Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Kate Hilts ’16

environmental studies - political science

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Who I was when I got to Reed: A nervous, cynical, aspiring intellectual and newfound vegan, I was eager to escape to Reed, explore Portland, and be surrounded by interesting, intellectual people. (But most of all I was just nervous.)

Influential book: We read Weighing In by Julie Guthman in my political science class on food policy. It changed the way I think about politics, food, and socioeconomic status.

A concept that blew my mind: It only takes one connection to make things happen. During Working Weekend an alumnus told me that Ali Nouri ’97, legislative director and foreign policy advisor for Senator Al Franken, would be at the reception. Ali left the reception before I got there, but he asked the alum to pass along his business card. We chatted by phone and Ali said, “If you’re thinking about applying for anything on Capitol Hill, send me your résumé and I’ll send it over.”

Outside the classroom: I won a Fellowship for Winter International Travel and went to Madagascar to photograph endangered species, tutored at a low-income housing project, played one of the leads in Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, and allocated more than $100,000 as a student senator.

Obstacles I overcame: I used to worry that I couldn’t finish everything. Reed can feel really overwhelming at times, but no daunting list of tasks or large amount of work could intimidate me now.

How Reed changed me: Two characteristics I developed at Reed were progressive, activist politics and an ability to work really hard and get things done. I also enjoyed being part of a community of really progressive students that are radically inclusive. When I speak now, I always think about whether what I’m saying is inclusive or could be alienating to anyone in the room.

Thesis: “Last Best Chance”: The Significance of Linguistic Frames in (Non-)Passage of Congressional Climate Change Legislation

What it’s about: Congressional legislation on climate change doesn’t pass, and the available explanations in political science are often insufficient to fill that gap. I’m advancing the theory that the linguistic frames used to describe bills can affect the fate of those bills.

What it’s really about: The use of coded words doomed some really important climate legislation.

Financial aid: I’m intensely grateful for the financial aid I received from Reed.

Word to prospies: Being on student senate not only allowed me to engage with the community and work on things that will shape it for years to come, I can now go into an interview in D.C. and say “I know the Violence Against Women Act like the back of my hand, because I had to write that into our campus sexual assault policy, and not only that, but I also had to work with faculty to get them to vote yes on it, which accesses a lot of skills, like persistence, how to meet people at their level and explain cogently why this thing matters.”

What’s next: I’m doing a summer internship in the United States Senate.

 

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