Western New Mexico University freshman Rechelle Gutierrez completed a paid fellowship in communications on Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s re-election campaign this spring and was invited to continue full-time with the campaign over the summer.
Gutierrez is in the newly established political science bachelor’s program grew up in Silver City and has always had her sights set on attending WNMU, where her mom earned a degree while raising her and her three siblings.
Gutierrez said she was introduced to politics and social movements at a young age. “Both of my grandfathers are Latino rights activists.”
The longtime participant in the National History Day competition at Silver High School explored her own interest in politics through creating exhibits and documentaries based on historical events. The research process, which included conducted interviews with primary sources, helped her understand how legislation develops and ultimately how various pieces of legislative have impacted lives. “I learned politics is about human rights. It made me want to pursue political science. Learning about not just politics but the history behind it is what I have been passionate about for the past few years of my life,” she said.
Gutierrez heard about this internship and was intrigued by the possibility of working with other women in politics, but she hesitated to apply. Being at the beginning of her college journey, she thought she needed more experience. “At the beginning of the year, my professor Dr. Joel Blaxland made it a point that if we got offered any sort of internship, we were to take advantage of it,” she said. “He encouraged me to apply and worked with me throughout the process. He and Dr. Michael Cook helped me go through my cover letter and helped me pick a good essay.”
She was selected for the fellowship and works on the communications team. “It marks the beginning of my experience,” Gutierrez said, noting that was tasked with organization and given small projects that contribute to maintaining the governor’s media presence. “Every day I’ve worked is a good day because I’m working on something I’m proud of and something that will help me prosper,” she said.
Gutierrez is making connections between her coursework and the real world. “My first political science class was the basics of American government with Dr. Blaxland. He really introduced me to how fundamental a campaign is to democracy in the U.S. and our right to choose,” she said. “I was also able to identify the political agendas and techniques that others who hadn’t taken that course wouldn’t.”
Overall, the knowledge and support Gutierrez has received at WNMU built her into a strong candidate to earn the preliminary fellowship and warrant a continued summer internship. She said she’s glad she didn’t ignore the opportunity just because she was a freshman. “It’s important to reach out to professors and advisers. WNMU does a very good job of helping however they can. Students don’t realize how many resources we have that are underutilized.”