The 2016 presidential election is a year away and politics are starting to heat up. Two Northwestern alumni have taken their talents and passions to the political arena.
Megan Dieken graduated in 2014 and is now the Northwest Iowa Field Director for Republican Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. Taylor Hoekstra, a 2013 graduate, is a Constituent Services Representative for US Senator John Thune.
Dieken is in charge of connecting people in the fourth district of Iowa to those on the presidential level.
Dieken never expected to work in politics, much less a presidential campaign.
“I was a typical millennial that didn’t care about politics… I did not know how to get involved even if I wanted to,” Dieken said.
Dieken became aware of Carson’s campaign through a YouTube video recommended by her father. The video was of keynote speaker Ben Carson at the National Prayer Breakfast.
“I really liked his speech because he was polite and respectful,” Dieken said. “It was so refreshing to see as I always thought all politicians were corrupt.”
After reading and watching more videos of Carson, Dieken volunteered for the draft campaign. The draft campaign traveled around the United Sates looking for signatures to show that Carson had enough support from voters.
During the draft campaign, Dieken met a woman named Megan who was able to teach Dieken many different aspects of politics.
“After, my husband and I moved to Sheldon, Megan called and said that she possibly had a job for the campaign,” Dieken said. “She asked if I wanted to be the representative in Iowa.
At the time Dieken was working as a personal trainer in Sioux Center, but decided to quit to take on the new opportunity.
“I decided to take the job, and it’s been worth it every step of the way,” Dieken said. “It’s such an incredible learning experience getting to see the race first hand.”
She believes that her time at NW helped prepare her for the work she is doing now, even though she is not using her major.
“The exercise science program is fairly rigorous,” Dieken said. “I was forced to study and be disciplined. You are forced to work hard and be in group projects that you do not want to be in. All of this has prepared me for life. I am not using my degree but the social, study, and people skills I learned have helped a lot.”
Taylor Hoekstra, a 2013 graduate has also begun a career with politics as a Constituent Services Representative.
“Two or three weeks away from (beginning) law school, I was contacted by a member of Senator John Thune’s staff,” Hoekstra said. “The next week I sat down for lunch with the senator, and two days later I had an office. I haven’t looked back.”
Hoekstra juggles many tasks throughout the day, from picking up or dropping off Senator Thune at the airport to making sure that he is always on time to events in South Dakota.
“I work to maintain that the small, behind-the-scenes activities are in check,” Hoekstra said. “This was he does not have to focus time, energy, or resources on things that can be accomplished and prepared by a staffer.”
Another main responsibility Hoekstra holds is to coordinate outreach for a large portion of SD.
“I attend anything from chamber meetings to country lunches… local rotaries to presidential visits,” he said. “It is my role to be the eyes and ears across parts of South Dakota for our office while representing the senator.”
Hoekstra also feels as if NW has helped prepare him for his current position.
“NW’s well rounded approach helped me immensely,” Hoekstra said. “Whether it was a public speaking gen-ed, critically thinking in stats/calculus with Westenberg and Jongerius, developing learning relationships with all the intensely intelligent business profs, or extracurricular activities.”
Hoekstra does not have plans to run for office in the future, but the possibility does remain.
“If the Lord continues to open doors into politics, I am not one to close a door without completely exhausting the possibilities,” Hoekstra said. “That being said, I currently am not making any plans to run for a political office at this time.”
Dieken encourages students to learn more about candidates so they can formulate their own opinions about politicians.
“Be an informed voter,” Dieken said. “If there are presidential candidates in your area go see them. You might learn something from them even if you do not agree with them. Come to your own conclusion about candidates based on facts and what they have done.”