It was late in 2016, and the drama surrounding America’s presidential race was grabbing attention both nationally and around the world. That’s when Anthony Laurita had an epiphany.
“I was sitting in my economics class and after 50 minutes I realized I hadn’t paid attention to a single thing the teacher had said,” Laurita says. “I was spending all of my time watching what was happening with the election. That’s when I realized I needed to make a change.”
Laurita, then a sophomore at CSU, immediately started looking into switching majors from health and exercise science to political science. He took two political science classes – one from Peter Harris, the other from Allison White – at the start of his junior year and immediately knew he had found his passion.
“Anthony is an example of someone who used the university experience to find something he was really interested in,” White says. “He’s stronger in the major because he came in with fresh ideas, and he represents a number of different perspectives. He’s a great role model for students in terms of pushing people to think in a different way, but respectfully.”
A native of Morgantown, West Virginia, Laurita grew up a “coal kid” – generations of his family are tied to the state’s mining industry – and a gifted athlete looking to compete for the Rams as a distance runner. He arrived as a walk-on (non-scholarship) student-athlete and made a big impact on the cross-country team competing as a redshirt freshman, finishing among the top five Rams in the final three races at the Mountain West, regional and NCAA meets.
Something, though, wasn’t right. A first-generation student from a conservative family and background, he came out as gay as a freshman. The pressures he was facing in school, with running, and in his personal life eventually took a toll.
“I loved running, but I was also struggling personally,” he said. “I was suffering from chronic depression, and I just wasn’t happy. I decided to quit the team going into my junior year, and everything in my life kind of fell apart after that. I went through a very difficult phase of counseling, feeling alone, and just trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing.
“When I started focusing on myself is when I started to get better.”
White provided a caring ear during some of the tough times, and the two became friends. White helped Laurita, who will graduate with a 3.5 GPA, hone his writing skills, and Laurita nominated White as one of CSU’s Best Teachers earlier this year.
At the same time, White also noticed that she was being taught by her student.
“He’s the kind of student I wish I had an award to give for making the biggest impact on the professor,” she says.
As for Laurita, after graduating with that degree in political science, he plans to take a year off from school and head to Washington, D.C., to work. After that, he’ll apply to grad schools – his dream school is George Washington University – and work in government, ideally the Department of State.
Regardless, he’s thankful he chose CSU.
“I never thought I would be leaving here the way I am now after arriving the way I did,” he says. “That’s exciting to me; college really changed me in a lot of ways. Who knows where I would be if I hadn’t come here? I’m just glad I did.”