Home » News » Liberty + Leadership Podcast – From the Capitol to Campus: TFAS Alumnae on Their D.C. Summer Adventure

Liberty + Leadership Podcast – From the Capitol to Campus: TFAS Alumnae on Their D.C. Summer Adventure


Join Roger Ream ’76 in this week’s Liberty + Leadership Podcast as he speaks with three 2023 TFAS alumnae: Tiffany Parasca ’23, Deniza Toma ’23 and Lyrah Panarigan ’23, during the 2023 TFAS Leadership Summit in Park City, Utah.

Tiffany, Deniza and Lyrah each discuss their respective paths leading to TFAS as well as the powerful impact the TFAS Academic Internship Program had on them. They explore their eventful summer in Washington, D.C., the meaningful friendships they forged, and the lessons learned that they are now applying in both their academic and professional lives.

Tiffany Parasca is a student at Arizona State University, majoring in public service and public policy, with an emphasis on law policy. She is also minoring in Romanian. Deniza Toma is a student at Arizona State University, majoring in civic and economic thought leadership. Lyrah Panarigan is a student at Arizona Christian University, double majoring in communications and political science. She is also minoring in biblical studies. All three guests received scholarships from TFAS to attend the annual Leadership Summit in Park City, Utah.

Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:00] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty and Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni, supporters, faculty and friends who are making a real impact in public policy, business, philanthropy, law and journalism. Today, I’m joined by three recent TFAS alumni Lyrah Panarigan ’23, Deniza Toma ’23 and Tiffany Parasca ’23. Lyrah is a student at Arizona Christian University, and Deniza and Tiffany both attend Arizona State University. These three students participated in a TFAS Academic Internship Program in the summer of 2023 in Washington, D.C. Today, we’re recording in Park City, Utah, during our TFAS Leadership Summit. Lyrah, Deniza and Tiffany are here as part of our Young Alumni Fellowship track at the summit. Today, we’ll be hearing from them about their experience in TFAS this past summer, about their internships, classes and lectures, what they’ve learned and how they’re taking those lessons back to their campuses and into their careers. Thank you for joining us and thank you for being on the podcast today.

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:01:21] Thank you for having us.

Roger Ream [00:01:24] Well, why don’t I start with you, Lyrah. Could you just tell me a little briefly as a way of an introduction about your major and where you’re from and your background?

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:01:37] Yes. I’m a senior at Arizona Christian University. I’m a double major in communications and political science with emphasis and minor in biblical studies. I interned at The Daily Caller during the summer, which was a lot of fun. Thank you TFAS for the internship. I really enjoyed it. I’m originally from Illinois.

Roger Ream [00:01:55] Wonderful. I’m curious how you learned about the TFAS program at Arizona Christian University.

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:02:00] So, Laura Cusack was supposed to come out to our campus and talk about the program, but unfortunately she couldn’t make it, but we had a bunch of fliers around campus, and my Professor Campbell, who was department chair at the time, he sent it out to all the political science majors and was like: “Hey, you should try this out,” and I was like: “Okay.” So, I signed up and I thought: “Okay, let’s give it a shot,” and then I got in. So, the rest is history from there.

Roger Ream [00:02:25] Where is Arizona Christian University? Some people might not know.

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:02:28] It’s a small Christian university in Glendale, Arizona. It is a wonderful college. We can guess a lot of lot about having a biblical curriculum site at this college.

Roger Ream [00:02:37] Tiffany, why don’t you tell us a little about your background?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:02:43] Yes. So, I’m currently at Arizona State University. I am majoring in public service and public policy with an emphasis in law and policy, then also minoring in Romanian, which is of the only programs in the country that has Romanian minor. I was born in California and lived in Texas for a bit, then moved back to California to different places and Arizona, ultimately, I settled in Arizona.

Roger Ream [00:03:05] Wonderful. How did you hear about TFAS program at ASU?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:03:10] Well, Deniza, she told me that she heard about it at ASU, and she’s like: “You should totally try and apply for this.” At first, I was like: “I don’t think I get it. I don’t have any other prior experience or any other internships under my wing.” So, I was like: “Let’s just put that aside and think about it again,” and Deniza told me she was starting to apply, she was asking me a few questions and then I really applied without telling my family or anybody that I was going to apply. So, I said I would be miserable if I were to tell people and I didn’t get except for this internship. So, I was like: “I’m not going to see anything about this,” and I got the email that I got accepted and called Deniza and I was like: “Deniza, I need you to open your email right now. Tell me if you see anything. She was like: “Oh my gosh, I got accepted.” So, I figured out about TFAS through Deniza, and we both applied.

Roger Ream [00:04:02] You got accepted the same day? Okay. Deniza, what’s your major?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:04:08] So, my major is civic and economic thought and leadership. That’s my major. I found out about TFAS when I was interning at the courts. It was a legislative internship at the Supreme Court at the time.

Roger Ream [00:04:24] The Supreme Court of Arizona, yes?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:04:25] Right. I was meeting with my internship advisory work helps me figure out the internship that I was currently at, and she pulled out a flier and it was a TFAS flier. She was like: “You should apply for this,” and I was like: “I’m not sure. I’m very close to my family. I’m not sure if I want to go to D.C. for the whole summer.” I was just thinking about it for a while. Then, I met with Laura, and I loved her, and I loved what the organization stood for, so I applied, and I got it. It worked out. Very exciting. When I was at the court, I was meeting with Justice Bolick.

Roger Ream [00:05:06] Let me just clarify. That’s Clint Bolick, Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, who was a TFAS alum.

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:05:12] Yes. I didn’t know that, and I had been applying to TFAS during the internship. He just invited us, it was me and two other interns on the court to come to his office to talk with him, and he was asking us what each wanted to do, and I said: “I want to go to the political realm and everything,” and then he said: “You should apply for TFAS. I’m an alum and I’m teaching in Prague this summer.” I was like: “Wait a second, everything’s connecting here.” So, then I applied, and I thought: “This is the coolest thing that Justice of the Supreme Court told me.”

Roger Ream [00:05:50] Well, now I’d like to shift a little and just find out a little bit about your TFAS experiences. Lyrah, you said you interned at The Daily Caller Foundation, and I know all the students you took some classes or a class. Tell me a little about in general terms about your experience this summer.

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:06:11] So, I was part of the journalism and communications track. So, interning with The Daily Caller was quite the experience. I got newsroom daily rundowns, getting to know how reporters think, feel, reports, kind of getting to go to the White House press secretary hearings, which was cool. Being in walking distance of the White House was epic. Posting that on my story and my friends were like: “OMG, you’re living the summer,” and I was like: “I am. I know, it’s really cool.” And then I took classes at George Mason through TFAS. I didn’t know much about economics, and I hadn’t taken an economics course, so I took economics for the citizen, which was super informational. I kind of wanted a triple major at the end of it and just be like: “Can I add an econ major too?” Because just the concepts that he brought up in each class about how free market supports the system of government that we have right now and why is the best economic system. I never really thought about that in his perspective. So, the way that he explained those concepts in a way that I can understand, in the way that it applies to me, was super fruitful. So, I took that class and took the foreign policy class with professor Askonas and he was super cool. Getting to know him, getting in his hear his experience, understanding foreign policy from the very beginning of American founding up to now, just kind of getting a crash course. It’s been a crazy eight weeks with those two classes, but super fruitful, super informational. I took those concepts and things that I’ve learned back to campus here at ASU and connecting those concepts that I’ve learned, so that was cool.

Roger Ream [00:07:58] Good, good. Deniza, tell me about your internship and that summer experience.

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:08:07] So, I interned at Family Research Council. I absolutely loved it. I have only the best things to say about the internship. I loved my fellow interns. Laura helped me get it, because I had found it a month after the deadline to apply was, so Laura called people that she knew and asked if I could possibly even be considered. Then, the next day they called me and the internship advisor at the time told me: “Just apply. We’ll look at it, and we’ll get back to you.” He basically interviewed me on the phone, the first time I had talked to him. I got it and it was a blessing. So, that was a wonderful internship. I was doing research. It was under the government affairs track, which is exactly what I wanted as well. It was a marriage, family, sexuality. Very controversial, but I was just doing research.

Roger Ream [00:09:05] So, you are in our business track government?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:09:09] No, actually, I was in the public policy and economics track.

Roger Ream [00:09:10] Okay, but you’re in the government affairs department at Family Research Council?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:09:12] Yes. I loved it.

Roger Ream [00:09:15] Great. Wonderful. Which courses did you take?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:09:19] So, I took Economic Problems in Public Policies with Dr. Bradley, and then I also took American Political Thought with Dr. Boyd. I loved both as well. Building on what Lyrah said, the economics class made me want to major in economics as well, like double major. I decided not because I’m supposed to graduate soon. But it just rekindled my love for economics and hearing like the free market perspective, which I hadn’t heard for like so long, and it was just very, not comforting, but it builds you up, you’re just excited to learn it. I love Dr. Bradley.

Roger Ream [00:10:04] She’s great. You’ve been with her this weekend here in Park City, Utah, as well, right?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:10:09] I sat next to her during last night’s dinner. She’s so cool.

Roger Ream [00:10:13] Tiffany, where was your internship?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:10:16] I interned on the Hill with Congresswoman Debbie Lesko. It was an amazing experience. I also was very hesitant about it only because Laura told me: “You should apply if you want to work on the Hill. That’s an internship you apply to but separate from going through TFAS.” She gave me a whole list of organizations I could apply to that were stuff that I like, and she was like: ” You should just give it a shot,” and I did. Within a few hours, I got an email from a Brendon, who was my supervisor, he said: “Let’s set up a time, let me interview you.” I was so nervous, but it was a wonderful experience. I’ve found so much joy and it was very fulfilling. Politics gets a very, very bad rep. I mean, to some extent, there is going to be corruption in every single field you work in, but working with Congresswoman Lesko, I found it so fulfilling. I was given that sort of confidence I never expected. Even through TFAS, I took Dr. Bradley’s class. So, I took Economic Problems in Public Policies, too. What I learned helped me when I was supposed to do a co-sponsorship for the congresswoman. So, what I learned, those free principles and from economics, I was able to apply it in my internship. It was funny because last night you quoted a Henry Hazlitt, and I love Henry Hazlitt. I was first introduced to economics in high school, early high school, and we read that book as a class. It was a small liberal arts high school, and hearing that another quote tonight, it just like it touched my heart.

Roger Ream [00:11:49] Well, when I was your age, my first job out of college was at a place in New York called the Foundation for Economic Education called FEE, and Henry Hazlitt, who lived in Connecticut, and he’d come down and lecture at the seminar. So, I drove up to his house in Wilton, Connecticut, to pick him up, and drive him and his wife down about an hour to Irvington, New York, and get a chance to talk to him and spend some of that time reading several of his books, as well. He was a wonderful man and a very prominent economic journalist in his career. Did take just that one class?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:12:27] Yes. I only took one class. Also, piggybacking on what both girls said, I also wanted to double major and get a degree in economics.

Roger Ream [00:12:34] Little late for that, right?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:12:36] It’s a bit too late.

Roger Ream [00:12:39] Well, as today, the day we’re taping this, the House of Representatives needs a speaker. Is Congressman Lesko interested?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:12:49] She just announced she’s stepping down.

Roger Ream [00:12:51] Oh, she’s not running for reelection? Is she just fed up with everything or maybe do something different?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:12:54] She’s wants to spend time with her family.

Roger Ream [00:12:58] Can you each think of a one highlight of the summer that you took with you, maybe you’ve already touched on it. So, for Lyrah, it might be going to the White House. But is there some experience there that kind of really stuck with you?

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:13:16] TFAS gave me a community. I think that’s something that stands out from the summer. So, the three of us, we were all suite mates in Woodley Park. So, we developed a good sisterhood, and these girls I’ve gotten to know over the summer, and we’ve kept in touch ever since then. We have a whole Instagram chat with little memes and reels. We want to meet up and do something, because we’re all in Arizona. Getting to know like-minded individuals through the TFAS community has been super fruitful as well. I think that summer was just a great opportunity to make those connections and to get yourself out there. I think that was the highlight with the different events that TFAS had over the summer. We had guest speakers, lectures, going to different places. It was a busy summer. When we think back about it, we’re like: “Wow, we can’t believe it actually happened.” But it happened and it was cool.

Roger Ream [00:14:22] How about you, Deniza?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:14:25] Honestly, community, huge and wonderful. We would just stay and talk about different things that we had learned that day or different things that we were watching on the floor that was happening, political problems. I just feel like the leadership of TFAS, as an alum, and leaders like Laura, honestly, was wonderful and so helpful and such a good resource. But also, just hearing from the alumni, the alumni dinner was my favorite. Networking was very daunting to me initially, but I think that was my favorite dinner to network with people and to get know what they were doing or where they had been. Organizations that I love, like AEI, and seeing had different connections there.

Roger Ream [00:15:07] Just to clarify exactly what that is, it’s one of my favorite events during the summer. It’s we got our Alumni Roundtable Dinner and we probably had about 50 alumni or more who volunteered to come, maybe it’s 70, and they have dinner with the students and then the students have a chance to move around the room and meet alumni based on what career they might be in or what their interests are. Alumni love doing and connecting with students. I think our students love it because they can make a connection and follow up with an alum. So, that is a highlight event for us. Tiffany?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:15:44] I mean, I’m torn between two. One is community and two is confidence. So, community was one of the biggest things. We girls got along so well and even if we didn’t agree on everything, we would spend hours way too long staying up, every night we got home and we would get home late, talking about theology, what was going on the floor and stuff that we were learning and what we were learning in our classes and our lectures. And even outside of that, I’ve been contacted by TFAS multiple times. We have our alumni event in Phoenix, Arizona. This opportunity, there’s this idea of continued education, which is so, so important. I’s very heartwarming to see that people still care. There are still people like us, people who are younger, who are seen as a minority and especially at universities, we are seen as a minority to see that there’s adults who care and want to help fulfill our dreams is honestly one of the most inspiring things. And then the second one is confidence. I mean, we have we are great tools, we just don’t know how to put it together. And then TFAS especially Laura. Laura was my program advisor.

Roger Ream [00:16:50] I don’t believe that you mentioned her last name, but it’s Laura Cusack, who works at TFAS.

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:16:55] Laura Cusack. TFAS, in general, they gave us this confidence that we can do something, and even outside of that, after we’re done with school, because we still have like a few years left, they were like, just contact us and we will help you find a job. We still want this best for you, and we see that you guys are very capable, and we very much appreciate that. So, confidence is one of the biggest things.

Roger Ream [00:17:18] Let me ask you also about any special events you did this summer that you remember being meaningful, because I know, at least the Liberty Learning Fellowship has some events attached to it. You mentioned the Board of Regents event. Lyrah, why don’t you start?

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:17:35] My favorite part, one that’s Deniza’s as well, was a Victims of Communism Museum. I didn’t even know there was a museum, until they said it was a museum. Getting to go there, hearing the speaker who was one of the directors and he was kind of talking about the importance of bringing awareness to the atrocity that communism and hearing that statistic, over 100 million people died because of communism and seeing that impact and the different stories that were shown in the museum. I wanted to just sit and cry because I’m speechless with the system and just how we can let that happened.

Roger Ream [00:18:21] Well, the director of the museum, Elizabeth Spalding, is a TFAS alumna, and I had her on my podcast last year. It’s a wonderful museum. I’ve been there several times for events and exhibits, and we want to encourage all our students to visit there. How about for you in addition to that museum?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:18:42] Yes. On top of that museum. I love that museum as well. My parents were both born in communist Romania, so it hits home. I’m so encouraged to know that it’s there and that there’s like efforts to educate people on that as well, AEI, we had an AEI briefing and I just I love the organization. I think they’re so cool. They’re just cool.  I’m now part of the AEI, we’ll soon to be hopefully, part of the AEI collegiate network at ASU. So, it’s just it was cool to be exposed to that. We had a briefing, and it was about opioids and different like drug problems in America. It was very interesting. I knew nothing about it before that, but it was just very interesting. So, the different events that we were able to go to with the Liberty and Learning Fellowship, it was just so cool.

Roger Ream [00:19:38] Tiffany?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:19:38] One of my favorites was the lecture series hosted on Capitol Hill with Senator Rand Paul. We met Senator Rand Paul, Tulsi Gabbard, there was a few other people, but especially the one with the Senator Rand Paul, when he talked about the case for limited government. That was probably one of the most prominent lecture series that stood out to me. He was very eloquent with his words and explained it to people. You could tell there was people in the crowd, who very much disagreed with him. You could tell by the questions that they asked. And then after, I was curious because when we left, because we were on the Senate side, we had to go to the House side. So, on the subway, people were talking about it, and I was sitting in a little group with people who disagreed with them. So, we had a little conversation. It was peaceful. We also got to go to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, got to meet a judge there, Judge Ginsburg. So, that was also another interesting part of the TFAS.

Roger Ream [00:20:38] Yes, Judge Douglas Ginsburg, was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Reagan, but he didn’t get confirmed. The Rand Paul lectures were excellent this summer. I remember Marty Makary, the doctor from Johns Hopkins talking about COVID, Matt Taibbi on that Twitter files. We sent fliers on that to every office on Capitol Hill. Republican, Democrat and get several hundred to 300 interns at those programs, and they can be some Q&A sessions afterwards. I’m glad you took advantage of that. I was going to ask kind of what things you may have carried back that have come up in the classroom or on campus that you drew from this experience at TFAS. Are there some things, either things from economic courses, concepts that you’ve used in classes, or is it more confidence as a leader on campus? Can you comment on things that it’s changed you in terms of that campus life? Go ahead, Tiffany.

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:21:40] Of course, so this semester I’m taking “What is Europe,” it’s a SLC429. So, our class in only presentation based. So, you present, and you talk for 10 minutes and that’s your grade and you do it two times. Almost all my classes are presentation based. But having the opportunity, which I never would have expected, we went to guest lectures every single week during the eight weeks. I was able to pull so much information on their formats and the way they talk, the way they address people, and I was able to take that into my presentations I’ve been doing, especially this semester.

Roger Ream [00:22:19] Good. Deniza?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:22:22] This is, I think, more specific, I guess, but in Professor Boyd’s class, there was a concept called soft despotism, and I debated it with Professor Boyd in class. I keep talking about it. I think people just hear me talking about it all the time now. But basically, a philosopher, Tocqueville, French philosopher, wrote Democracy in America talks about this idea that the more that the government steps in, the more that people just willfully abdicate their role as citizens and just allow the government to take that role. But the government doesn’t do it very well. So, there’s this problem where citizens just rely on the government for everything, and it just continues to grow as citizens just see that as the normal thing. That’s something that I feel like applies in civil life, political life, like literally every aspect of your life. If you allow other people, including the government or just other people around you to step in and take the God given roles to do in your life, then you’re not fulfilling your purpose correctly. So, that’s just something that I keep talking about.

Roger Ream [00:23:33] That’s a great point. I’ll get back to you, Lyrah, I haven’t forgotten. I want to pursue that for a minute because this is a theme that came to my mind last night listening to Gerard Baker of The Wall Street Journal, who spoke last night. He talked about how he felt like it was in the sixties and seventies, Americans became sort of developing this attitude of feeling entitled. We used to have this concept in our country that Tocqueville observed of kind of self-reliance. It doesn’t mean, this kind of individualism where we didn’t have community because he noticed that he observed how Americans very much had this commitment to forming associations to get things done and active in their community, but they were also self-reliant. They didn’t say: “I’m going to rely on the government.” What struck me about you said is that we’ve structured this soft despotism now that if a person wanted to and there are people who live this way, they can live their whole life dependent on government for whether it’s welfare, all sorts of support and all the way up through till they die. Healthcare, social security, everything. I wonder if you get to the end of your life and you’ve lived your life that way, have you lived a life that’s really been flourishing? Are we denying people, in a way, their human dignity, if we give them up to live that way? So, I think that’s great that you’re pursuing these ideas at ASU. Lyrah.

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:25:09] I don’t know if I can add anything to that. During the guest lecture, during TFAS, David Bahnsen, he talked about human flourishing and how it coincides with free market. So, I just thought it was interesting to compare the two and like now that you’re adding also that I was just like: “Oh, these connections are just blowing my mind.” So, a highlight or something that I’ve taken from my experience would be the confidence factor on campus. So, I run our school’s paper, and something that I’ve always kind of been self-conscious about was that I was just very attentive, not really a strong decision maker. I wasn’t sure about where to do things and how do you go about things and then TFAS, you guys had the mentor program in the summer and my mentor Victoria, shout out to you, thank you so much. She built my confidence up so much. She gave me a lot of opportunities. She was super strong and give me advice on how to go about being a journalist, how to go about making wise decisions or just career paths. I was talking about it with her and being able to experience and learn from her experiences was really, fruitful. So, now on campus, getting the experience from The Daily Caller, the lessons that I’ve learned from TFAS through classes, I’ve just kind of, not necessarily have a chip on my shoulder or anything, but I come up with a lot more to bring to the table, which has given me a lot more ground to stand on. So, when I’m with my friends or in leadership meetings or with my club, I’m a stronger leader now because of that. It’s just been really humbled in there.

Roger Ream [00:26:57] Do you think the TFAS experience of summer has in any way influence kind of the decision you make in terms of your career direction? You talked about how it could have influenced your majors and all, but in terms of what you’re thinking about in your career?

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:27:13] Yes, actually. So, I originally wanted to be a journalist. It was my hardcore goal ever since middle school to be a journalist, a news anchor. But then, I went to The Daily Caller, and I was like: “Okay, cool. I love journalism, I love the aspects of it, but I love research more. I love being able to crunch the numbers for one of my articles that I wrote.” I read an article on mass shooting and mass shooting data in national statistics. I just love to be able to analyze those numbers. So, with that, I was like: “I love research, but what do I want to research?” So, now, I’m working with Dr. Barnett, and he’s been teaching me how to do social research, basically. I love every single minute of it. So, that was kind of my switch with TFAS. I’m still thankful for the opportunity to with at The Daily Caller, but it was also something that helped me realize where I wanted to be.

Roger Ream [00:28:14] Deniza?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:28:19] I wouldn’t say that has changed my career trajectory, but I would say that I’m still unsure of my career trajectory. I’ve always known, or at least for a little while now, know that I wanted to work somewhere in the political realm. I think I’m noticing more that like somewhat like civil society is very much my focus or like growing that and growing the institutions that allow us to build up American values like civic education and all of that. So, I just continue to learn more about what I’m interested in, but also even just like today and recently, I’ve been thinking about possibly graduate school or I’m not sure just speechwriting, that’s kind of a cool opportunity or a like a focus of mine now. I really like the lady from Free the Facts, I don’t remember her name.

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:29:18] Laura Henderon, I believe.

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:29:18] Yeah, okay. That’s her name. She was a speechwriter for all these candidates and everyone who spoke to us, I was the most attracted to how she portrayed her job, her career, the different things that she did. So, yeah, I’m still unsure on what I want to do, but I’m taking steps, I think in the right direction, and I feel like TFAS is always going to be like a wonderful program that I know I can always like ask questions or reach out to people or I just have all these connections now, which is crazy.

Roger Ream [00:29:59] Tiffany?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:30:00] I’ve always been somewhere between somewhere in law or somewhere in politics. I mean, I think after this internship, I think I zeroed in more specifically on wanting to go somewhere to the political realm. I was thinking research, which I would have never expected myself to do research. Just recently I told my grandma about this internship. My grandma is Romanian, so I’m trying to explain to her the way the education system works in the U.S. and not communist Romania. It’s just very hard to like, push it on her, I guess. I told her: “I was thinking about political research.” She started laughing. She said: “I never would expect you to go anywhere near politics,” because I used to want to be a doctor, but I think after this internship, I feel I discovered somewhat of the talent I have and a drive for it. Obviously, these skills can be refined, I’m still young, but I think I have the right tools and the right people around me that push me in a good direction.

Roger Ream [00:30:55] When did your grandmother leave Romania?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:30:57] She was 53 when she left.

Roger Ream [00:31:01] Was that after the end of communism or during?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:31:03] So, she saw the fall of communism and lived through communism, and when they were trying to institute democracy. So, it was a very rough decade for her. Decades, honestly.

Roger Ream [00:31:22] You’ve all mentioned you know how the TFAS experience sparked an interest in economics. I’m curious about on your campuses kind of what are attitudes of students. Are they mostly uninterested about kind of the free-market system or I’ll say capitalism? Do they look at it favorably or unfavorably? What’s the general thought?

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:31:55] I’m at conservative Christian college. I would say that my because my school is conservative Christian, we don’t necessarily have hard core debates on the free market versus socialism. So, I think we do have a turning point USA chapter and we just talked about socialism on Thursday. We were kind of talking about like, this is what it is, here’s why it’s bad and everything like that, and kind of the consensus that I got from students because small number of students came to that meeting was because we already know that’s a good thing. We don’t need to worry about it. I think that shouldn’t be means to just stop just because we know, okay, free market is good, but understanding why it is. So, I think that’s kind of my attitude towards it. I feel the campus would reflect that same thing as well of I think we should further education as to why free market is essential and why it’s so important.

Roger Ream [00:32:57] I know ASU is a large public university. When I last visited ASU, there was the kind of open area of the campus, there was one table set up and it was like the Young Socialist Alliance, or it was a Bernie Sanders thing or something. I almost stop to talk to them, but I said: “I’ll keep going.” What are you finding at ASU? Probably most students don’t really engage on those issues, or do they?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:33:32] So, it depends where you are. It’s a massive university. But my major is very political or focused on political issues. I’m in a class called Debating Capitalism. So, it’s been an interesting class so far.

Roger Ream [00:33:47] And you got a range of views?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:33:49] It attract like a lot of different views. There are some people that I would probably call communists and then some people that are very like free market libertarians, some people that are more conservative. So, it’s a very interesting conversation every class period, but it’s hostile. So, I would say most of the opinion is against free markets.

Roger Ream [00:34:14] Is the professor kind of play it straight down the middle and try to just engage people and trying to engage to think?

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:34:19] Yes which is unexpected for ASU. He does a good job, but he allows us to debate whatever we really want to. So, every class is basically debating just modern-day capitalism, even though we do have a reading for every class. So, yeah, it’s interesting. But to build on what Lyrah was saying, I think it is important for people that are in support of free market economics to be able to know why and to be able to just defend, not because I’m sitting in my classroom, and I’ve been equipped with the tools to defend free markets and to defend all of that. But it’s daunting if you have the tools and even if you understand why free market economics makes more sense and is like a logical conclusion and not this careless, monstrous ideal. So, even for me, it’s hard to debate people, but I have been able to grow in my confidence and a lot because of Dr. Bradley and TFAS and hearing all these insanely intelligent people talk about free market economics that I really respect.

Roger Ream [00:35:37] Well, today at lunch we heard from Melanie Sturm who has engaged to win, and she gave us six rules for persuasion.

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:35:47] I’m going to use them in my class.

Roger Ream [00:35:50] To make sure that you show people you care. Start by saying something like: ” I worry about poor people and the plight of poor people in this country.” How about you Tiffany?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:36:08] So yes, I also go to ASU. We are seen as a minority, especially out in the ASU courtyards. You will see people who call themselves communists. I occasionally, I’ll engage with them, I just ask them questions because I’m just genuinely shock how someone would come to such a conclusion that this is the right answer. And this semester I’m taking a class, there’s only one other student in my class and it’s Romanian and Romanian culture. We’re talking a lot about Ceausescu, who was the dictator of Romania, so it’s communist regime. I every single time we learn stuff about it, I’m brought to tears. Both my parents were from communist Romania, my grandparents were on both sides. And when I go on the ASU campus and see these people that have such firm beliefs that this is the right answer, and even today during our talks, people say that communism sounds like it would practically be the right answer for people. You’re saying all the right things people want to hear, but practically it just doesn’t work. No way could work. You will have to be a robot with no idea of what you want and no personality, no wants, no desires. That’s one way communism could work.

Roger Ream [00:37:22] Yeah, I wish I could recall exactly the quote that was put on the board by Melanie of Thomas Soul, who said socialism sounds great, but in practice it doesn’t, it never worked, and it’s come with great human cost on top of that. So, you hear a lot as well in surveys about students feeling they have to self-censor, or they might get their grade lowered or get canceled or lose a friendship if they’re conservative at least. Is that kind of a view found in classes that you have to self-censor, or most professors are open to hearing a diverse range of opinions or even in your social life on campus. How does that work? What’s been your experience with that?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:38:20] I mean, to some certain extent it is. You can automatically, the first time in class, I could already tell somewhat, the political affiliation of my teachers. The problem is sometimes they’ll push their agenda, which you can choose to have whatever opinion you want, and then we can choose to discuss it, but when they push it on you, that’s when I just must take a breath. We have debates in class and usually, I mean, I’m not too scared but I will tiptoe around the subject if I want like share my opinion, but most of like my social life there, there is not many Republican or conservative students that I usually talk to. But the thing is, I’m able to have good discussions with people who are on the opposite side of the spectrum. There are not always the most fruitful, but I still engage with them and it’s I’m still able to have friendships with them, but it gets to a point where it’s just not as fruitful. I honestly think it’s on there and they kind of put up a barrier that this is just not going to happen because we disagree so big on such important topics to them. So, it just gets to a point where our relationship just grows to certain extent. We will meet for coffee, will hang out a few times, but it just never gets to the point where I don’t see having a long-lasting relationship.

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:39:33] Honestly within my major, there is like a free, open discourse. We’re allowed to disagree with each other. We all have like a little library where we all just like bounce ideas, disagreeing, and it’s very, very fulfilling. But within a lot of my classes, especially debating capitalism, which is offered by my major, but it just attracts a lot of different types of people. That is probably the class where I felt the most, where I had to self-censor, but I did choose not to try to. There’s most of the classes, like in opposition to anything free market, and it’s almost like laughable to them that anyone would think that. So, it’s hard because people coming out with such like a like an emotional perspective, and I don’t usually come at things with an emotional perspective. So, it’s hard to combat that and hard to like not to get riled up as well. So, that’s something that I’m learning, but I think it’s good to be forced to learn that in a classroom setting.

Roger Ream [00:40:42] I think all three of you got scholarship support to come to our program and we’re very grateful to donors who contribute that and provide these scholarships. Was that essential for you in order to attend?

Lyrah Panarigan ’23 [00:40:57] So, Deniza, we both got the Liberty and Learning Scholarship. Super thankful. That was basically: “My dear God, it’s me. I got in, great. But I can only do this if it’s fully provided because I don’t have the money in the means to do that,” and so as soon as I opened the scholarship decision as like: “Oh, I’m going to do D.C. This is seriously happening,” and I’m super thankful for it, for the donors and being here in Park City and getting to talk to some of them and talking to the alumni as well that have donated and given. I’m reminded of that biblical passage. So, I firmly believe that these donors and these alumni are almost kind of following that scripture of like we have a resource of take care and to help grow these kids, to be the leaders that God has called them to be. So, with that, I just have a heart of appreciation and gratitude towards the donors that have given their time in their efforts to help us succeed, so very thankful.

Roger Ream [00:42:16] Well, it really, it’s back to Tocqueville.

Deniza Toma ’23 [00:42:18] It does. Everyone’s got to do their part. But yeah, I very much agree with Lyrah. I think I even told Laura on the phone. I was asking her about the different scholarships that were offered and everything, and I basically said: “I’m going to apply. I’m very excited about this, but I’m going to be perfectly candid if I don’t get the full scholarship, I cannot attend,” and that was something that I gave myself as a rule, because I’m a college student. I’m in debt. I really couldn’t justify it. So, I ended up getting the full-scholarship and I wasn’t expecting it to be very, very honest, but very blessed to have gotten, very blessed to have the donors poured their resources and time into growing and into allowing us to have that opportunity. o.

Roger Ream [00:43:11] Tiffany, you are a region scholar, which is our Board of Regents donates to provide some scholarship support to students as well. Do you get a chance to meet the regents this summer?

Tiffany Parasca ’23 [00:43:20] I did. We had a lunch together and it was such an amazing experience to meet them and a few of them are here right now. It was great to reconnect with them and they remembered who I was, which was a very meaningful I also goes back to the connection aspect if I didn’t get any sort of scholarship funding, I couldn’t have done it. I mean, I came for a tough financial position.  I was 18, and she’s my proxy sister.  if I honestly didn’t get any source of funding, I wouldn’t have been able to do this opportunity. t had a lot of fruit to bear. I was praying before; I was getting stressed out. I don’t know what to do. I was like: “I don’t know if I should even apply for the scholarship.” And the next day I got the email, saying: “Let’s do it, Tiffany.” It was good enough for the scholarship, but luckily for my schooling so far, I’ve planned it out in some sort of like trajectory, not get into that for it yet.

Roger Ream [00:44:23] Well, you just must remember now that our donors who provide the scholarship support expect great things from you. They talk a lot about trying to help develop honorable leaders and courageous leaders. I have no question in my mind that our decision to accept you in our program was a wise one, and you took full advantage of all the opportunities this summer and you’re back in campus, fully engaged in various ways. So much, so glad that you’re here with us this weekend in Park City, Utah. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you. I could sit here and talk all afternoon, but it’s a beautiful day in Utah, we’re on the side of a mountain, so I’m going to give you some time back before we leave for dinner tonight. We will hear from two of our professors: Dr. Bradley and Dr. Don Boudreaux will be joining us for dinner. So, thank you for being my guests today on The Liberty and Leadership Podcast. 

Deniza, Lyrah, Tiffany [00:45:21] Thank you for having us. Thank you for the opportunity.

Roger Ream [00:45:24] Thank you for listening to the Liberty and Leadership podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download, like or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like this episode, I ask you to rate and review it. And if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty and Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host, Roger Ream, and until next time, show courage in things large and small.

About the Podcast

TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.


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