Presenting at the 2016 American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting was more than just an individual honor for Jose Gomez.
“The success and achievements I have aren’t mine alone,” said the senior from the Bronx. “It’s a collective. I pull inspiration from my support system. I don’t look at it as me going to APSA. The people who got me here are going to APSA.”
For Gomez, that support system includes family, friends and Binghamton University faculty. The political science major was one of only seven U.S. students chosen to present at the APSA meeting, held in Philadelphia in September 2016. Gomez’s talk about money in politics came after he participated in the APSA Ralph Bunche Summer Institute at Duke University in the summer of 2016.
The Bunche program, founded in 1986, encourages students from diverse backgrounds to pursue academic careers in political science. Gomez applied to the program after taking a Binghamton University course on the U.S. Congress with Daniel Magelby, an assistant professor of political science.
Despite being one of 15 U.S. students selected for the Bunche Summer Institute, Gomez battled with his confidence.
“I realized how competitive the program was before I even got there,” he said. “My roommate was a Princeton student. I saw the profiles of the participants and thought: ‘What? How did I get here?’
“I found myself thinking I couldn’t get through the program or be a top student,” added Gomez, who took two graduate courses and wrote a 30-page paper for the institute. “Binghamton is a top SUNY (school), but some people wonder if we stand up against Princeton, Harvard or Yale. For a while, I struggled with that.”
Gomez received support from a familiar face: Magelby, who served as a post-doctoral fellow at Duke.
“He taught me a valuable lesson: Have confidence in myself and my ability to do well,” Gomez said. “Bunche was an amazing experience. I met so many people who challenged me. The confidence boost was something that was much-needed.”
Gomez already had an impressive first three years at Binghamton before attending the Bunche Summer Institute. As a sophomore, he took a research seminar open to students in the Educational Opportunity Program and was encouraged to find a mentor. Gomez connected with David Cingranelli, a professor of political science. The two brainstormed ideas on citizenship research and Gomez soon received an internship at the American Civic Association in Binghamton and helped teach a class on citizenship education.
Gomez then applied to the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares low-income, first-generation or underrepresented minority students for doctoral studies. Cingranelli challenged Gomez to pursue research in a discipline other than political science.
“I’m a political science major and my political science professor was telling me not to do political science!” Gomez recalled. “But in order to broaden my views, I needed to try a different discipline.”
Geography became the discipline of choice, as Gomez worked with Assistant Professor Jay Newberry on research related to the “stop-and-frisk” program in New York City. Gomez furthered his political experience by assisting the Binghamton City Council campaign of fellow student Conrad Taylor and by taking a congressional simulation course with Jonathan Krasno, an associate professor of political science (Gomez, for the record, portrayed Binghamton University alumnae and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries in the class).
Gomez credited Cingranelli with much of his development at Binghamton University.
“If you draw a line through my (Binghamton) story, David has had something to do with everything I have gotten,” Gomez said.
Cingranelli predicted that Gomez will “achieve great things in life.”
“Jose has always viewed his undergraduate education as an opportunity to learn as much as possible rather than as an obstacle standing between him and his future,” Cingranelli said. “He pursues ideas beyond course requirements. He reads the footnotes. Last semester, he regularly attended one of my courses even though he was not enrolled. He talks with me and his other professors in their offices about ideas.”
Gomez urged his fellow students to make connections with faculty members by doing things such as attending office hours.
“I’ve come to appreciate Binghamton University the most in the last year,” he said. “I have realized how great our faculty are. These are smart people. A lot of (students) have underestimated the resources that we have.”
Gomez plans to attend graduate school after May Commencement and hopes to become a political science professor at a university.
“I not only want to do research, but I want to impact students’ lives and help them get to where they need to be,” he said. “I think any professor wants to do that.”
Gomez said he often reflects on what his life would be like if he had attended college close to home.
“If I had chosen a CUNY school over Binghamton, it would have been so different,” he said. “I would be commuting from home and detached from campus. There would not have been a student running for (NYC) council. There would not have been a McNair Scholars opportunity. Without the EOP and the ability to speak with my professors, I may not have done any of this. I may not have been in political science! … Binghamton University was the perfect choice for me.”