CASL graduate: Olivia Colborn

April 26, 2022

With a goal to one day work for the U.S. Department of State, Olivia Colborn said it’s important to understand how culture and experience shape political decisions. That's why she double majored in Political Science and Hispanic Studies, and plans to earn her graduate degree in Europe.

Photo of Olivia Colborn
Graphic by Violet Dashi

Olivia Colborn realizes that every level of government — from local to federal — impacts our lives. And the Class of Spring 2022 graduate wants to be a part of the positive change government work has the potential to create.

To learn more, she’s landed college internships that include a position with Michigan House Representative Padma Kuppa’s (D-41) team and working in the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. And she’s looked for opportunities to better understand how U.S. policies impact people outside of the country and what we can do to improve relationships.

I’m very grateful for the life I have. My family is supportive and I had access to an education at an amazing college. But I realize how different it could be for me if I were born to different parents or in a different country. If you have privilege, it’s important to use it to do more in the world.”

That’s the thinking that led Colborn to travel to Ecuador, where she helped plant gardens and volunteered at a senior center and an orphanage. It’s why she wanted to speak in a language other than English; Colborn is majoring in Hispanic Studies — in addition to her Political Science degree — so she can fluently speak Spanish while also learning about Latin American and Spanish culture to gain a worldview outside of her own. And it’s why Colborn is heading to Europe to study abroad for graduate school. Starting this fall, she’ll attend the University College Dublin in Ireland to focus on European politics and policy.

With a goal to one day work for the U.S. Department of State, Colborn said it’s important to understand how culture and experiences shape political decisions. And one of the best ways to do that is to meet people and talk with them.

“While at UM-Dearborn, I was planning to travel to Spain to study abroad and wanted to work with Canadian Parliament through the Ottawa Internship Program, but COVID had other plans. But even with so much uncertainty, I found ways to get the international experiences I was looking for,” she said. “I was active in student organizations like La Mezcla, tutored people in the language lab, took interesting classes that challenged my thinking, and applied to graduate schools in other countries. My professors wrote recommendations for me. Even when we were remote, they were still making a big difference in my life.”

She said Political Science Lecturer Nancy Kursman helped her find internships. Spanish faculty Jorge Gonzalez del Pozo and Sofia Calzada-Orihuela encouraged her to look for research opportunities. And she always looked forward to the interesting conversations in Political Science Associate Professor Julio Borquez’s media course where he advocated for students to get their information from a variety of sources — and seek out news outside of the U.S. — to gain multiple perspectives. 

“We have the resources to better understand what’s happening in the world if we choose to seek them out,” she said. “It’s important to watch, read and listen. But it’s even more important to be open to what other people are experiencing, especially when it challenges your current point of view.”

As a person who values outreach, she said UM-Dearborn’s connectedness to the Southeast Michigan region and educational support offered to local youth was a determining factor in her college choice. It’s something she’s experienced first hand.

“I played Victors Volleyball here. And, when I was in grade school, I came here for the Science Olympiad. UM-Dearborn has played a role in my life for a long time, but I didn’t realize it until I came here for a campus tour before choosing a college. Walking on campus, the memories came back,” she said. “It was kismet. I love this place, what it’s given me, and how our campus is so community focused.”

She said so much has come full circle, which includes studying in Ireland. She said her family is Irish and she looks forward to exploring the country and her family history.

But before she heads to graduate school in Ireland, she has one more important journey to take: Walking up the stage to get her bachelor’s degree on Saturday.

Article by Sarah Tuxbury