New Political Science course features experienced alumni


Photo courtesy of Seth Unger

Seth Unger ’01 (right) with then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Patrick Kane, World News Editor

Editor’s Note: Patrick Kane is currently enrolled in the PO-303 course. The Carroll News retained complete editorial control at every stage of writing and editing.

John Carroll University emphasizes greatness and excellence, encouraging you to remember not only your roots but also where the foundations for the rest of your life were laid. Everyone wants to give back to their institution in some shape or form but not everyone has the opportunity. That is not the case for Adjunct Professor of Political Science Seth Unger ’01.

Unger, who hails from Kirtland, Ohio, graduated from John Carroll with a degree in Political Science and Communication; he gained political experience early in life through volunteering with local campaigns. After graduating, he went out to California to work for the state’s Republican Party. He served in a variety of roles, from legislative spokesmen to Communication Director for the state Chamber of Commerce to spokesman for then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He would later serve as the Press Secretary for the California Department of Corrections.

However, around 2010, his family caused him to come back to Ohio where he would work for newly-elected Treasurer and current U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel. Later, when Donald Trump announced his run for President, Unger served as the Communication Director for Trump’s victorious Ohio campaign. After Trump’s victory, Unger went to work for his administration’s Treasury Department. Even amongst an enviable career in politics, Unger is seemingly most proud of the fact that he is one of the only people to serve as a spokesman for both hosts of “The Apprentice.”

Unger, who is currently a vice-president at the Cleveland-based GBX Group, was motivated by his experiences to give back to the JCU student community. 

Like so many Political Science majors, I didn’t really know what I was going to do with my degree when I graduated,” he said. “I knew I would work on campaigns, but didn’t really understand all the different jobs out there for people in politics in government.”

This inspired him, in collaboration with his former faculty advisor and current Political Science Department Chair Andreas Sobisch, to create PO-303, “Pathways to Political Careers.” The course is taught by both Unger and Sobisch and is the crowning jewel of the department’s Applied Politics concentration.

“The Applied Politics concentration was created a few years ago, as was PO-303. However, the content of PO-303 was never specified. Then, Seth came along and made a proposal and we took him up on it and he created about 80% of the content of this course (I added a few ideas and assignments and some of the contacts are mine), but Seth did most of the work in terms of the content,” said Sobisch.

The class, as the name suggests, covers the various career paths one can take with a political science degree. This includes running campaigns, holding elected office, working in government administration and lobbying. The highlight of the class, however, is the numerous guest speakers from all walks of political life, both alumni and personal connections of Unger and Sobsich. These speakers have included State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney ‘15, former Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Cleveland-Marshall School of Law Dean Lee Fisher, and lobbyist Matt Cox ‘95.

Seth Unger ’01 speaks as a representative of the US Treasury Department under the Trump administration. (Photo courtesy of Seth Unger)

The guest speakers were what made this classwork,” according to Unger. “It was a challenge juggling schedule at times, but every single one of our experts said that they truly enjoyed the experience. Everyone working in politics and government had mentors and people and stories that shaped them. Asking them to talk about their pathway and sitting back and listening is a lot of fun, and with Zoom committing to an hour in the evening isn’t a huge burden.”

As previously mentioned, Unger and Sobisch teach the course together. Both found it to be a positive experience. Unger commented, “Dr. Sobisch and I kept in touch over the years, and we had a lot of fun when I was at Carroll traveling to DC for Model Arab League and EU simulations. I like and respect him a lot, and knew it would be a good experience to partner with him on this proof of concept. I think we’ve both learned things teaching this class together.

”It wasn’t like he just contacted me out of nowhere,” said Sobisch. And I knew he had this idea for a course. But I was glad when we finally set down last summer in earnest to plan this course. It is gratifying to see a former JCU-PO student have accomplished as much as he did.”

Because the course is Unger’s creation, the Spring 2022 semester was the first time the course was held, meaning the concrete outcomes of the course are still unknown. As Sobisch admitted, “The ‘trial and error’ is the course itself, since we had no chance to dry-run any parts of it. And of course, we won’t know about the ‘error’ part until we read the student assessments & evaluations as well as the final exams.”

“But from my perspective, it has been remarkably smooth and the class went on exactly as planned. A lot of the credit goes to Seth with his really well-organized power-point presentations and ideas for assignments.”

“I feel like the class was a success, but it’s really up to the students to make that judgment,” Unger stated.”The real measure of success will be to check back in with these students and see who does what with the advice [of the guest speakers].”

“[PO-303] has been an extremely interesting course that has allowed me to see a variety of different career paths and ways to apply my Political Science degree,” says Isabella Marshall ‘24, a Political Science major currently enrolled in PO-303.

While the current class is scheduled to end at the end of this semester, both instructors are eager and willing to revive the course in the future. Sobisch, the department chair, said the course may reemerge, “probably next spring. We may rename and/or re-number it and make it more of an entry-level course rather than a kind of capstone which is what it is now.”

“The class was definitely working, but it was also rewarding to spend time with students and hopefully plant some seeds,” Unger echoed.”The once-a-week sessions helped make it manageable but it’s a time commitment. I would certainly consider teaching a version of the course again down the road.”

While the outcome of PO-303 on the students remains undetermined as of now, Unger’s eagerness to pass down his experience in the field of politics and government alongside his old professor showcases how alumni can help work to enable the next generation of graduates to take the world by the ropes and pursue the goals they’ve studied so hard to achieve.