During her three years at American University, Carla Faustino has met more celebrities than most people come across in a lifetime.
Singer John Legend, former senator Olympia Snowe, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and Rep. Paul Ryan are just a few of the many luminaries that have come into the AU junior’s orbit.
And then there was former president Bill Clinton.
"I just kept thinking, I’m in the same room as Bill Clinton. This is so crazy!" Faustino said. "I posted a picture with him on Facebook and everyone was asking how I met him."
The answer to that question is three words: Kennedy Political Union. Faustino, a double major in Communications, Law, Economics, and Government and political science, is the deputy director of KPU, the student-run political lecture series.
KPU has a long history on campus. Now in its 44th year, the organization has brought top political thinkers and activists from around the world to AU.
Faustino, who grew up in suburban Chicago, knew from a young age she wanted to be involved in politics. In high school, she volunteered for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. After that experience, she couldn’t see going to college in any other city but Washington, D.C.
"When I visited AU, it just seemed like everyone was into something. Everyone seemed motivated, like they were here to accomplish something," she said.
Her freshman year, Faustino volunteered for KPU. The fact that such an important campus entity was run entirely by students piqued her interest.
One of the first KPU events that Faustino volunteered for was a town hall style Q&A with the self-proclaimed Republican "Young Guns" — Representatives Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who went on to become Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election.
The event began with an interview with FOX News’ Greta Van Sustern for her show On The Record. The evening made an impression on Faustino.
"It was so cool that a group that’s just a bunch of students could do something like that," she said.
After her freshman year, Faustino wanted to become more active in KPU so she applied to be the organization’s publicity coordinator. In that position, she handled all the promotion and logistical support for the events.
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Junior year, Faustino wanted to be more deeply involved in KPU and applied to be the deputy director. In that role, Faustino reached out to many elected officials and other notable names to schedule them as speakers.
This year, she’s helped land Snowe, former Obama advisor David Axelrod, reproductive rights activist Sandra Fluke, and MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow, who is speaking at AU on April 21.
Faustino’s experience as a legislative intern for Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has helped her navigate Washington politics and made it easier to connect with potential speakers. Her most recent internship at Crosby~Volmer, an international communication firm gave her a taste of public relations, which is part of her role with KPU.
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All of the speakers KPU brings to campus have an opinion. That’s why they’re invited, Faustino said. And that’s why AU students respond to them.
"We’re trying to get people to think critically," she said. "You don’t have to agree with the speakers politically. But you have to understand that they have something interesting and valid to say."
KPU isn’t Faustino’s only brush with leadership at AU. She’s also a member of the Phi Mu sorority and a delegate to the Panhellenic Council.
As deputy director of KPU during her junior year, it might make sense that Faustino seek the directorship her senior year. But she’s spending the summer studying abroad in Spain through AU Abroad's Madrid Summer Internship program and won’t be around to help plan the 2013-2014 series.
Still, she anticipates continuing her involvement in KPU. Being that close to D.C.’s power brokers and intellectual giants makes it nearly impossible to resist.
The experience of the past three years has certainly left an indelible impression. One of the speakers who resonated most with her was Snowe, a hero of Faustino’s for her commitment to compromise and moderation.
After working to secure Snowe as a speaker, Faustino was asked if she wanted to introduce the former lawmaker. It was an especially important event for her because her father came to see it.
"I freaked out. I was so excited," she said. "It’s such a cool opportunity to have as a student."
This article is the third of a four-part series called, "Your AU." The articles detail the experiences of American University students during freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year.