Department of Political Science

OU influence at the State Capitol never stronger

Student interns learn about politics in Lansing as a record number of OU alumni serve in the Michigan Legislature

icon of a calendarAugust 7, 2019

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OU influence at the State Capitol never stronger
OU students, alumni in Michigan Legislature
OU student Gustaf Vanderndonck (right) has been working in Lansing this summer as an intern for Sen. Jim Runestad. (Photo courtesy Gustaf Vanderndonck)

Three Oakland University Political Science students — Timothy Kandow, Andrew Sebra, and Gustaf Vanderndonck — have been spending their summer getting hands-on experience working in the Michigan Senate.

“There are only 38 state senators, so OU is very well representing by being in three of them,” said Political Science Professor David Dulio. “We believe that these opportunities provide students not only with experience in the field of politics, but help them develop greater awareness of important issues that confront our state.

“In addition, they are able to build their networks so after graduation they have a built-in group of contacts to assist in starting a career. We are very grateful to Senators (Peter) Lucido, (Lana) Theis, and (Jim) Runestad) for giving our students this great opportunity.”

For Vanderndonck, working with Sen. Runestad in the Michigan Senate has been a “life-changing experience.” As an intern, he has been working on various legislative and research projects, including legislation to require background checks for student teachers, as well as contacting state executive departments, entering data and writing letters responding to constituent concerns.

“I have always been interested in history and how our political system works, so this internship sparked my interest,” Vanderndonck said. “I thought my path in college was to become a teacher, but now I’m interested in a career in politics and plan to pursue a law degree.”

He isn’t alone. Several OU alumni have gone on to pursue successful careers in politics, including: Sen. Lucido (R-Shelby Township), Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Sterling Heights), Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly), Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), Rep. Sheryl Kennedy (D-Davison), and Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights). Together, they represent the greatest number of OU alumni serving in the Michigan Legislature, at the same time, in the university’s history.

“We are so pleased to have six Oakland University alumni and graduates serving in the 100th session of the Michigan Legislature,” said Rochelle Black, vice president for Government and Community Relations at Oakland. “They evenly represent both major parties, male and female and serve in both chambers. This is a major milestone and something that they and we can all be proud of.”

Erin Sudrovech, director of Alumni Engagement for Oakland University, agreed.

“Approximately 75 percent of our alumni base stays in Michigan, so it’s wonderful to see that we are increasingly well represented within state government,” she said.

For Vanderndonck, working in the Michigan Legislature has been “an honor” and “very fun.”

“On top of that, it’s a great way to start a career in law or politics,” he said. “The people you meet and work with are truly the best of the state.”

Vanderndonck credited Oakland University’s Political Science Department with preparing him for his role with the Michigan Legislature.

“The professors I have worked with, namely Professor Dulio and Professor (Diane) Hartmus, have allowed me to garner interest in the issues I face every day in this internship,” he said. “Without these people I doubt I would be as successful in the role I’m in right now.”

To learn more about OU’s Political Science Department, visit


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