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Dana Vernetti

Political science major enjoys being behind the scenes

By Becka Bowyer

A puppet is only as good as the master who manages its movements. Dana Vernetti prefers to handle the show from behind the curtains, pulling the strings and organizing who says what and when.

“I like the magic of how things work and knowing that you helped so much to effect change, but not having to deal with the public perception of you,” Vernetti said. Vernetti is a senior majoring in political science with a concentration in domestic affairs. She came to Binghamton University not knowing what direction she wanted to take in her education, but found that she was naturally drawn to one of Harpur College’s departments more than the others.

“I came in undecided but I share the same birthday as George Washington, so I like to think its fate that I became a political science major,” Vernetti said with a giggle. “I’ve always liked social studies and things like that through high school, but I think it’s the classes I’ve taken here that really made me choose the major.” Her specification is not the common track through the Political Science Department. Vernetti found that instead of urging her to choose otherwise, her professors helped mold her own experience.

“They are very open to helping you especially because focusing on American politics and domestic politics isn’t huge in the political science department, but that’s my focus. They have been great at working with me to make sure I get all the same opportunities that I want to have, even though it’s not a popular path through the major.”

The Rochester, N.Y. native works beyond the walls of her classrooms on election campaigns. This part of politics tickled her interest after an internship with the Monroe County Democratic Committee in her hometown.

“I really think it’s an area where you can effect change, especially our generation,” Vernetti said. “I’m really interested in driving that force and being able to harness the power we already have and use it towards affecting the change.”

November’s election cycle saw her working Thomas DiNapoli’s campaign for New York state comptroller. Given DiNapoli’s lead going into the election, her skills were diverted away from state races and allowed her to get her feet wet in more grassroots elections, primarily doing fieldwork for state Senate Democratic candidate Anndrea Starzak.

“I helped out on a couple different campaigns which were the first time I ever worked on Binghamton-specific politics. I usually have just done politics in my hometown,” Vernetti said. “I got to see, and know, the city a lot better.

“I enjoyed being a part of the Binghamton politics and becoming more active in the city that’s my second home.”

Vernetti credits the Political Science Department for her experiences, and her professors have rallied around her.

“Dana is a terrific student in all the traditional ways, but she’s also terrifically knowledgeable about real politics from her work back home,” said Jonathan Kranso, director of political science undergraduate studies. “It’s been great to have her in classes because she’s really interested in politics and willing to contribute her unique perspective. And, she’s got a great sense of humor and is a lot of fun.”

“Through all the internships and work that I’ve done, it’s been great for my experience,” Vernetti said. “I’ve gotten fantastic connections that have really helped me — whether it’s the school or the community.”

State and local elections aren’t Vernetti’s sole focus. In November, she worked with the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) on voter-registration drives and getting voter turnout up on campus. Vernetti contributed to the University posting the highest number of students voting in a midterm for the last several cycles.

Vernetti’s desire to work away from the public spotlight has roots in her involvement with the Hinman Production Company, a student-run theater group that she joined her freshman year.

She has directed both “The Secret Garden” and “Almost, Maine” and assisted in the direction of “Hair.”

“Directing has taught me so much about the beauty of being the unsung hero,” Vernetti said.

“I’ve been involved with theater since high school, but always behind the scenes as a stage manager or director. They may not be the positions that are in the limelight, but they’re vital to the success of the show.

“In a lot of ways, it’s reminiscent of my work on campaigns, too — the candidates are the ones in the public eye, the ones who people know, but there’s a whole team of people behind their campaigns driving their success that the public will never know.” The activities that Vernetti devotes her time to follow the same common framework that motivates her, getting people engaged. She thinks Harpur College students should all learn about politics.

“Political science, whether it’s a career you want to go into, is something that everyone should at least be aware of because your government and your politics affects everyone, whether you like it or not, whether you understand it or not, it’s going to affect you,” Vernetti said. “I think you have to take control of that to really affect the world you live in. Laws will be made; bills will be passed no matter what, so why wouldn’t you take that opportunity to be able to have an effect on that and change that in the world you want to live in.”

As graduation looms, Vernetti said she thanks Harpur College and Binghamton University for allowing her to grow into a more rounded and accepting individual.

“Binghamton has this way of making you forget you go to such a huge university — there may be 13,000 undergraduates here, but I have never once felt alone or insignificant,” she said. “There is such a homey feeling that you get here which I think comes from the pride we all have for our school. It’s very unifying and feels great to be a part of.”

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Last Updated: 3/1/17