Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Spiess advancing equality through politics

When Natalie Spiess was college hunting, she wasn’t necessarily looking for the best SUNY program — she was looking for the best fit.

After visiting Plattsburgh State for scholar’s weekend, she met students who sparked her interest in the honors program.

She liked how downtown area was in walking distance from campus. “I love how interknit everything was,” she said.

She fell in love with Plattsburgh.

Spiess came to PSUC with a passion for political science, which she accredited to her involvement with a political program for accelerated seniors in high school.

Her second major in gender and women’s studies came later on as she became involved with activism on campus and joined the Center for Womyn’s Concerns.

Her motivation arrived early on in her college career, with the help of a couple professors who served as mentors.

Spiess was a teaching assistant for political science Adjunct Lecturer Forrest Studebaker. He is one of her professors who has worked hard to push her to do what she wants to do she said.

He has helped her discover her own strengths, particularly with her writing skills and transferring her knowledge to other students.

“She’s a reminder to me that what we’re about here is trying to polish the gems that come our way,” Studebaker said.

In all of his years of teaching, he said he has seen students struggle with uncertainty, and he saw that in Spiess — but he also saw her work through her uncertainty with her tremendous writing, analytical skills, patience and time management.

“She has a strong grasp on the possible.”

Studebaker said that Spiess’ only weakness was her lack of experience in public policy, but he was proud to say she fixed that with her most recent internship in Washington, D.C.

Over the summer, Spiess interned at the political action committee called Emily’s List, which works to elect pro-choice democratic women to office. It is known as the nation’s largest resource for women in democratic politics.

She applied early, had an interview and a week later she was accepted to intern with the organization. She was a research intern. Her job was to help build the organization’s position on candidates and campaigns through research.

“It was the dream organization,” she said. “You always want to go to the dream organization.”

When she started her internship, Spiess realized that her writing skills were strong and contributed to her success with Emily’s List. She attributes this to the education she received at PSUC.

Spiess said she has always been interested in politics and changing the world through legislation and the legal system. With her zeal for women’s issues and equality, she said she feels that one of the best ways to advance in women’s equality is through the legal system and through court cases and the law.

She said this is the time to get involved in women’s rights on the political side because of the recent backlash, particularly Supreme Court cases that came down this summer against women’s rights.

She would like to help pass laws dealing with better domestic violence legislation and helping to prevent women from being denied equal pay and access to birth control.

Overall, she wants to focus on getting women and men into politics who will support women’s issues.

Associate Professor and Chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department Susan Mody said in the multiple classes she has had Spiess in, she has seen her exceptional learning skills.

“She doesn’t jump into every conversation at every moment,” Mody said. “Her voice is strong when she enters the conversation because she is thinking carefully, she’s a good listener.”

Mody has seen Spiess’s work ethic outside of the classroom as well. She said she has seen her leadership and thoughtfulness as an activist in her work with the Center for Womyn’s Concerns.

“She is extraordinary, she interacts so well. I have always found her to be measured, balanced and thoughtful,” Mody said

Spiess has been involved with the Center for Womyn’s Concerns since she was a freshman and served as president last year. She said that getting involved with issues like sex positivity and gender equality on campus helped her to understand that these issues were worth fighting for and that she could develop a career out of her passion.

Current President of the Center for Womyn’s Concerns Johanna Burgos said Spiess was a great president and is a friendly, hilarious, sweet person.

“She will be somewhere she can be doing politics and fighting whoever she needs to fight so women get equality,” Burgos said.

Spiess will be graduating in December and hopes to work for another political action committee or go back to Washington, D.C. In the future she would like to go to law school for women’s rights and, specifically, women’s reproductive rights.

Email Brittany Shew at

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