Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana alumna inspires and educates students

Alicia Oken ‘13, Augustana alumna and one of Vice President Kamala Harris’ team members, visited Augustana last week to speak about social media’s role in politics and political campaigning. Her lecture, “From Covfefe to Dark Brandon: How Social Media Shapes Political Campaigns,” was presented in Denkmann’s Wallenburg Hall. on Wednesday, Nov. 29.  

Oken began her journey at Augustana as a journalism major, and during her time on campus, she worked for the Augustana Observer. Oken graduated with degrees in Political Science and Multimedia Journalism and Mass Communications.

The lecture was open to the public and the Augustana community. Professor of Political Science, Xiaowen Zhang, attended the lecture and talked to Oken quite a bit during Oken’s visit to campus. Zhang said Oken is a role model and resource for current Augustana students. 

“I think she definitely is a huge inspiration for many of our current students,” Zhang said. “She definitely knows her strengths… she has a really clear sense of what she can do best.”

In her presentation, Oken said that social media heavily impacts politics and campaigning. In the title of the lecture, she uses “Covfefe” and “Dark Brandon,” which are two phrases associated with both former United States President, Donald Trump, and current United States, President Joe Biden.

Oken explains that the term “Dark Brandon” refers to President Biden’s so-called alter-ego. The term initially stemmed from anti-Biden propaganda. However, when the phrase went viral on social media, Oken explained that she and the rest of Harris’ media management team turned it into a marketing and advertising opportunity. This emphasizes the role social media can have on politics and campaigning.  

Another point Oken presented was how social media displays politicians’ personal lives to the public. Social media allows their followers to see other aspects of their life outside of politics. 

She also said that influencer partnerships are important for politicians. An example of this Oken used is when TikTok star, Chris Olsen, brought coffee to the President and Vice President. Oken talked about how this could help the Democratic Party reach Olsen’s fanbase.

First-Year Jude Lucero attended the lecture because she has a passion for political science and explained Oken’s presentation was not what she expected. 

“When I think of social media, I usually go to all the negatives,” Lucero said. “So when she was explaining how much social media helps political campaigns, it was definitely surprising to me. I didn’t think social media also has so many positive impacts, and specifically on topics that are as controversial as politics.”

When asked if she has any advice for students, Oken said that when applying for jobs after graduate school, she applied for positions she was not completely qualified for. This was how Oken received her current position. 

Sophomore Sarah Marrs also attended the lecture. Marrs said that she has a similar experience to Oken, considering her interests and majors.

“I thought it was interesting to hear that perspective because you usually don’t hear that kind of advice,” Marrs said.

Oken emphasized that stepping out of your comfort zone, because although you may not get the job you applied for, you may get opportunities you were not expecting.

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