Addison Lavelle was already enrolled in college classes in his hometown of Anderson, Indiana. He had earned a scholarship at Anderson University and was following in the footsteps of many of his family and friends who also attended the school.
But he wanted to be closer to where decisions were being made and to the people who were making those important decisions.
His father was an IU alum so the urban campus of IUPUI felt like a natural direction for Lavelle. It was his chance to be steps away from the Indiana Statehouse and countless law firms that were ripe with opportunities for engagement and impact.
“I could get an IU degree in the heart of Indianapolis—what’s better than that?” Lavelle says smiling. “It’s not too far from home. It’s urban. It’s where government is. It’s where people are involved and things are happening. I just knew it was the perfect place.”
As he researched majors, Lavelle says O’Neill’s Civic Leadership option stood out to him. He was interested in eventually pursuing his legal degree and potentially running for elected office someday.
“The Civic Leadership degree was an ideal option for students like me, who are interested in both politics and a career path in law,” he recalls.
Lavelle’s path and passion first took hold as a high school student. He was a sophomore during the 2016 elections.
“Given the nature of that election, it was impossible not to pay attention,” he says. “Everything I was studying in high school at the time was applicable to what was happening in our world.”
Lavelle says watching the Trump presidency unfold—and seeing how it differed from political norms and traditional processes—piqued his interest. Watching the mid-term Congressional elections in 2018 pushed that interest even further.
He wanted to be involved but didn’t know how.
“I hadn’t considered that I could take my interest in paying attention to politics and watching the news, and then study that in college,” he says.
A teacher opened his eyes to his options.
“It blew my mind that I could translate it all into a career,” he admits.
He soon began helping friends in local elections—an introduction to civic engagement.
But it wasn’t until his last semester in Anderson that he got to go deeper into political campaigns. He had earned a fellowship with the Christina Hale congressional campaign.
Then COVID hit. The campaign—and Lavelle’s classes—went virtual.
But he had had a taste of politics. He knew he wanted more—and that more meant a move. Lavelle put in his transfer request and was moving to O’Neill, IUPUI, and the heart of Indianapolis.
“Applying for acceptance as a transfer student was easier than it was when I was a high school student because you’re already in college,” he says. “It was a smooth and less anxiety-inducing process.”
The only road bump he encountered in the process was learning that not all of his private university credits evenly transferred to his new public university home, and that his GPA didn’t carry over.
But he says location and education made the switch worth it.
“Now I’m at O’Neill and the Statehouse is right outside my window,” he says. “And my professors have connections to the people behind those walls. They have answers for my questions about what happens there, how decisions are made, and who is doing what.”
Lavelle says those are the answers he has been searching for and what drove him to transfer to O’Neill. He encourages other students who felt the way he did to do the same.
“If you are passionate about civic engagement and public service and want to be in the heart of where decisions are being made, then an O’Neill degree is exactly what you want,” he says. “You’ll study all the facets of public life and what’s involved in government decision-making processes. And you’ll do it in a location where future career paths and contacts are more easily accessible to you. Being at O’Neill really does open opportunities for students.”