“Defining moments”: UI political science graduate learned leadership, community

During his time as University of Iowa Democrats president in the spring, 2022 Caleb Slater learned leadership and the necessity of community. He plans to take his passion for justice to the UI law school next fall.


Matt Sindt

University of Iowa senior Caleb Slater poses for a portrait outside of the Adler Journalism Building on Thursday, May 4, 2023.

Liam Halawith, Politics Editor

Caleb Slater, a Des Moines native, has been politically involved since his high school years and got his start in the 2018 campaign season. He volunteered for Cathy Glasson, a nurse and president of the Service Workers International Union chapter 199.

After getting a taste of political organizing, Slater’s sense of justice and activism drove him to pursue his goal — becoming a lawyer.

Slater will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in political science and will attend the University of Iowa law school this fall.

Slater led University Democrats at Iowa during the 2021-22 school year. During his tenure as president, he helped organize forums, campaigns, and debates during the primary season ahead of the 2022 midterm election.

“So, all of these candidates could get a feel for what students’ priorities were,” Slater said. “But the students could also get a feel for what these candidates’ priorities were.”

Slater solidified his love for Democratic politics during his freshman and sophomore years when he participated in the 2020 caucuses and was able to meet candidates and hear their platforms.

“Iowa is a really great place to be for people who wanted to sort of get involved in democratic politics,” Slater said. “I would show up to meetings and get to meet these really cool candidates who came from all around to come to talk to college students. And I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”

During election season in 2020, Slater stepped up as treasurer of the University Democrats at Iowa. He helped plan events to engage voters on campus — despite a pandemic — including having President Joe Biden’s campaign bus visit campus in the Hancher Auditorium parking lot.

“It was difficult to navigate as an exec board — holding events and having people be involved without being in person,” Slater said. “It’s really difficult to get people engaged over Zoom.”

Slater is thankful for the opportunities offered through the UI during his four years. With Johnson County being a stronghold for progressive politics in the state, he got lots of experience working with progressive activists.

“Being a student at the University of Iowa has presented me with a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and I am really grateful for that,” Slater said. “Being able to get involved in the 2020 election, and then the 2022 election with Iowa, and Johnson County’s sort of unique political situation.”

After he was elected president of the University Democrats at Iowa, Slater said the chair of the Johnson County Democrats, Ed Cranston, reached out to him and offered to work together on organizing the county.

“The Iowa City community is really welcoming,” Slater said. “And that’s one thing that I liked. As soon as I got elected president of UDems, the Johnson County Democrats chair reached out, and we’d chat often about the community.”

Slater said his activism during his time at the UI has helped him hone his values and instilled a sense of justice in him. He is looking to use this sense of justice — with a law degree in hand — to help those around him.

“Being politically involved has allowed me to sort of like hone what values I want to work to progress in my communities — wherever I end up — and in whatever field of law that I end up in,” Slater said. “I think I’m sort of like driven by wanting to use whatever abilities I have to pursue justice and whatever community that I’m in.”