BGSU experience leads political science graduate on path to law school
By Julie Carle
Camden Sondergeld came to Bowling Green State University to learn. Through two different majors and many academically brilliant faculty members, the December 2020 graduate is prepared for his next journey as a law student.
He started at BGSU in the College Credit Plus program when he was a senior at Gibsonburg (Ohio) High School. From an early age, music was his cornerstone, which played into his decision to study jazz guitar at the University. He discovered that the jazz studies program, which was “in my backyard,” was nationally ranked in the top 25, the education was affordable, and he was familiar with BGSU because his older siblings Holden and Soren were both Falcon alumni.
While Sondergeld started at BGSU as a music major, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in music. His desire to understand the world always seemed to be at the core of his decisions.
He was drawn to study music “because I didn’t understand it and I really wanted to,” he said. “At the time, I didn’t really know why I was there, but I’ve always been fascinated with music’s ability to invoke the spectrum of human emotions and to articulate so many things which words fail to.”
He studied primarily with jazz guitarist/pianist Ariel Kasler, an assistant teaching professor of jazz guitar and jazz piano in the College of Musical Arts.
Kasler taught him, not only how to be a better guitar player, but also a larger lesson – how to be artistic.
“There is a lot about music that is incredibly overwhelming, like the theory required to utilize harmonic extensions, that create a lot of mental gymnastics,” Sondergeld said. “At the time, I didn’t realize that those mental gymnastics and my almost neurotic fixation on working through them made me sound like a poor guitar player.”
Kasler’s mantra, “Pay attention to the sound that you’re getting out of the guitar,” didn’t click then. “I couldn’t take a step back to see that what I was doing didn’t sound as good as it should,” Sondergeld said.
“I started studying music largely for self-actualization,” Sondergeld said.
After he passed his sophomore review, he decided to change majors. “I realized I wasn’t as willing to go through the final steps of a music degree, but I also think I spent just the right amount of time doing that.”
At the same time that he was moving away from the music degree, the political landscape was changing. “I felt sort of a shift. I felt like I no longer had an understanding – if I ever really did – of the political landscape. I realized I didn’t have a clear understanding of the full picture of comparative government, and I wanted to.”
Many of his political science classes, in particular “1710 comparative government,” which he says with a deep reverence, instilled in him the ability to think more broadly. Dr. Neal Jesse, the political science professor who taught the class, became his mentor and sounding board. Sondergeld frequently would stop by his office hours, not to ask about class assignments, but to discuss politics and ascertain the world’s happenings.
“Comparative government was a toolkit class, providing solid foundations for the way I look at things,” he said. “I am now better able to take a step back from the political carnage a little bit and see that I no longer have to look at the political fixation of left and right. I can compare forms of government rather than preferences of political parties.”
Many other political science faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences also gave him some of the foundations for moving into law school and eventually into law practice.
His move to studying political science also earned him the prestigious Frazier Reams Public Affairs Fellowship. He didn’t have a lot of extracurricular activities to add to his resume when applying for the fellowship, but he mentioned his desire to be an attorney and the fact he had worked throughout his college career.
With the goal of leaving college debt-free, Sondergeld split his time 50-50 between school and his job of stocking shelves with lumber and moldings at stores mostly in Fremont and Tiffin.
The fellowship was “a life-changer” for Sondergeld. “It made my transition from undergrad, as I prepared for law school, that much easier,” he said. “It was nice to have that as part of my BGSU experience.
“I had wanted to express some of my sentiments to Mr. Reams in person,” he added, but Reams died in July before they could have face-to-face conversation. “I was so impressed with his work and his political record, and quite a few of his positions coincided with mine. I genuinely appreciated their altruism.”
With law school on the horizon, Sondergeld admitted that Kasler’s lesson has now sunk in. “It’s about how to be artistic, how to connect to yourself and how to make sure you are producing music rather than executing it.
“I failed to do that during my career as a music student, he said, but now that he has started to play and compose music again, on his own and with other musicians, “I’ve taken a new perspective and I am able to internalize that thought.”
Remarkably that lesson also resonates in all aspects of his life. “I’ve started to realize that there’s sort of a way that everybody focuses on ‘what their guitar sounds like. Everybody does things differently, across art forms and in everyday life.”
What started for him with music now extends into the way he thinks about everything. “I’m still working on this lesson that I need to pay attention to everything I am doing because it is considered an expression of myself.”
That translates into the pursuit of a law degree, from studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to working through three years of law school, regardless of where he ends up. He’s interested in Montana, because of the grand scenery and landscape and the seemingly less hectic lifestyle. He plans to marry Elizabeth, his middle school sweetheart, and eventually to start a law practice with her as his legal assistant.
With his undergraduate experience behind him, he is grateful that his pursuits in music and political science have led to some of the answers he was looking for in life.