Welcome to the latest installment of the CJC Student Spotlight Series! This month we spotlight Peyton Ritter, a senior in the College from Lexington, Virginia. Ritter majors in Government and transferred to Georgetown from Occidental College during the Fall 2020 semester. Read about her unique journey to Georgetown and learn more about her CJC experience below!
Q: Tell us about yourself, Peyton!
A: Hi, friends of the CJC! I grew up in Lexington, Virginia, and have three older siblings. Before coming to Georgetown, I lived in Los Angeles, California, where I went rock climbing and trail running a lot. Sadly, I can’t really do that anymore in D.C, but I’m my happiest when strolling around the monuments at sunrise or at night. I also play the oboe and love orchestra music.
Q: How were you introduced to the CJC?
A: I took my first CJC class in the Spring of 2021. Halfway through that semester, I was convinced that I should join the Center after just a few conversations with students and faculty about the minor, its academic opportunities and wonderful people.
Q: Could you speak about your journey to Georgetown? Specifically, what school did you transfer to GU from? Could you speak a little bit about your experience as a transfer student? Lastly, what have you learned from the experience and what were some of the communities or groups that eased your transition?
A: I transferred from Occidental College, a small liberal arts school in Los Angeles. After two years there, I needed a change. I was thrilled to be accepted to Georgetown as an incoming junior for the Fall of 2020, but I was hesitant to transfer in an online setting during the pandemic (not an ideal situation). I gave it a shot anyway, and by the end of my first semester, it was clear that making the switch was one of the best decisions I had ever made. Even in an online environment, I felt welcomed and supported by other students, and was especially lucky to be taught by professors who were empathetic and understanding about the whole situation.
The transfer process, like any major life change, can be daunting. But I learned that it’s well worth the work and emotional energy when you land in the place you truly belong. That is such a wonderful feeling, and it’s how I feel at Georgetown.
Undoubtedly, the CJC has been the group that eased my transition most. Having transferred from a small school, the Center immediately provided me with a tight-knit community of students and faculty that I didn’t necessarily expect to find at a larger university. Also, I have to give a shout out to Father Matthew Carnes, my Fall 2020 Comparative Political Systems (CPS) professor. Father Carnes created a small discussion class the following semester so that CPS students could maintain our friendships throughout the entire school year. This is just one example of a professor who went out of their way to build a sense of community among students during such a challenging time, and certainly eased my transition to Georgetown.
Q: What was your first CJC class? Have you had any favorite courses thus far?
A: My first (and favorite) CJC class was Professor Jacob Ware’s course, “The Weaponization of Hate.” Professor Ed Husain’s “Islam, Judaism, and Western Civilization” was also amazing.
Q: What are some of your academic interests? How have you explored them while at the Center?
A: I first became interested in security studies after the January 6th insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol. Two weeks later, on January 15th, the CJC hosted Professor Bruce Hoffman and Professor Elizabeth Stanley for a virtual discussion on the attack. I only left wanting to know more. After the event ended, I scrolled through course listings and found “The Weaponization of Hate” – an introductory course on domestic far-right extremism in the COVID-19 era. I immediately contacted my academic dean for a course overload and enrolled a few days later. Then the class basically changed my life. I really owe it to the CJC– they not only pulled together such an interesting and timely speaking event (over winter break!), but also designed an entire course for students to learn about the ideological trends and threats that culminated in the January 6th attack and other incidences of far-right terrorism.
This past summer, I took two more CJC classes: Alon Burstein’s “Religious Terrorism” and Professor Ed Husain’s “Islam, Judaism, and Western Civilization,” both of which broadened my knowledge about terrorism beyond the context of the far-right. I am really looking forward to putting my knowledge from each of these classes toward my senior thesis, which will examine how neo-Nazis have responded to the War on Terror.
Q: How has the CJC impacted your time at Georgetown?
A: It has made it so much better. If I have a problem, need career advice or interview prep, or just want to talk about my feelings or rant about something, the CJC is where I know to go. I’m really thankful for that, especially as a transfer student navigating a new space.
Q: What have been some of your favorite moments while a GU student in general? Have there been any highlights of your time thus far?
A: Georgetown can be an amazing place for students interested in politics. I’ll never forget being able to talk one-on-one with former Alabama Senator Doug Jones, a Spring 2021 GU Politics fellow, for nearly an hour last semester. He gave me pretty solid life advice. So, to other students, I highly recommend getting involved in GU Politics – the lineup of fellows is remarkable every semester, and they’re here to talk to you about anything, from your career aspirations to the latest news headlines.
Q: What are you most looking forward to this upcoming semester?
A: I’m mainly just happy to be back in-person: to study on campus, spend much-needed time with friends after over a year of virtual classes, and of course hang out and watch the news (or Love Island) in the CJC lounge. And, as anyone who knows me will attest, I’m really excited to be taking Professor Bruce Hoffman’s “Terrorism: Middle East & North Africa” class and Professor Dan Byman’s “Hate Groups and Social Media” class. I will be nerding out all semester.
Thank you for sharing with us, Peyton. Look out for our next student spotlight in October!