Navigating the political sphere is a challenging task and can be especially tricky for people of faith. How do Christians make a difference in a sector where faith is supposed to be left at home? For Redeemer students interested in work in politics, gaining hands-on experience by studying in Ottawa and interning alongside Parliament Hill politicos is invaluable.
Daniel Zekveld a fourth-year student majoring in international relations, has ambitions to eventually work for a political NGO or not-for-profit. Through his education, he is preparing to bring his Christian faith perspective to the public square. This past fall, he had the opportunity to take part in Trinity Western University’s Laurentian Leadership Centre (LLC) program.
A semester at the LLC consists of three courses, an internship and on-site living at a historic mansion in Ottawa. Zekveld took courses in Canadian government leadership, ethics and public affairs and public policy and cultural change while also completing an internship. He interned with the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA), where he got a taste of the multifaceted operations at a political NGO, from attending lobbying meetings and summarizing documents to helping to create promotional videos. Zekveld also had the opportunity to work in an MP’s office, completing data entry and research.
Zekveld was well-prepared to participate at the LLC. “My international relations major from Redeemer and my experience at the LLC fully complement each other,” he noted. “My experience at the LLC has helped me to understand various parts of my education to a fuller extent. My classes at Redeemer have helped me to excel at the LLC: in class work, in class discussion and in my internship tasks.”
Studies and work through the LLC have helped Zekveld to discern how he can be active in politics while also holding fast to his Christian faith. “There are a lot of Christians who indicate that it’s hard to be effective as a Christian in the public square. Before coming here, I sometimes had the impression that, in general, politicians cared less about their faith,” he reflected. “While this may be true with some, I have met and heard about many serious Christians who are involved in the public square.”
Zekveld has also earned credits towards his degree and a certificate in leadership and applied public affairs. He also left the LLC with a renewed hope that he will bring with him as he enters the workforce. “This experience has helped to restore my faith in our political system and helped me to see that change is possible. Change can be made through ordinary people by God’s grace.”
Johanna Wolfert, a fellow fourth-year international relations major and LLC participant, has her sights set on graduate school while remaining open to where God is directing her life. The defining characteristic of her experience in Ottawa was the opportunity to learn from different perspectives, which challenged her to grow intellectually and spiritually. “Perhaps most importantly,” she summed, “moving in with a group of strangers and living in a new city forced me out of my comfort zone, stretching me in a unique way and helping me grow.”
Her classes also offered an opportunity to grow. “Not only have my LLC classes built and expanded on the material I learned during my years at Redeemer,” she continued, “they’ve challenged me to re-examine what I know from a different angle.” Interning at an MP’s office, she tackled speechwriting, constituency communications and committee work. She also had the opportunity to research religious freedom issues at both domestic and international levels.
As a part of the LLC classes, Wolfert and her classmates went on field trips in Ottawa, attending a Supreme Court hearing and visiting the Cardus office to learn about the history of Christian social thought. “Every day at the mansion brought new opportunities to challenge and encourage each other,” Wolfert said. “We also spent a lot of time in our classes wrestling together with how to live out our faith in the public sphere.”
Experiential learning is an essential part of the Redeemer experience, which is why the university facilitates a variety of co-op, internship and off-campus study opportunities for students. Wolfert and Zekveld’s experiences studying in Ottawa with the Laurentian Leadership Centre are a testament to the value of off-campus study. “I would highly recommend this program to anyone,” Wolfert concluded. “The internship, classes and community life experiences are extremely valuable for any discipline — I had classmates in business, international studies and sociology. And if you’re a student with a particular interest in politics, the LLC in an opportunity you don’t want to pass up!”