Michigan State Representative David Rutledge spent Wednesday shadowing Eastern Michigan University Honors College student and contest winner Andrea Mellendorf.
“This was very special to me, and I’ll remember this day for a long, long time,” Rutledge said.
EMU’s Honors College offered their members an opportunity to show Rutledge a day in the life of one of their students via a contest. Mellendorf, a sophomore at EMU double majoring in communications and public relations with a minor in German, won the contest based on her academic merits and the essay she turned in with her application.
Mellendorf, from Grandville, Mich., is also a resident advisor in Phelps Hall, chief financial officer for EMU’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America and a member of the Honors College. She said the Honors College provided a unique opportunity, and she was grateful she sent in the application and essay.
“I really wasn’t expecting it, so I was really excited when I found out I was chosen,” Mellendorf said.
Rutledge is a state representative of the 54th House District and was first elected in 2010. He was also elected by his Democratic House colleagues to serve as the Democratic floor leader for the House of Representatives in 2013.
Rutledge said he had previously been to several meetings in EMU’s Student Center but never took an in-depth tour of the campus before Wednesday’s visit. His other ties to Ypsilanti include being the owner and president of Ypsilanti-based environmental services company, Esourceful, LLC.
Rutledge, who was also an R.A. in the dorms when he was as an undergraduate student at Tennessee State University, said the day at EMU brought back a lot of his own college memories.
“It’s been a long time since I have been on campus as a college student. This took me back to those days. So much has changed,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge attended two classes with Mellendorf, a German class and an American government class, but the day began at 9:30 a.m. with breakfast at Einstein Bagels. Rutledge also followed Mellendorf to a Residence Life meeting, and he said lunch at The Commons was delicious.
“I started with soup, but the homemade pizza was tugging at me,” Rutledge said.
The changing colors of the leaves and cool temperatures made Wednesday an ideal fall day, and Rutledge said the picturesque views of campus were apparent as soon as he entered the parking lot.
“It stands out,” Rutledge said. “It’s a strikingly beautiful campus.”
Rutledge also said he noticed the security measures around EMU’s campus.
“I’m impressed with the safety precautions,” Rutledge said. “But, I’m essentially impressed with the high quality of instruction in the classroom. It’s a quality learning experience at the high level, but it’s a lot of fun, too.”
Besides just taking note of the campus and courses, Rutledge also said the Eagle he was partnered with for the day was a first-rate scholar.
“I can’t overlook how impressed I was with the student I was shadowing, Andrea,” Rutledge said. “She’s so practical in her approach to school, and she’s so caring at such a young age.”
Mellendorf said the day went smoothly and she was surprised at the representative’s genuine interest in her courses and student responsibilities.
“His enthusiasm to learn about my day-to-day life as a student was refreshing,” Mellendorf said. “I thought it was really cool that a politician cared that much to spend the day with a college student.”
Associate Director of the Honors College, John Feldkamp, said he hoped this event would be the start of a long-lasting relationship with state representatives, and Rutledge offered to return the favor and have Mellendorf as a guest for a day and observe the daily routine of politics within the capitol building in East Lansing, Mich.
Mellendorf said the invitation for a trip to Michigan’s capital would definitely be accepted.
“I was really excited, and I would totally take him up on that offer,” Mellendorf said. “I think it would be fun and really educational.”