As part of the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, January is usually a time when people make significant changes in their lives. For alumna Michelle Spotts, this January brings about an exciting change, as on January 6th she was sworn in to her new role as a member of the Burlington Township Board of Education, a post she was elected to in November 2015. A longtime resident of the community, a graduate of Burlington Township High School, and the mother of children who are part of this school system, Michelle’s passion for politics, community involvement, and education inspired her to run for election. “I ran for the school board because I believe we need to properly encourage and fund not just the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] subjects, but also art, music, and sports – all are essential in raising intelligent, well-rounded individuals,” Michelle says. Despite being the youngest candidate with little experience and a small campaign budget, Michelle received over 1800 votes and earned one of the three open seats on the board.
Before being a school board member, Michelle was a political science major and security intelligence and counter-terrorism minor at Rutgers–Camden, graduating magna cum laude in May 2015. Michelle considered other schools when deciding on where to continue her education, but chose Rutgers–Camden because of “the location, the diversity of the student population, and the wonderful small campus atmosphere,” she says. The ease of commuting to campus due to the River Line was also a key factor, allowing this busy student extra time to catch up on reading and study for exams.
Initially planning on majoring in English, Michelle eventually opted to study political science. “I had always been very interested in government and law, and I wanted to learn more about the ways in which changing societal cultures shape public policies and political behaviors, and vice versa – not just in the US but worldwide,” Michelle says. Courses in political theory, which featured the philosophies of people such as Aristotle, Plato, Locke, Hobbes, and Marx, were particularly inspiring to Michelle, as they focused on justice, equality, and natural rights. These classes demanded much reading, analyzing, and “thinking outside of the box,” which, Michelle says, “has proven to be extremely valuable outside of the classroom.”
As part of her political science curriculum and because she wanted to explore work for a government agency, Michelle interned for two offices – the Office of Constituent Relations in the Office of the Governor, and for the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJ OHSP). Working for the governor’s office helped Michelle “understand the complications and conflicts in state government and how the various systems do and don’t work together.” Her work with NJ OHSP’s Collection and Dissemination Bureau included collecting information and investigating and analyzing this data for possible security threats and sharing their findings with relevant groups. “It was definitely an experience in which I can take what I learned there and apply it in my personal and professional life,” she says.
Her research and analysis work continued with her time as a project research assistant for the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs. Michelle worked with state and local organizations to improve the lives of the under-privileged populations in New Jersey; she collected and analyzed data, interviewed and tracked individuals and families; and collaborated with agencies and organizations. “It was important work that I knew impacted real lives. I really felt like I was making a difference while improving my own research skills at the same time,” Michelle says.
Following graduation, Michelle landed an opportunity in the Client Services Support department for Bayada Home Health Care. Her duties include providing after-care follow-ups for home health clients and also implementing and managing pilot projects, such as remote health monitoring, which allows Bayada to use the latest technology to keep in touch with and care for their clients. Working for Bayada has piqued Michelle’s interest in health care, and home health care, in particular. She will begin work on a graduate certificate in Health and Hospital Law at Seton Hall Law School this year, with the plan of eventually earning her master’s degree in this field. Michelle also hopes to work with the Government Affairs office at Bayada in order to build relationships with and better inform legislators of the benefits of home health care.
Clearly, Michelle’s time at Rutgers–Camden was well-spent. The projects she undertook while a student have laid a solid foundation on which to build a career and to serve her community. Not even a year after graduation, Michelle is well on her way to achieving great things.
About Michelle Spotts
Hometown: Burlington Township, NJ
Camden College of Arts and Sciences Major: Political Science
Camden College of Arts and Sciences Minor: Security Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism
Graduation Date: May 2015
Written By Julie Roncinske