Victoria Drzymala

Victoria Drzymala '23 graduates with degree in political science and international relations, and minors in anthropology, and Latin American and Latino studies.

For Victoria Drzymala, Politics Isn't a Spectator Sport

She graduates with a degree in political science and international relations, and minors in anthropology, and Latin American and Latino studies.

Photography by

Christa Neu

While some of her fellow political science students might be fixated on the scrum of national politics, Victoria Drzymala '23 learned early on what the longtime U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill knew—all politics is local. For Drzymala, governing isn't something you watch, it's something you do.

As president of the Student Senate, a Marcon Institute Fellow and the daughter of immigrants, Drzymala was uniquely qualified to spearhead the creation of a six-week internship for Lehigh students from diverse backgrounds to work with Bethlehem City government.

"I worked last summer to design an internship program for students from underrepresented backgrounds or traditionally marginalized communities to learn from elected government officials and people who work in the sphere of government and politics," Drzymala said. She contacted the office of Mayor J. William Reynolds and Janine Carambot Santoro, Bethlehem's director of equity and inclusion, and found them enthusiastic about the idea. Lya Ali, a first-year student, interned with the city this spring.

"It's great for her to have those connections," Drzymala said. "She was able to make an impact and learned a lot from her time at City Hall."

Victoria Drzymala

Victoria Drzymala with her parents and brothers. Photo: Contributed.

Drzymala already had experience in setting up internships: her own. She grew up in Garfield, N.J., the oldest of three children born to a mother who immigrated from El Salvador and a father from Poland. With that Polish connection, she volunteered with Garfield's Pulaski Parade Committee where she met Lehigh alum Thomas J. Duch ’78, who was city manager. He encouraged her interest in government and politics and mentored her when she landed an internship at Garfield City Hall.

"He went out of his way to connect me with people he thought could help me with my future, and I'm so grateful," she said.

Duch, who is now the administrator for Bergen County, N.J., urged Drzymala to consider applying to Lehigh.

"It was the first college I visited, and I fell in love with Lehigh immediately," she said. "The campus was just so inviting."

Upon acceptance, she had no doubt she was Lehigh bound. When the pandemic hit in the spring of her first year, classes went remote. But Drzymala would be on campus the rest of her college career after she became a Gryphon and was selected head Gryphon for her junior and senior years.

Victoria Drzymala

Victoria Drzymala during her internship with Executive Vice President and Global Chief Supply Chain Officer of McDonalds, Marion Gross, and McDonald's President, Joe Erlinger. Photo: Contributed.

Drzymala graduates in May with a degree in political science and international relations, and minors in anthropology and Latin American and Latino studies. She counts among her mentors Holona Ochs, associate professor in political science and director of the Marcon Institute.

"She was a fantastic professor, just somebody you can learn so much from," Drzymala said. "She has such an interesting background and every single class with her was superb."

Allison Mickel, assistant professor in the sociology and anthropology department, persuaded Drzymala to minor in anthropology and that gave her a new perspective on her majors.

"I'm so glad I took her advice because doing a minor in anthropology has given me a completely different lens to look at politics and government," she said.

Aarsenio Perry, who was director of the Office of Student Engagement and advised the Student Senate before leaving at the end of 2022, provided great counsel and support through her Student Senate duties.

"He was somebody who always had a smile on his face, always had a solution for me, was willing to provide advice, a shoulder or just somebody that I could rely on," she said.

After graduation, Drzymala will work as a constituent advocate for U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, who represents the Sixth Congressional District in Pennsylvania, which includes Chester County and parts of Berks County, including the City of Reading. She'll be working in the district but ultimately, hopes to get back to Washington, D.C., where she interned last summer with the McDonald's government affairs office.

"I feel very confident in my ability to succeed outside of Lehigh because of everything I learned and experienced and did here," she said. "The last couple of years have been just so amazing. My professors were very helpful. All the organizations that I was a part of were very supportive. Lehigh has been a safe place for me to explore myself and my interests and my potential professional career goals."

–By Margie Peterson

Photography by

Christa Neu

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