“Defining Moments:” UI Political Science Graduates Learned Leadership, Community

During his time as president of the University of Iowa Democrats this spring, Caleb Slater learned about leadership and the need for community. He plans to bring his passion for justice to the UI School of Law next fall.

Matt Sind

University of Iowa student Caleb Slater poses for a portrait outside the Adler Journalism Building on Thursday, May 4, 2023.

Caleb Slater, a Des Moines native, has been politically involved since his high school years and started campaigning in 2018. He volunteers for Kathy Glasson, a nurse and president of Service Workers International Union Chapter 199.

After getting a taste of political organizing, Slater’s sense of justice and activism lead him to pursue his goal of becoming a lawyer.

Slater will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in political science and attend the University of Iowa School of Law this fall.

Slater leads the Iowa University Democrats during the 2021-22 academic year. During his tenure as president, he helped organize forums, campaigns and debates during the primary season leading up to the 2022 midterm elections.

“So all of these candidates could get a feel for what the students’ priorities were,” Slater said. “But the students also got a sense of what these candidates’ priorities were.”

Slater cemented her love of Democratic politics during her freshman and sophomore years when she participated in the 2020 caucuses and was able to meet candidates and hear their platforms.

“Iowa is a really great place for people who want to get involved in Democratic politics,” Slater said. “I would show up to meetings and meet these really great candidates who were coming from Florida to talk to students. And I thought it was the greatest thing that ever existed.”

During the 2020 election season, Slater stepped up as treasurer of the University of Iowa Democrats. He helped plan voter engagement events on campus — despite the pandemic — including organizing a campaign bus for President Joe Biden to visit campus in the Hancher Auditorium parking lot.

“It was difficult to navigate as an executive board — to hold events and involve people without being in person,” Slater said. “It’s really hard to get people engaged using Zoom.”

Slater is grateful for the opportunities offered through the UI during his four years. Because Johnson County is a stronghold for progressive politics in the state, he has plenty of experience working with progressive activists.

“Being a student at the University of Iowa has provided me with many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise, and I am truly grateful for that,” Slater said. “Being able to go into the 2020 election and then the 2022 election with Iowa and kind of a unique political situation in Johnson County.”

After being elected president of the University of Iowa Democrats, Slater said Johnson County Democratic Chairman Ed Cranston contacted him and suggested they work together to organize the county.

“The Iowa City community is really welcoming,” Slater said. “And that’s something I enjoyed. As soon as I was elected president of Udems, the chairman of the Johnson County Democrats reached out and we often talked about the community.”

Slater said his activism during his time at the UI helped him hone his values ​​and instilled in him a sense of justice. He seeks to use that sense of justice – law degree in hand – to help those around him.

“Political engagement has allowed me to hone in on what values ​​I want to work to advance in my communities — wherever I end up — and in whatever area of ​​law I end up,” Slater said. “I think I’m kind of driven by a desire to use whatever abilities I have to pursue justice and whatever community I belong to.”

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