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Political Science

Written by Anna Christensen ('23).

In the year of COVID, each student within Honors has been challenged to find ways to be engaged with their community - be it through classes, events, or other organizations. For sophomore Daniel Gaffin, his Political Science major, as well as his minor in Public Policy and Administration, has set him on a course of encouraging and creating civic participation. 

Growing up in Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania, Daniel has always been interested in politics, joking that, “I used to get kicked out of the family room on Sundays because I’d yell at the TV!” Since coming to JMU, his political passion has turned towards aid. “I’ve always had a need to help people, and I’ve found advocacy is the best way for me to do that… it also gets people involved, in the best way.” His experience in organizing events began early, heading a “Mini-THON” at his high school, a smaller version of Penn State’s famous THON, which raises money for cancer. Daniel’s team was able to raise over $54,000 to fight pediatric cancer. “It’s one of the biggest accomplishments of my life so far.” 

One of Daniel’s main passions at JMU is with the Student Government Association (SGA). Joining on a whim freshman year, he served on the Legislative Affairs Committee, where he first got a taste of student advocacy. “We did… [virtual] lobbying in D.C, in Richmond, just on behalf of students at JMU… I think it’s some of the most impactful work I’ve done through SGA.” One lobbying topic especially important to Daniel was the issue of administrative transparency: “A big thing we advocated for in Richmond was transparency… the decisions made directly impact us every single day, so that’s a big thing we’ve been working on.” The committee was also able to speak with members of Congress and advisors, as well as the Speaker of the Virginia Assembly. “As a 19-year-old, I thought it was so cool to be able to sit there and talk to members of Congress.” 

This year, Daniel is a member of the Rules and Elections Committee and acting as the Election Commissioner, putting him in charge of all student elections on campus. His current project is the upcoming fall elections, taking place on September 28. “I’m trying to get as many people involved and able to vote… hoping to surpass that 5,000 [voting students] goal.” He is currently helping the candidates prepare their packages, as well as ensuring students know where to vote on September 28. “There will be three polling places: Warner Commons, SSC [Student Success Center] and Festival.” He also reminds students that all voting can be done online at Be Involved.   Other ambitions include discussions with the General Education Council to add more Diversity/Inclusion to JMU student’s coursework, citing the recent additions to the Honors Curriculum as an example. 

Daniel’s dedication to student advocacy extends to his goals of educating others on the proceedings of SGA. “There’s the Executive Leadership Team - the Student Body President, Vice President, and Treasurer - then 9 Committees, and then our General Body Members, which is made up of Senators and Representatives… all our meetings are open to the student body [and we meet] every Tuesday night.” If students have any questions, they can go on the SGA website ( or visit their office in the Union, Room 331.

Other Honors Students serve in SGA with Daniel, which embodies the student involvement he appreciates about the Honors College. Through his seminars, he’s been able to engage in rich discussion with people of all majors about the most niche of topics. He cites his current Honors English class as his favorite taken with the Honors College, which examines the role of animals in various children’s literature. “It's a very interesting, very specific course, but I’ve loved it so far...everyone in the class is so engaged with it too.” 

Outside of SGA and Honors, Daniel plays both golf and baseball, as well as serving as an SGA advisor on Tim Miller’s board. “I’m very excited to … bridge the gap. I don’t think many people know about that board, so I’m looking forward to sharing that with the public.” He also works at the Registrar office and was recently accepted to the Make Your Mark on Madison (MYMOM) Program, which focuses on developing leaders and community on the JMU campus. As Daniel states, “Leadership is a big goal of mine”. 

After JMU, Daniel’s gaze is turning global. “I’d love to one day work in Congress, to be a Senator… I’m really focused on the global security aspect.” A trip to Germany when he was younger was his “first look outside of the United States, and… I have a huge interest in traveling.” He also is interested in going to Law school, especially after seeing his older sister take the bar exam this past August. For now, he continues to work his way through the Political Science major, saying that he’d like to “follow a Constitutional route - the Constitution has always been a passion of mine, and it’s very weird, because people don’t necessarily think of it like that.” He also intends to apply for the Washington Semester, a program that allows JMU students to engage directly with the political climate of Washington, D.C. 

Daniel’s role in getting more students involved in civic activity is already influencing his final Honors project. “I’m either going for research on advocacy on campus or global security… student advocacy is such a big thing for me.” But until then, he’ll continue to explore all that Honors and SGA have to offer, committed to involvement and transparency in all that he does.

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