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Prepared for public service

The liberal arts major was faced with so many options that she found the circumstances daunting.

She turned to Frank Davis, chair of the political science department, for advice. "He suggested I envision my eventual career goal and plan backwards from there. I took his advice, wrote down what I wanted to do and then started gathering information about how to get there."

Now a press secretary in the Connecticut General Assembly, the former political science/French double major has been looking to the future ever since. She spends her days acting as a liaison between the press and legislators for Connecticut Speaker of the House Moira K. Lyons and the House Democrats.

Applying Lehigh lessons

Antoine says she draws on her Lehigh education daily as a press secretary, particularly as she analyzes, digests, and applies information toward finding solutions.

"I am intensely interested in the international arena, especially on the topic of poverty and developing nations," says Antoine, who improved her French and German skills while at Lehigh. "Working at the Connecticut legislature, I am a daily witness to democracy and the democratic process in action. My job necessitates that I keep informed about legislation and political happenings so I am constantly learning more about the legislative process, who does what and how it affects lives.

"What I learned as a poli-sci major at Lehigh helps me to understand my place in the democratic process and aids my perspective on how to use what I am learning now to reach my goal of helping others later."

Antoine’s job also encourages her career pursuits by providing her with role models.

"As a black woman, I am glad to work in an environment that offers a healthy array of people from all walks of life and cultures to draw from," Antoine says. "Moira Lyons, for example, is the first female Speaker of the House in the nation, and it is very motivating and extremely inspiring to be around her. She is more proof that women can be successful professionals, even in an overwhelmingly male dominated profession, and still have a strong family life."

Asking difficult questions

Antoine’s next step is to enroll in law school, a move that will make her more qualified to fight for the rights of the needy. Political science professor Hannah Stewart-Gambino, for one, finds Antoine’s commitment to making a difference in the world particularly refreshing.

"People are fond of saying that Lehigh students are apathetic, that they don't care about what is happening in the world," Stewart-Gambino says. "Although that may be true in part, there are many students at Lehigh— particularly those who pursue another language and/or those who study abroad— who are highly engaged in current events and the U.S.’s role in the world."

Stewart-Gambino, who was Antoine’s advisor at Lehigh, is confident that Antoine will accomplish the kind of success that isn’t measured in dollars and cents, but through discernable social change.

In addition to being highly motivated, Antoine "has the kind of blend of curiosity, courage, character and independence that leads her to ask interesting questions and pursue the answers," she says. "I have no doubt that she will quietly choose a path that will allow her to use her skills to tackle difficult social issues, and I’m confident that she will not shy away from difficult questions or their answers."

Ready for the real world

While at Lehigh, Antoine’s thirst for information and new experiences led her to study abroad in Strasbourg, France, serve on the Student Senate, and concentrate her honors thesis on the impact of French membership in the European Union on its national immigration and race policies. She also participated in a National Public Radio internship through a poli-sci class.

"At many schools, students only have the opportunity to learn through the eyes of their professors and their books," she says. "Lehigh goes the extra mile and offers internships, externships, and other forays into the ‘real world’ beyond the university’s walls.

"That’s something I really like about Lehigh," she says. "Professors aren’t just trying to get through a lecture— they want to make sure students are learning and growing."

As a result of her student leadership experiences at Lehigh, Antoine says she also realized the significant role that open dialogue with constituents can play.

"The (Lehigh) administration took student concerns very seriously," she says. "They listened to what we had to say, and discussed each issue with us. Several administrators—particularly Sharon Basso, dean of students—made a concerted effort to ensure that each student feels at home. As a minority, I found it very comforting to know that I was welcome."

--Sarah Piperato
smp6@lehigh.edu

Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2003

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