Kate LeBlanc

Majors: Journalism and Political Science
Hometown: Oxford, MA

Q. What makes the College of Arts and Sciences at URI unique?
A. I appreciate that the College of Arts and Sciences pushes students outside of the classroom. The best classes I’ve taken between my two majors have been the ones that encouraged outside experience. Between reporting local news stories and volunteering in local elections, my professors within Arts and Sciences have always wanted my classmates and me to achieve more. Although it seems scary at first, learning in the field is an invaluable experience, and I feel very lucky that Arts and Sciences helped me see that.

What accomplishments and/or activities at URI are you most proud of now?
This past year, I got to serve as the editor-in-chief of the Good Five Cent Cigar, the student-run newspaper, during its 50 year anniversary. Being elected editor by my peers was a humbling achievement alone, but the opportunity to interact with alumni and celebrate many years of student journalism was such a privilege. I had a dream editorial team who I loved spending time with and working with in the Cigar office for many hours on end. The role of editor is always challenging, but I am very proud of the newspapers, newscasts and photographs, among other things, we put out every Thursday last year. 

What research projects and internships did you participate in at URI?
In addition to my work at the Cigar, I have been very lucky to participate in some great internships and research projects while at URI. Last summer, I was awarded the inaugural Summer Research Fellow position at the Rhode Island Ethics Commission through URI’s John Hazen White Sr. Center for Ethics and Public Service. I spent the summer working with the Commission where I created published Advisory Opinion summaries, attended public meetings and worked on special projects with the staff attorneys.

I’ve been working as a freelance journalist for over a year as well. I have been published in the Warwick Beacon, the Cranston Herald and the Boston Globe. It’s been a great experience working with some journalism giants throughout the Rhode Island newspaper community. I love writing feature stories about local businesses and community leaders; it means so much that they get recognized publicly for their hard work, especially during the pandemic. 

Currently, I’m working on a research project with Dr. Perri Leviss of the Political Science Department. We’re examining civic engagement at URI and at other public universities throughout the country. It’s been great learning how to develop a research research study and learning how to achieve the goal you’re working towards. 

I’m also currently an intern within URI’s Department of Communications and Marketing where I’m responsible for writing press releases and other feature stories for the URI website. Writing about URI community members is exciting, and I’m glad to continue writing about campus even after my time at the Cigar has finished.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?
The space for conversation within a liberal arts learning environment is something I greatly appreciate. Everyone in the classroom learns from each other. We listen to each other and debate with each other often. Sometimes there isn’t a right answer, but there is always room for every voice in every classroom to be heard. People want to hear what you’re thinking, and that is quite special. 

What have been some highlights of your time in the Journalism and Political Science departments?
I really have come to love the time I’ve spent exploring both my majors. I’m grateful to have had many classes with the Journalism Department Chair John Pantalone. In my first journalism class ever, he taught me what it meant to be a reporter and why we need journalists in the field. I appreciate his teaching style, his support of print journalism and his honesty – all of which have made me a better journalist myself. 

I’ve gotten to take many classes with many excellent professors in the Political Science Department as well, but last fall I took Perri Leviss’ Civic Learning and Rebuilding Democracy course which now stands out the most. This was the first class where I felt connected to the material in a new way. It gave me an idea of a possible career direction, while also showing me I had a passion for civic engagement I was never able to pinpoint alone. It also connected me with Perri who has been working with me on my research this semester and has really helped me find my own path.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Working at the Cigar was probably the best learning experience I could ask for. It taught me journalism skills, but also taught me leadership, perseverance and how to work with a large team. I genuinely would not be who I am today without the 3.5 years I spent working for the student newspaper. It gives you so much as a person, and I encourage everyone, even non-journalism majors, to give it a try.