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Working for her country

Caroline Shinkle meets with Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Caroline Shinkle meets with Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Photo courtesy of Caroline Shinkle

News@MITSloan recently spoke with Caroline Shinkle, a sophomore at MIT Sloan studying both finance and economics. She was one of the youngest delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., last month. At only 19, she is already involved in both local and national politics.

Q. Where are you originally from?
A. I grew up in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, and went to boarding school at Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Governor [Romney] and Mrs. Romney are also graduates of Cranbrook.

Q. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A. From a very early age, I became very active in the performing arts … dance, singing, piano and acting. I’m a member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). I also started writing and public speaking when I was very young. As a result, I must have envisioned performing on a stage of some kind.

Q. You created Camp USA, (United Student-Leaders of America) when you were still in high school. What inspired you to create the camp?
A. Politics has always intrigued me. As far back as when I was in second grade during the Bush-Gore race, I remember wanting to engage my classmates about the issues and the candidates. In high school, during the 2008 presidential election, I was surprised both by my peers’ lack of knowledge and lack of interest about political issues. To me, it was so important and exciting. It seemed only natural to want to inspire the rising generation of young leaders toward civic involvement. That’s why I founded Camp USA. It’s a free, non-profit, nonpartisan summer program that offers middle school students the opportunity to explore the political arena. It has been up and running for three years. My goal is to build Camp USA into a national movement that will motivate those whose vote will matter someday toward a lifetime of political activism. My next steps are to secure a critical mass of dedicated sponsors and funding.

Q. What type of activities do the campers engage in while at Camp USA?
A. At Camp USA, we dissect political issues from every angle, and we dig deeply into the key elections. Participants engage in myriad hands-on activities such as mock political conventions, debates, and the research and development of political platforms. They also learn how to build and deliver effective speeches, and create political advertisements including commercials and direct mail. Guest politicians from both sides of the aisle share their experiences and reasons for their involvement in the public sector.

Q. Why did you decide to attend MIT and pick Course 15 as your major?
A. I’m glad that MIT chose me! I believe that a sound foundation in the sciences is essential in this highly technical world, regardless of career path. I wanted to combine my interest in the business world with a solid background in economics as a double major in Courses 14 and 15. MIT instills in its students a can-do attitude and teaches us to tackle tough problems. Society is constantly in need of problem-solvers with the capacity to deliver solutions to some of the most pressing issues.

Q. Last spring, as a freshman, you ran for Republican State Committeewoman. What factors played a role in running?
A. I saw this race as an excellent opportunity to network with activists across the Commonwealth as well as to become very familiar with Cambridge, Boston, and other parts of the district. I also ran for Ward 2 Republican Committee Chair in Cambridge and won that position.

Q. What are your goals as an active Republican?
A. I believe that the Republican Party should remain focused on fiscal policies tuned to enabling transformative technology and business investments, as a priority. I hope to see the party emphasize issues that support long-term economic growth, energy independence, and a more limited role for government. Policies that help reduce uncertainty for the business investor, all else being equal, by definition should increase opportunity, jobs, tax revenues, and valuations of equities.

Q. This past summer you worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. What was that like? What were your responsibilities? Did you have the chance to meet Gov. Romney in person?
A. Working in the political department at the campaign’s national headquarters gave me an opportunity to participate in this historic election. Everyone on the Romney team is totally dedicated to electing the governor and passionate about his vision for this country. I wish every voter would have the opportunity, as I have, to meet the governor. He is very personable and friendly with a great sense of humor. In fact when he learned that I was also a Cranbrook graduate, he started to chant our school’s cheer with me!

The key point for me is Gov. Romney understands first-hand and is deeply committed to creating the conditions that will maximize entrepreneurial success, wealth creation, and jobs to expand America’s economy.

Q. You recently returned from Tampa where you attended the Republican National Convention as one of the youngest delegates; what was the experience like? What did you accomplish while in Tampa?
A. It was a true honor to be a delegate and to represent the Massachusetts Republican Party at the Convention as well as on the Permanent Organization Committee in Tampa. Each day was packed with breakfasts, receptions, luncheons, and hospitality open houses offering opportunities to network with politicos from across the country. On the floor, I was able to meet many delegates, candidates, office holders, and members of the national and international media. At each convention session, I looked forward to the speeches from a non-stop line up of incumbent and emerging party leaders.

Q. What memories will you take away from the convention?
A. The atmosphere in Tampa was high energy; the mood was very upbeat. It was an amazing experience to be at the center of the political universe, experiencing firsthand the excitement surrounding the nomination of Mitt Romney. The feeling at the convention was that this presidential election is likely to be the most critical election in the history of our country.

Q. You’ve received a lot of attention in the press for being one of the youngest delegates at the convention. What has that been like for you?
A. The entire experience was very positive. I’ve been on both sides of the microphone. Four years ago, I was a youth reporter at both the Republican National Convention in St. Paul and the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Back then, I was the one pursuing the interviews, posing the questions, and filing my stories. In Tampa, I enjoyed sharing my perspective on the issues.
Q. Your interest in politics looks to be both local and national. As a senator in MIT’s Undergraduate Association what are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish this year?
A. As a first semester freshman, I was elected to the Senate to represent my dorm. Although the Senate has been dissolved, I have channeled my politically related interests into other pursuits. This includes internships at Senator Scott Brown’s legislative office in addition to Gov. Romney’s Presidential Campaign, Camp USA, and as Cambridge Ward 2 Republican Committee Chair. I re-founded the long-defunct MIT College Republican Club and I serve as its President. I hope to build the club into a vibrant force in Cambridge and to open the minds of the Independent and Democratic voter through the power of the idea that a more limited role of government translates to personal empowerment and opportunity, leading to a higher quality of life for all of us. The club is launching its Lecture Series this month and our first guest speaker is former New Hampshire Governor John H. Sununu. The Governor was also the Chief of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and holds multiple degrees from MIT (SB, ’61, SM, ’63, PhD ’66). The Governor, who is a National Co-Chair of the Romney for President campaign, will discuss the 2012 Presidential Election. MIT Sloan students, faculty, and administration are invited to attend. The event is this Thursday, September 27, at 7 p.m., in the Wong Auditorium, E51.

Q. What other activities are you involved with at MIT?
A. I am also the MIT Campus Captain for the re-election of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, an MIT Student Ambassador, and serve on the Institute’s Committee on Alumni Relations and Community Service Fund Board.

Q. You’re majoring in Economics and Finance, but is there a possibility you will work in politics down the road? If not, what field do you plan to pursue?
A. I plan to attend graduate school followed by working in the private sector. However, I hope to always be involved in the political arena in some fashion.

Q. Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
A. I remain humbled and honored to be a part of the MIT community. The quality and diversity of the MIT professors, students, and administration have already given me a depth of experience unrivalled anywhere. I can see how the MIT tradition of nonpartisan, matter-of-fact problem solving is already enabling me to more effectively communicate, contribute, and serve.

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