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Cristobal Mancillas ’16

political science

Hometown: Sacramento, California

Who I was when I got to Reed: I was a first-generation, low-socioeconomic-status Latino—awkward, but outgoing. To escape a stressful home situation, I focused on debate and similar afterschool activities to make contact with the people and resources I needed to find out about colleges.

Favorite class: Poli Sci 347, Mobilizing Poor Voters, informed my thesis because it’s on clientelism.

Influential book: All of Junot Diaz’s works, but particularly The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her.

Obstacles I overcame: I struggled every day to balance classes, multiple jobs, emergencies at home, and a social life. Though I often felt excluded because of my identities, I was incredibly lucky to find supportive staff members and peers who worked with me to find my own sense of belonging.

Outside the classroom: I was an extern at the Oregon Bar. Tutored Spanish and political science. Spent a great deal of time in the Multicultural Resource Center learning more about social justice and bonding with marginalized students. Played basketball. Rapped in a Reed band.

How Reed changed me: It made me more comfortable in my own skin and more confident pursuing my academic and personal interests. One reason I came here was to figure out what I wanted to do and what kind of life I wanted to live. I have a sense of purpose and am more able to authentically communicate my experience.

Thesis: Clientelism and Democratic Theory

What it’s about: Clientelism is a quid pro quo exchange of resources for political support. Most people associate it with corrupt machine politics like Tammany Hall in New York City or the Cook County Democrats in Chicago. But politics isn’t some abstract thing; for some people it’s a means of survival. I try to reunderstand the system and the unintended benefits of what people think of as political corruption.

What it’s really about: How can certain forms of political corruption contribute positively to democracy?

Financial aid: Reed has been supportive, particularly with financial aid and scholarships. I received the Fellowship for Winter International Travel, the McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Financial Services Fellowship, and the Bernard Goldhammer Grant for Research on Economics and Natural Resources.

Word to prospies: Professors are a phenomenal resource. At most institutions you can’t even get to a TA, but at Reed we have access to our professors. Engaging with them allows you to understand how they think, and what they want you to get out of the class. When they actually know you, it is easier to ask them for a letter of recommendation, and it’s powerful when a professor can say, “I’ve actually seen him do this in class.”

What’s next: I’m taking a gap year and studying for the LSAT. I’m passionate about politics and working on issues with people and eventually would like to be involved with community organizing, policy, law, and maybe even running for office.