Casey Plach, Gateway Essay Winner, Class of 2015
November 8, 2012, BLOOMINGTON, IL. – Last year at Illinois Wesleyan, various professors
nominated papers written by students in their gateway courses for an essay competition.
Out of numerous entries, a faculty committee chose the paper written by Casey Plach,
a political science major from the class of 2015. Her essay, a thorough analysis
of a book entitled The Ox-Bow Incident, featured a striking comparison to the politics involved in the Iraq War. As a political
science major, Plach is able to write about history and literature while making contemporary
In the essay, Casey analyzes The Ox-Bow Incident, a story about a vigilante group of people that attempts to take justice into their
own hands. When a member of their town is murdered, the group finds three scapegoats
and executes them without much deliberation. Casey expertly relates this to the situation
the United States found itself in when we decided to invade Iraq. One example of
her liberal arts education is that Casey crosses disciplinary boundaries and uses
various psychological concepts, such as groupthink, confirmation bias, and cognitive
dissonance, to analyze the critical decisions made by a large group. She points out
that, in retrospect, it is easy to blame the people who were in charge when we decided
to invade, but she argues that we were a different country back then; a country in
which most people supported the invasion at the time. The concept of groupthink perfectly
relates to The Ox-Bow Incident. Casey’s essay was the best of her class, due in large part to her advanced writing
skills. She asserts, “Any career you go into, writing skills are so important, and
Gateway really helps to develop that.”
Casey is currently a sophomore and is double-majoring in political science and Spanish.
She credits her gateway class – entitled “Citizens and Strangers” and taught by Professor
Jim Simeone, head of the Political Science department – with helping to engage her
in both areas of study. “Taking that gateway class got me interested in immigration.
Having a gateway that’s so specific to a certain topic can really get you interested
in something you might want to consider career-wise.” Over the summer, Casey volunteered
at Oakton Community College for a program called Volunteers in Teaching Adults (VITA),
where she taught English as a Second Language.
Casey’s essay and course of study illustrate the strengths of a liberal arts program.
Post-graduation opportunities will most likely line up for Casey, and she attributes
this to the skill and instruction of the political science professors. “We have a
great department. They challenge you to critically evaluate what we consider normal,
forcing you to consider all perspectives and think about our own society.” As her
school career continues, Casey looks forward to advancing in her studies and hopes
not to quench her thirst for knowledge.
To view Casey’s prize-winning essay, click here.