V&V Q&A – A rigorous education and a prestigious internship: An interview with Grove City College senior, Kayla Murrish

Editor’s note: In this Q&A, Grove City College student Kayla Murrish ’15 of Troy, MI discusses the rigors and value of a Grove City College education and how the college prepared her for a prestigious internship at one of the nation’s leading think tanks. Kayla is majoring in history and minoring in economics.

V&V: How did you find Grove City College?

Kayla Murrish ’15: My family reads WORLD Magazine and we saw an ad; and we talked to families we met on tours at other colleges about Grove City.

V&V: So why Grove City?

Kayla: I really love the commitment to Christ and learning. And I also love how there’s a focus on America and freedom and preserving those freedoms.

V&V: What things have you liked about your Grove City College academic experience?

Kayla: I’ve really liked the interaction with the professors in a smaller classroom setting that allows for questions and dialogue. I’ve really enjoyed the discussions in classes, especially in a class with Dr. Mark Graham called “Historiography.” It was amazing!

V&V: Why was it amazing?

Kayla: It was a seminar, so it was all discussion. We read pieces about different ways of “doing history”—different methods, assumptions, and schools of historical thought. Then we talked about the ones that are most valid, dangerous, and the ones that have had the most influence.

V&V: What are the most dangerous methods of studying history?

Kayla: One of them is the postmodern idea that there’s no absolute truth and history is what you make of it—you construct meaning instead of understanding meaning. It erases God and erases the idea of order and cause-and-effect.

V&V: So, what’s the best way to do history?

Kayla: I think we need to use a combination of rigorous methods like using primary sources and (for ancient history) archaeology. We should bring together several schools of thought like sociology and economics to study in a more rigorous and objective manner while presuming that objective truth exists, and that we’re searching for it. Yet, realizing that we’re never going to have a perfect cohesive set of truths apart from scripture upon which you can base all of your decisions. Ultimately, we know our minds are limited and this world is fallen so we’re not going to ever completely arrive at a full understanding of history until the end of time. But, we’re going to do our best.

V&V: Is it correct to assume that to be a good historian one has to be humble and understand one’s shortcomings and appreciate what other disciplines can bring to bear on a subject?

Kayla: Absolutely.

V&V: It sounds like hard work to get at the truth.

Kayla: It is.

V&V: You can’t be sloppy.

Kayla: Right.

V&V: Do historians have a cultivated sense of skepticism?

Kayla: I would say so (laughter)! It’s a joke that “when you become a historian you also become a cynic.” I don’t think that’s completely true because, I think, as a Christian, even when you realize the depravity of man—when you’re studying genocide or things of that nature—you also realize in spite of our depravity God continues to work. In that we find hope. But we don’t find hope in our own ability to make a perfect society or even to understand truth perfectly because we’re not going to. Without Christ, every historian has to be a cynic. With Christ, yes, there’s a level of skepticism about human ability but we find hope in God’s ability.

V&V: So, there’s a lot of value in studying history at a Christian college that approaches the study of history rigorously and humbly?

Kayla: Yes, I definitely agree. I think it’s important to have both the Christian perspective and the rigor that brings you to a humble place. The human mind is finite and yet history is still a very valuable pursuit.

V&V: You had an internship at The Heritage Foundation this past summer. How did that come about?

Kayla: I spoke with The Center for Vision & Values (Grove City College’s think tank) and some professors and everyone encouraged me to at least apply to The Heritage Foundation. So I did and I got an interview with the Edwin Meese Legal Center, which was exciting because I’m thinking about becoming a lawyer after graduation and it seemed like a good fit. They offered me the position. That was a huge blessing. I got to work with six lawyers who all have done interesting and different things with their careers. Several of them worked at the Department of Justice or in some sort of government role. Some had done private practice and some had just started public policy careers. It was a great range of mentors and I loved the research I did. I learned about criminal justice and I learned a lot about economic policy and the Federal Trade Commission. It was a good span of topics and I got to write a few pieces while I was there.

V&V: What did you write about?

Kayla: I wrote two posts for Heritage’s policy blog. One was about occupational licensure and how excessive licensing requirements among the states can bar people’s entry to a vocational field. I wrote specifically about inner city women who want to start hair-braiding salons. I also wrote about Detroit and its water crisis. The city is in financial difficulty and it shut off water to some people who weren’t paying their bills. It became a human rights issue of sorts. I was able to write about how private donors were stepping in and forming groups that would help pay bills in the short term, and walk citizens through a process to establish themselves financially in the longer term. I got to see how more government is not the solution and how more money is not necessarily the solution, but, rather, civil society comes together in communities to walk alongside people instead of just giving them a temporary handout. This is really the best solution. This is something I definitely learned at Heritage. In general, as conservatives, we love the poor and can care for them just as well, if not better, than our liberal counterparts. It’s not that we care less—we just have a different perspective on how to help them best. We understand that civil society coming together through communities in a free market can go a lot further toward empowering people to be self-sufficient and do a much more effective job than government handouts or a growing government safety net.

V&V: You were working in the “big leagues” at Heritage. Did you feel as though Grove City prepared you well? Or did you feel you weren’t ready for the bigs yet?

Kayla: It was overwhelming at first—the experience of moving to a brand new city alone and meeting a ton of new people. Regarding the overall work experience, I did feel prepared. The research experience I’ve had at Grove City, whether it was writing papers or coming up with projects on my own, has been really valuable and that definitely helped me. I learned a lot on the fly because it was legal language. Since I’ve been trained very well by the professors at Grove City I had the confidence to approach the lawyers, my superiors, when I had questions. In particular, Dr. John Sparks’ constitutional history class and Dr. Paul Kengor’s comparative politics class prepared me well as far as knowing some of the policies and the different court cases. I was really glad I had those two classes before I went.

V&V: When some of our students go to Washington, D.C., they’re surprised that Grove City College is known inside the Beltway. Did you get a sense when you got down there like, “Whoa, I come from some place important.” Did that happen to you?

Kayla: It did, it definitely did, particularly in conservative circles. And that was encouraging. It made me thankful to go to a college like Grove City because a lot of my fellow interns—there were 70 of us—were from very large state universities or Ivy League schools. Hearing about their experiences at their schools made me realize how lonely it could be for them as a conservative. Coming to Heritage gave us a sense of community and belonging and it made me appreciate the community I have at Grove City College. I haven’t been just fighting to keep my beliefs but I’ve been encouraged and challenged to grow and really work through what I believe and why I believe.

V&V: Did you participate in The Center for Vision & Values’ annual networking trip to Washington, D.C.?

Kayla: Yes, I did that as a sophomore. I enjoyed it and it was a good introduction to the policy side of D.C. I knew something about the election cycle and politics but I didn’t realize how many think tanks and conservative research groups there are in D.C. That trip created a desire to return and spend a summer in the capital. The trip also showed me there are many jobs in the conservative movement and that I don’t have to get a graduate degree right away. We visited leading conservative think tanks. Hearing many of the speakers at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference was enjoyable as well. The trip gave me a sense of confidence about succeeding in Washington and it taught me a lot about networking.

V&V: You have a 10:00 a.m. class in a few minutes, Kayla! You had better run. Thank you for your time and for giving us a lot to think about!

Kayla: Thank you.

(Note: Center for Vision & Values donors fund a three-day networking trip to Washington, D.C. Students pay only $40 for bus fare, hotel, breakout lunches at think tanks, tickets to CPAC and several meals.)