U grad student becomes state representative

By and

Hundreds of students study politics and government, but one U graduate student is learning those subjects from more than just textbooks.

Jennifer Seelig, a doctoral candidate in political science, was sworn in as the new state representative for the Utah Legislature’s 23rd District after Rep. Duane Bourdeaux resigned in March.

Seelig said she has always been community-minded, and serving as a representative provides her with a unique opportunity to put what she studies in class into practice.

“To understand government you’ve got to do it,” Seelig said. “Government isn’t about theory, but about doing, and I believe this experience can only help me with my research.”

Seelig passed her doctoral competency exams in December and is taking time off school to develop her dissertation question, which is going to focus on community participation in democracy.

“Community participation is important because it relates to accountability in government,” Seelig said in a written statement. “But we also need to make sure that as a community and state we have a wellspring of leadership who will come forward in the future, and people who are excited to do so.”

While her time in the Legislature has been short, Seelig says serving as a representative has been positive so far.

“I’ve gotten to talk to really interesting people, and everyone has been very welcoming,” she said.

She would like to focus on education, public safety and community participation this term.

“When community members participate, government is no longer intimidating; and when people participate and have access in government, they speak up, and everyone benefits,” she said.

Seelig’s district includes Poplar Grove, Jordan Meadows and Rose Park.

“This place is more than just a place to go after school or work. This is where people live their lives, and I’ve found a real community,” she said.

Seelig is extremely active in the community and already knows many of the sitting legislators, Bourdeaux said in a written statement.

“I’ve known her personally for a number of years, and I’ve been very impressed with her professional and political work in the past,” he said.

Seelig was sworn in May 17 to serve for the remainder of Bourdeaux’s term, but she has been running her campaign for the Legislature since December, and says she plans to run for the seat in the upcoming fall elections.