Enlivening Politics: Ziya Smallens ’16

December 11, 2018

Jane Hobson ’22

Ziya Smallens
Ziya Smallens ’16
Photo credit: Courtesy of Ziya Smallens ’16

Ziya Smallens ’16 is working as an associate with West Wing Writers in Washington, D.C., a speechwriting and strategic communications firm founded by former White House staffers in the Clinton and Obama administrations.

At Oberlin, Smallens studied politics and creative writing, was a Cole Scholar, served on Student Senate, and was involved in the school’s music scene. One of Smallens’ most formative Oberlin experiences was taking Emeritus Professor of Politics Paul Dawson’s seminar, Policy Analysis: The Presidency, which forever shaped the way he looked at politics. Other classes with former Professor of Creative Writing Dan Chaon, Associate Professor of Sociology and Comparative American Studies Richard Baldoz, and Assistant Professor of Politics and Comparative American Studies Jennifer Garcia helped Smallens develop confidence as a writer and identify his political voice.

“I walked away from Oberlin with a strong grasp on my personal approach toward politics and a devotion to enlivening political communications, a field that is plagued by uninspiring prose and re-hashed talking points. My overarching strategy is directly, but ambitiously, talking about the unique crises facing local communities with precision and moral clarity.”

Ziya Smallens canvassing
Ziya Smallens ’16 canvassing for Antonio Delgado in New York's 19th congressional district
Courtesy of Ziya Smallens ’16

Smallens started his job with West Wing Writers in September after working as a press assistant for the U.S. House of Representatives. “My current position melds both of the academic worlds I lived in at Oberlin: politics and writing,” he says. “Honestly, it’s a dream job for me. Every day I’m learning new writing skills and assuming different perspectives as a writer, whether it’s writing a speech for a leader in the private sector or helping a first-time political candidate refine their strategic messaging.”

In the future, Smallens plans to continue his work in politics. He remarks, “I’d love to work as a communications director for a candidate, elected official, or political operation that I help establish from the ground up.”

You may also like…

Jane Sedlak ’19 Studies the Chemistry of Wildfire Smoke

April 20, 2022

Jane Sedlak graduated from Oberlin College in 2019 with a degree in chemistry and was named the winner of Oberlin’s Nexial Prize. Given to a student who demonstrates academic excellence and an interest in cultural study, the Nexial Prize comes with a $50,000 award, which afforded Sedlak the opportunity following graduation to study art conservation at the Louvre in Paris. She is currently a graduate student at University of California San Diego.
Head shot of Jane Sedlak

The Pursuit of Research and Understanding How the Brain Works

March 15, 2022

David Shostak’20, a native of San Francisco, played four years on the varsity soccer team and graduated with a major in biology, a concentration in cognitive science, and a minor in environmental science. For the past two years, he has worked at a neurobiology lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In fall 2022, Shostak will begin working toward a PhD in neuroscience at the University of California San Francisco. Read more about Shostak in this After Oberlin Q&A.
Head shot of David Shostak

Director Ry Russo-Young ’03 on Filmmaking, Storytelling, and Nuclear Family

January 6, 2022

On September 26, director Ry Russo-Young ’03 released her three-part documentary film Nuclear Family on HBO Max, which follows her landmark custody case that unfolded in the late 1980s. The film is an intimate look into Russo-Young’s childhood growing up as the younger daughter of two lesbian mothers and a paternity suit that threatened to upend their "nuclear family."
Ry Russo-Young takes a self-portrait in the a mirror