MURFREESBORO, Tennessee — April Carroll thought she was a Democrat when she enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University.
Carroll grew up on a farm in Linden, where her parents voted Democrat, and so did her grandparents on her father’s side.
But during a class her freshman year on American government and politics, Carroll learned that many of the positions she and her family held fit better with the Republican Party. They were pro-life and pro-NRA, and for lower taxes.
Carroll soon became friends with two other students in the class who were members of the MTSU College Republicans, and before long she was a member, too. She became the group’s secretary and now is serving her second year-long term as chairman.
Today a 21-year-old senior, Carroll is a political science major with a concentration in public administration and a minor in history.
There are more conservative students at MTSU than some might think, but they’re not always open about their beliefs, Carroll said.
“I think they’re scared,” she said, describing how they fear a backlash at a time when many college campuses are tilting more leftward, including in red states.
Carroll said many professors and students in the political science department are liberals. “You have to constantly defend yourself and it gets annoying very quickly.”
One time, Carroll and another student in the College Republicans walked out of a class on women in law when the male professor referred to a baby in the womb as a “parasite.” On another occasion, a professor in a conversation with another member of the College Republicans referred to conservatives as “slinky pigs.”
But Carroll said there are a number of other professors on campus who are Republicans, especially in the economics and aerospace departments. The adviser for the MTSU College Republicans is economics professor Charles Baum. A Rutherford County commissioner, Baum is running for a seat in the state House of Representatives to succeed Rep. Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro), who is running for state Senate.
Baum said Carroll has done a great job as chairman of the College Republicans, describing her as “hard-working, organized and passionate” and crediting her with developing an active agenda with meetings on important political issues.
“I really appreciate her dedicated work,” he said.
Carroll said she is pleased that a number of female students have joined College Republicans, as well as several immigrants. One of her biggest joys, she said, is seeing people join the group who weren’t Republicans before.
She is also a member of Omega Phi Alpha, a national service sorority.
During the last presidential cycle, Carroll favored Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination and chaired “Students for Rubio” on campus. She voted for Donald Trump in the general election. Her enthusiasm for Republican candidates rubbed off on her parents, who left their Democratic voting patterns behind and voted for Rubio and then Trump like their daughter.
Carroll said she thinks Trump is doing a good job overall as president but needs to be better about effectively communicating his ideas.
“He really needs to stop with the Twitter,” she said. “I don’t think he’s helping himself.”
Looking ahead to her future, Carroll is thinking about pursuing a job as a congressional aide after she graduates. She wants to serve as a link between an elected official and the community, considering that an essential role to helping people keep in touch with government.