“I didn’t know anyone who was a physician, or anything like that,” said Missy Rebovich ’12, of her experience growing up in a family so tightly woven into the political fabric of New Jersey. “I spent so much time at the Statehouse, and all my mom’s friends, and the people my dad knew, were all involved in politics in some way. That’s who I knew.”
Being surrounded by talk of polls, policy and public service made an understandable impression on Rebovich, a Psychology major at Rider who writes and edits the Wake-Up Call for PolitickerNJ.com, the state’s deepest online presence for political analysis. The popular morning roundup is the first place many pundits turn each morning for a summary of what they need to know.
“I get to see the business it from the media side, now,” she said. “I see the role they play; it’s important and very interesting.”
Perhaps Rebovich’s interest is encoded in her DNA. Her mother, Jayne O’Connor, served as the press secretary for Gov. Christie Whitman, and her father, Dr. David Rebovich, the longtime professor of Political Science at Rider, was widely regarded as the state’s most respected and prolific political commentator prior to his sudden passing in 2007. He was also the founder and managing director of the University’s Institute for New Jersey Politics, which now bears his name.
“What’s funny is, I didn’t always know my dad’s actual place in politics,” said Rebovich, who will receive her bachelor’s degree from Rider at the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 11. “It was very unique, coming from the academic side. He didn’t hold office, yet he’d get so many calls from public officials looking for his input. And he did it all unofficially, at the same time. I tried to figure out if anyone else really did that.”
That sort of unfettered access to elected officials is something Rebovich says she took for granted as a youngster. “He would come home and have 38 phone messages from politicians,” she recalled. “I thought it was normal.”
Interning at the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance in Trenton, Rebovich is able to connect constituents with their elected officials in a way she says our representational government intends.
“People call with complaints. Maybe they can’t figure out how to apply for Medicaid, or have even been unfairly kicked out of their apartment, and are looking for assistance,” explained Rebovich, who also interned in the office of former state Sen. Bill Baroni. “Politicians really do help people, and I think it’s important for them to understand that. The average person might get mad at something in their town, and complain about it on Facebook. Call your mayor! That’s what they are there for!”
Rebovich, who volunteers for different campaigns, says that rather than involving herself in politics, she actually planned on a career in counseling – a nod, perhaps, to her psychologist stepfather.
“I like the dynamic of helping someone one-on-one, the therapeutic aspect of it,” she said, “but with all the talk in my Psychology classes about policy and organizations for people with mental health issues, I began to think about helping people on a larger scale, rather than one on one.”
This shift in thinking redirected her plans for graduate school. Rebovich will begin work toward a Master of Public Policy, at Monmouth University in the fall.
“Some programs have very set schedules, where they determine what you’ll take, and when,” said Rebovich, who also considered public policy and public administration programs at Rutgers. “Rather than take me out of what I’m doing now, this is going to let me grow where I am.”