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SIC Alumni Share Their Experiences in Politics

October 13, 2015

Southeastern Illinois College students got an inside look into the world of politics. As a part of Constitution Week, SIC’s Chair of Social Science Division, Matt Lees invited SIC alumni Jenny Pruitt and Joe Debose to speak to a number of students of all different areas of study.

Pruitt attended SIC from 2013-2015. While attending, she was recruited to the Model Illinois Government (MIG) team coached by Lees.

“Jenny stood out immediately, her skills in argumentation and research were amongst the best I’ve ever seen,” said Lees. “Jenny was so good in fact that she did something first year delegates never do-- she crafted her own original legislation, and successfully guided it from committee all the way to the Governor’s desk where it was signed into law.”

Pruitt attributes her determination and her will to succeed to being diagnosed with rare medical condition as a child that has now left her legally blind. She wants to educate others about those with disabilities. This brought her to SIC with the desire to become an advocate for persons with disabilities. She enrolled in many different classes, some of which were taught by Lees.

“The first time I got to debate bills and work with legislation in Mr. Lees’ class, I knew I was going to be able to do what I was meant to be doing and that I could make a difference,” said Pruitt. “I recommend that everyone forms an opinion and figures out what is important to them. You can make a difference.”

Pruitt went on to be one of the most awarded delegates in Southeastern’s MIG team history, and lead SIC in back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015.

After attending SIC, Pruitt worked for Governor Rauner’s campaign where she led all downstate staffers in voter contacts. While working on the campaign, she impressed her peers so much so that she earned a unanimous recommendation to join Congressman John Shimkus’ staff. Pruitt currently serves as a Congressional Aide where she deals with policy, constituent service and runs his Harrisburg office.

Debose attended SIC from 2010-2013. He also was an award winning member of Southeastern’s MIG team. During the 2012 simulation, Debose won the Jean Humphrey Award for Outstanding Member of the Senate.

“To know Joe is to know that he is a force of nature,” said Lees. “Joe’s passion and energy were evident from the first day he set foot in my class.  I knew Joe had talent but was not aware of the extent until I observed him during debate.  That was when I knew Joe was truly special.” 

Debose came to SIC as an education major. He says that the economy and his desire to make a difference led him towards politics.

“My passion for politics began in Mr. Lees’ class,” said Debose. “I enjoyed debate and being engaged in his class, so I joined the MIG team. While there, I learned how quickly a change could be made to better the lives of those around me.”

After he left SIC, Debose started working as a political consultant for The Eagle Forum.  He has worked campaigns across the country.  He travelled to Nebraska to work on Ben Sasse’s U.S. Senate race, then later went to South Carolina where he worked on Governor Nikki Haley’s campaign and worked for the South Carolina House caucus.  Debose also participated in Rick Snyder’s gubernatorial campaign in Michigan and Terri Bryant’s primary campaign in Southern Illinois. 

Debose currently works as a strategist and mid-west director for political consulting firm Trafalgar LLC.

Southeastern has a strong history of producing graduates who continue on in the political science field.

“This small school located in the middle of a cornfield has produced a senior member of Speaker Madigan’s staff who later started her own lobbying firm, three state representatives and a member of Congress,” said Lees. “I am also proud to say this trend has continued in recent years.  SIC graduate Katie Pennell, is currently working in Washington as a member of the Obama administration, while another alumnus, Josh McClusky, served as one of Governor Quinn’s field coordinators.”    

Both Pruitt and Debose agree that Southeastern helped them get to where they are now in political science.

“SIC’s Speech Team and MIG helped me with public speaking and the philosophies of speech writing, two things that have really helped me while working on campaigns,” said Debose. “Southeastern is a great place to get involved and grow yourself as a person.”

Pruitt added, “SIC helped me hone the skills to work in a public atmosphere. The education here is so culturally enriched. It’s very high quality education for the low cost of tuition and the face to face time you have with instructors here is invaluable. Skills that you learn at SIC, not only in Mr. Lees’ class but in all classes are skills that you can continue to grow upon.”

To learn more about SIC’s MIG team, contact Matt Lees at 618-252-5400 ext. 2216 or at matt.lees@sic.edu.  Spring registration at SIC begins October 19.

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