Indiana House Democratic Caucus or Indiana Senate Republicans] is an amazing place to start,” Gorksi said. “It allows you to get your face out there and meet all the people you need to meet and just really see how the entire process is made.”

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