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Alum dips into real world GOP politics

Whitney Evans, Trinity ‘04, knows how to keep her priorities straight. Juggling weeks of hectic presidential campaign preparations, she can be found schmoozing at Republican fundraisers and handling party donations. But every Tuesday at 10 p.m.—even the night she attended a function with former President George Bush—she’ll always be in front of a television, watching MTV’s The Real World.

During an election season marked by a focus on the youth vote, the freshly-minted graduate has taken her political voice back to her home state to work as deputy finance director for the Republican Party in South Carolina.

“I came into Duke thinking about politics,” said Evans, who said her extracurricular activities at Duke prepared her for working at the Columbia, S.C., GOP headquarters this fall.

As a senior, Evans was executive vice president of the Panhellenic Association and served as the first chief justice for the Greek Judicial Board. Both of these positions taught Evans about working with people, the focus of her current political job.

But the art history major’s interest in politics almost ended before it landed her in the small GOP office. Now, she does everything from planning fundraising events for big donors to collecting mail, and plans to attend law school in the future.

During her sophomore year, Evans registered for the political science course “Political Conflict and Cooperation.” She no longer remembers the professor or details of the class, but she clearly remembers the situation that repelled her from the prospect of a political science major.

During one class session, Evans said the professor asked the students about the best solution to a certain political problem that she no longer remembers. Six male students sitting in the front row decided that the answer was “to lie.”

As Evans voiced opposition to this suggestion with a thick Southern accent and an Alpha Delta Pi sorority T-shirt on, those six students “pretty much looked at me as an idiot,” she recounted.

Although her shift in academic focus removed her from classroom politics, during her time at Duke she continued to question the political viewpoints she had developed in the conservative stronghold of South Carolina. Evans said her friends and classmates challenged her “to look at the issues critically and debate them.”

“Duke was a very liberal environment for me,” she said. “As a result, I have developed a decidedly libertarian bent. I didn’t have that before Duke.”

Evans will spend her days through Election Day Nov. 2 at the South Carolina Republican office, sifting through donation checks and dealing with citizens’ concerns.

After that, it is likely back to the classroom for Evans, who just took the LSAT. By the time Evans has another degree under her belt—likely a University of South Carolina law degree, she said—it will be time for the next presidential election and possibly, another political position for Evans.

“It’s a really fun environment,” she said. “I like not working for the corporate machine, but doing something that will help me meet people.”

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