Even before joining CBS’ “Madam Secretary,” politics has played a central role in Kathrine Herzer’s life. At 15, with a passion to slow climate change, she interned at Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, and these days isn’t afraid to share on social media opinions on matters ranging from women’s rights to health care.

“I’m really lucky to work with people that allow us to speak our minds however we want,” the 20-year-old says of the political drama series she’s been a part of since 2014.

“A lot of TV shows and people in the industry like to sort of cultivate a certain narrative to get out there. But that’s never been talked about with us. It’s an environment to learn and to grow as a person.”

That nurturing environment extends beyond the set, too, with Herzer currently studying at NYU’s Gallatin School, where she’s a junior. It helps that the show is shot in New York City, too.

“We’re pretty good about shooting. We don’t go to midnight and 2 a.m., so I am able to sort of maneuver my classes around my work schedule,” she says.

Studying business, psychology and film, Herzer follows in the footsteps of a number of famous actresses. Anne Hathaway, Rooney Mara and Dakota Fanning have all studied at Gallatin, an individualized study college.

The Los Angeles native has happily settled into NYC life, currently residing downtown and enjoying the simpler pleasures of campus life, like the Village’s iconic Famous Cozy Soup ‘n’ Burger, which Herzer says reminds her of the delis of LA. “I love Cozy’s diner on Broadway; the food is so good,” she says. “Cozy’s is sort of like a little slice of home for me.”

Playing college student Alison McCord, daughter of Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) and NSA operative Henry McCord (Tim Daly), has been an educational experience in itself, Herzer says, and she considers her on-screen parents her acting mentors.

“Having Tim and Téa as my parents is a blessing,” Herzer says of the real-life couple. “They’re just such beautiful people. They are great actors, and they do an amazing job on the show. They bring so much life to these characters, which is so fun to watch and see how they essentially work.”