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.”

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