Liberal Arts alumna Caroline Hunter makes impact on Federal Election Commission

Brynn Boehler
March 15, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Caroline Hunter, a 1997 international politics alumna, works to safeguard citizens’ confidence in democracy and the election process as a member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the independent regulatory agency charged with administering and enforcing federal campaign finance law. 

Hunter was nominated to the FEC by President George W. Bush on May 6, 2008, and she served as chair of the commission in 2012 and 2018 and as vice chair in 2011 and 2017.

Caroline Hunter

Penn State alumna Caroline Hunter served as chair of the Federal Election Commission in 2012 and 2018.

IMAGE: Federal Election Commission

Along with years of education to receive an undergraduate degree at Penn State and graduating cum laude from the University of Memphis School of Law, Hunter said some of the strongest skills she learned came from small daily interactions and classes.

As an undergraduate, Hunter made sure to speak up if she disagreed with what was being said in a classroom setting. Even then, the tenets of democracy were important to her. Hunter advises current students to practice this in their own classroom spaces, as it can be helpful to learn more about complex issues through debate.

Though she recognizes that students often shy away from presenting opinions that may contradict those of a professor or classmates, Hunter emphasized Penn State as a place where professors are willing and eager to hear students engage in this way.

Respectful debate and discussion are two things Hunter continued as she worked toward her current position. In a bipartisan setting such as the FEC, colleagues from different political backgrounds come together to protect the integrity and security of the democratic process.

Prior to being named FEC chair, Hunter worked in a variety of political settings as vice chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Committee, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, executive officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and deputy counsel at the Republican National Committee.

Hunter said that a common thread between all of these positions and her education was a strong focus on writing.

“I believe that liberal arts classes truly prepared me with the writing skills I needed in the workplace, and the ability to write well is key to success after college,” Hunter said.

Hunter also highlighted the importance of students taking any and all work opportunities during their undergraduate studies.

“Even if you think an internship or job might not relate directly to what you want to do or it doesn’t seem significant at the time, those experiences will build a strong base for the future,” Hunter said.

Hunter’s career accomplishments can show current students that a few reasonable steps, when paired with putting their passion and effort into their work, can make all the difference in being successful at their chosen career path.

The key pieces that comprise education in the College of the Liberal Arts and in liberal arts disciplines in general, built a foundation for Hunter that was applicable in a variety of situations. From writing and debates, to practical work experience, Hunter has used her education to make a difference in United States democracy.

To hear Hunter address finance and democracy, listen to her appearance on the Democracy Works podcast, presented by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy: https://www.democracyworkspodcast.com/2018/12/10/the-complicated-relationship-between-campaign-finance-and-democracy/

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 15, 2019