Fall 2014: News and Happenings

I’m pleased to announce that our blog is back (and with a new look!) We’re now about a month into the Fall 2014 semester. The leaves are changing, sweaters are emerging from closets, and hot coffee is being sipped (or chugged, in some instances.) And here at the department of Politics and International Relations, classes are in full swing! Here’s just a sampling of what we’ve been up to:

Constitutional Law (POLI 214)

Dr. Rego is teaching the first of SCOTUSbuilding_1st_Street_SEa two-part sequence in Constitutional Law. This class, Governmental Power and Constraints, examines landmark constitutional cases regarding the allocation of power among the various institutions of government. General topics include the politics of constitutional interpretation, judicial power, legislative power, presidential power, separation of powers in action, nation-state relations, and economic liberties. Of special interest is the role of the Supreme Court in interpreting the Constitution. Throughout the semester, students are challenged to consider both the judicial and the political factors that influence the decision-making of justices, as well as the belief of many that the Supreme Court is, or should be, the ultimate/exclusive interpreter of the Constitution. Regardless of whether this is or should be the case, the Court is a major player in our political system. For this reason, students are expected to become proficient in reading and comprehending the judicial opinions through which the Court speaks to the nation in order to explain why it has done what it has done.

Theories of International Relations (POLI 362)

The millennial generation of students has been referred to as the “first globals;” that is, the first generation of young people to be networked to the culture, economics and politics of the global community. Just a couple of decades ago relatively few American students had travelled outside of the United States. Today, the majority of students have spent some time in another country, even before they got to college. It is not surprising, therefore, that student interest in studying international relations is growing. At Messiah College there are several options for students interested in global education. The Department of Politics and International Relations offers a popular major track in international relations that attracts students with interests that include diplomacy, public policy, intelligence work, non-governmental organizations, international law, and multi-national business. During the current fall semester Professor Dean Curry is teaching the IR track’s capstone course, Theories of International Relations. This upper division seminar, and sequel to the International Politics (POLI212) course, introduces students to the major theoretical approaches to IR as well as provides students with an opportunity to rigorously reflect on contemporary issues of global politics. According to Dr. Curry, one of his main objectives in teaching the KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAcourse is to connect the ivory tower of academic ideas to the gritty real world of the global political economy. The format of the course is structured on a graduate school seminar model with class discussion and group presentations focusing on timely articles as well as six recently published books addressing a range of IR issue areas.

 

In addition, be sure to check out our newly-uploaded department video, which features students and professors discussing the benefits of studying politics at Messiah College:

 

Be on the lookout for more blog entries later in the semester!

Interview with Dr. Lauermann, Politics Professor and Author of New Book

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Congratulations to Dr. Robin Lauermann on the upcoming release of her new book titled Constituent Perceptions of Political Representation: How Citizens Evaluate their Representatives. Below is an interview with Dr. Lauermann that highlights a synopsis of her argument, and outlines the process by which she wrote the book.

RobinLauermannDr. Lauermann, congratulations on your new book! Could you give a brief synopsis of the book and your central argument?

My book provides a look at the less studied aspect of representation – evaluations of officials by their constituents (not the member behavior or the citizen vote, but the link between these two). Specifically, I look at how policy, casework, earmarks and symbolic actions affect evaluations.  I find that symbolic behavior, which creates feelings of trust, is the most important factor affecting evaluations of U.S. House members.  This factor has not been incorporated in previous analyses which examined a variety of factors.  While this finding provides some comfort, in that it provides stability for our system, it also reflects that the public does not set high expectations for officials.  That facet in turn means that we are unable to hold them accountable in ways that produce constructive outcomes.

What inspired you to write this book? Why are you interested in the topic? 

It was originally the focus of my dissertation, though I have done much more extensive research and revision since that time, including taking two week long and intensive graduate level specialty statistics classes.  The genesis of this topic began with three classes: Legislative Process (Congress), Public Opinion, and Empirical Theories of Democracy.  These classes helped introduce me to the topic of representation, how it was intended to work (and does work here and in other countries), as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the system.  So much emphasis was on representative issue positions and I wanted to uncover more about the various factors shaping the representational process.  The work of Morris Fiorina, especially in the “personal vote” literature – which focuses on member activities beyond policy voting —  was inspirational to my own.

Tell me about your writing process for this project, i.e. how long have you been researching, how did you collect your data, and how long did it take you to write the completed version? 

I have been working on this project for over a decade, longer if you realize that some of the foundational ideas were sparked in my undergraduate and graduate classes.  I worked on each of the analytical chapters as independent articles, presenting at a number of conferences.  One chapter was published in the 2009 volume of Commonwealth: A Journal of Political Science.  My analysis is based primarily on data in the 1978-2000 National Election Studies, which provides a large and representative sample; it is a widely respected data source.  In addition, one chapter includes data from legislative voting scores which were added to one of the larger data sets; it was a work intensive process for which I was thankful to have a student serve as a Smith Scholar Intern (program at Messiah where students can intern as research assistants for faculty).  I also included narrative examples as well as contemporary data.

The publisher which accepted my manuscript was the second one to which I submitted the completed project and, in my opinion, a more noted one. Once it was accepted, I had to thread a theme within the manuscript, which sprang from an insight which developed from an op-ed that I had published last year.  The revisions took about three weeks and I had one final set of copyedits which were mostly stylistic – that is, how they preferred to present certain common aspects of writing such as words versus symbols, types of dashes, etc. – rather than revisions to my writing.  I had some personal satisfaction that the product that I submitted, much like the journal article, was accepted “largely,” which means that only modest edits were needed and that it was otherwise strong in content, organization, style and mechanics.  For a long project, I find that to be an accomplishment!  I credit the use of writing techniques – techniques which I share with students in my general education and major classes – for the final product.

Dr. Lauermann presents Democracy in America.

Dr. Lauermann presents Democracy in America.

What struggles did you face along the way?

The biggest challenge was persevering with the time to write amidst responsibilities of teaching and administration, as well as some difficult family circumstances.  I have a strong sense of self-discipline, but was sidelined by a number of competing priorities.  My knowledge in Political Science has helped me develop talents as an administrator; while highly rewarding, as I was able to pursue visions in policy as a leader in my roles as chair, director of advising and now assistant dean of general education and common learning, significant projects often crept into time that I planned for my research.  However, I was able to keep my oar in the water and, moreover, I think it is an improved product because of these experiences.

I also had to wrestle with a serious health issue of a family member for whom I took on legal responsibility/financial representation.  While I would not have chosen to do otherwise, fulfilling that need resulted in less time than I would have liked for the project at the time.

Finally, once I had the manuscript together, I was disappointed that the first submission was ultimately not accepted – initial reviews were positive, but upon revision the original reviewers were not available and the new reviewers were not as enamored of the project.  However, as was the case from the start of my research, when a graduate school professor questioned my topic, I believed strongly in its relevance.  In the end, being able to tweak the focus this last year as a result of some other writing on separate projects, I think the product and the publisher is of better quality.  Thus these struggles have shaped me and my work in indelible ways – ways which, in hindsight, I would not wish to undo.

What insight did you gain from writing on this topic that prior to research you were unaware of?

The public is not as apathetic as more historical scholars thought, but that we still have a responsibility to become more effective citizens in our critical thinking and information literacy  — social media has some creative aspects, but it speeds the communication of ill or un-informed perspectives and has the potential to boil things down too simplistically (like bumper stickers).

What significance does this topic have to students of politics?

We have a lot of thoughts and opinions about politics, but they are not always driven by knowledge.  If we think more about our role as citizens, we have the opportunity to promote a more constructive decision-making process, one which focuses on deliberation to reach the better outcome rather than just push an agenda which may or may not be based on actual understanding of problems and how to effectively solve them.  After all, the key element of politics IS decision-making, whether in government or any other organization.  All of the other pieces help us understand how the process works, why it may not and how to improve it.

When can we expect your book to be released, and where will it be sold?

It will be available December 3 on a variety of websites, directly from Palgrave MacMillan and also on others like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the like.

Thank you, Dr. Lauermann, for sharing about your new book, and congratulations on your success! We look forward to reading it and gaining insight to further inform our knowledge on constituent perceptions of political representation.

Heavy Workloads, Rain, and Obamacare: a Typical Day at Oxford

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Current junior Politics major Johnathan Hershey is currently spending his semester studying abroad in Oxford. Below are his reflections on Oxford and what he learned from European students about their views on America’s health care debate.

Greetings from across the pond!

Messiah has graciously granted me the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford for a semester, so here I am in the UK!

096The Oxford system is pretty different. I recently wrote about it on my own blog (a shameless plug for johnathanhershey.wordpress.com) so you can check out how it works there! It’s so different from anything we experience in the States, and requires A LOT of time management skills, which has taken some adjustment for me (for those of you who know me, you would understand). I definitely encourage anyone interested to check it out. It’s definitely an experience I would recommend; I love it here. Fall has set in here in England with winter not far behind, which means a lot of rain, a lot of clouds when there is no rain, a lot of rain, really short days, cold weather, and, last but not least, a lot of rain.

One thing I have always heard about in the U.S. is how British people typically look down upon U.S. politics, and how they may see their system as “superior”, or in the 092very least, more effective. One night, I was talking to a new British friend who identifies himself as a staunch member of the Conservative party (for those of you who don’t know, there are three major parties in Parliament – Conservative, Liberal Democrats, and Labour). My friend spent his time railing against the evils of what he perceived as Socialist ideals advanced by the Labour party, and how he simply didn’t understand their view on economics and the government’s role in the economy. He thought that government should take a decreased role, and essentially, stay out altogether. Sound familiar?

Like any good students of politics, our topic of conversation eventually shifted to what was currently happening at the time – the American government shutdown over the funding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly referred to as “Obamacare”. My original perception coming to the UK was that Conservatives here were much more “liberal” (in the American sense of the term; in terms of government control) than Republicans in America, fueled by the memory of one of my more conservative friends from Northern Ireland calling the American Republican Party “pointless”. My new friend here was shattering all my preconceived notions, voicing his support for Conservative policy that sounded much like Republican rhetoric I have heard many times in good ole’ Central Pennsylvania. This shift in conversation, however, put all of my previous thoughts back into play.

“The fact that your government shut down over universal healthcare is just [silly] to me. Why shouldn’t you give anyone healthcare? And you are denying it to the most 097vulnerable and the most helpless of your citizens. This is [absurd]. Here in the UK it is simply a given, everyone deserves free healthcare and everyone has it,” my friend remarked (comments have been edited to make them more appropriate). Our shutdown was childish to him. Even though it was quickly resolved, he saw no point in this overtly partisan conflict. My German roommate shared the same sentiment with me as my British friend: why prevent access to healthcare for the lowest income bracket of people? Aren’t these the people we should be helping onto their feet? My German roommate, needless to say, is a member of the Christian Social Union: Bavaria’s Christian conservative party.

Whether you support the Affordable Care Act, the government shutdown, or neither (there are certainly cogent arguments from both sides of the aisle), I believe that studying a broader array of viewpoints is helpful to anyone, regardless of field of study. Additionally, their thoughts reflect on two fundamental beliefs of Christianity that can sometimes become a paradox: helping the poor and financial stewardship. How do we begin or continue to assist the “least of these”, while efficiently stewarding the resources we have been blessed with? I found my European friends’ opinions to be immensely helpful in my own studies, and beneficial for this student of politics and international relations for living in this increasingly pluralistic world.

Thank you, Johnathan, for sharing your experiences! We wish you luck at Oxford, look forward to hearing more about your semester as it progresses!  

(Pictures: first depicts the main entrance to the Bodleian library, second is a quick view of Magdalen College, third is Radcliffe Camera – part of the Bodleian library)

Check it out: Life at Oxford as described by student Johnathan Hershey

apple-day-with-avery-and-harry1Johnathan Hershey, a junior Politics major at Messiah College, is currently studying abroad in Oxford. While awaiting his official blog post for the Department of Politics, feel free to check out the link below to his personal blog as he details his adventures within the UK and the University of Oxford. Thanks Johnathan for your stories, have a great time in the UK!

johnathanhershey.wordpress.com

A Politics Professor’s Explanation and Response to the Government Shutdown

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Dr. Lauermann, a Politics professor and the Assistant Dean of General Education and Common Learning, comments on the current government shutdown. Below is her explanation of the situation and her response to those who view either political party as tyrannical.

For other political scientists, my apologies, as this explanation is woefully oversimplified — one could write a book about it!

The current government situation is potentially more routine than would make most of us comfortable to think. When policy is passed, the legislation includes the substantive Robin Lauermannparticulars (what will the policy do and how will it do so). Congress must also pass appropriations to fund the legislation (since the human and physical capital to implement the policies require fund). Enter the annual funding cycle, which is the specific process which brings us to where we are.

Beginning in February the President provides a budget to the Congress for funding the next fiscal year. This power has been enshrined by law with the president for almost a century, because the predominant costs of government come from putting policies into force, secondarily the infrastructure to support the general operations of the three branches of government in their “representative” operations. The Office of Management and Budget, which reports to the President, coordinates the review of appropriations for the various agencies. Typically, the goal is to have agreement within Congress, passing the various packages of annual appropriations bills which continue to fund the government and approved policies, by June 30 to allow sufficient time before the start of the fiscal year, October 1. The government shut down on October 1 because one or more of these appropriations bills were not passed.

Thus the shutdown to government did not result from a proactive decision to close government, but rather the result of failing to take steps to pass funding for most of the appropriations bills (see THOMAS, Congressional records site, for information at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app14.html). Typically we have avoided similar outcomes in the past, save in recent memory for the 95 shutdown because, absent agreement on the larger budget bills, Congress can pass a continuing resolution (short or long term) to keep funding going until the larger agreements can be reached.

We are where we are because no continuing resolution has been passed. Furthermore, the process has become stymied because some legislators have decided to attach substantive policy concerns (what is law and what does it do) to a fiscal decision (is the law funded and at what level) because unicameral (single house) actions have not been successful.  Certainly there are always the potential for substantive impacts – if you drop spending, a law may not be as effectively enacted – but the messaging was that some members of Congress were going to use the reconciliation process to push for changes in the substantive policy. Whether their position on the policy is “right” or “valid” is the subject of a larger and less definitive conversation because it rests on competing values. However, it is not as common to create debate over whether an existing law, especially one of such scope as the Affordable Care Act, should stand or not via the fiscal process.

Some individuals have raised the contention of tyranny.  Certainly any one perspective refusing to negotiate might be considered tyranny, but because of the nature of our government, it becomes difficult to appropriately apportion blame (even though the public has no difficulty in doing so). Ben Franklin’s quote on treason is applicable here: “Treason is a charge invented by winners as an excuse for hanging the losers.” Treason, like tyranny is in the “eye of the beholder” and sometimes a convenient rhetorical argument. However, just as factions are “sown into the nature of man,” gridlock is sown into our institutional system.

Our system has separate branches which can be led by different groups (divided government). Furthermore, our bicameral system further creates opportunity for disagreement and logjams. Thus to pass, modify or repeal any policy, it requires both houses of Congress and the president (or in the case of a supermajority which can override presidential veto, just Congress).  Overall, the intention of the founders was that if actions could gain and maintain momentum through the larger process, we had less opportunity to make hasty and potentially poor decisions. From my perspective a good test of whether an action is tyranny (or at least ethically questionable) would be whether someone would support a particular political maneuver regardless of which side of the debate (s)he is on. Regardless, there is not a clear mandate among the larger public for anything more than resolving the shutdown (though a careful analysis of public opinion and elections may pose one viable argument, there is no clear and easy outcome on the substantive front to post in such a small forum here).

For a more in-depth, non-politically motivated, analysis I recommend “Revolving Gridlock: Politics and Policy from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush” by congressional experts David Brady and Craig Volden. http://www.westviewpress.com/book.php?isbn=9780813343204. Their work is not only carefully researched but reveals that gridlock is inherent to our system and not just a product of divided government – Jimmy Carter learned the hard way that the same party controlling all of the elective institutions of federal government does not pave the way for smooth policymaking.

Thank you, Dr. Lauermann, for your thorough explanation of the current government shutdown. We welcome comments that readers may have regarding our posts. 

A View of American Politics from Abroad: The Chinese College Students’ Perspective

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Current senior Politics major Abigail Scanga spent the spring semester studying abroad in China. Below are her thoughts on what she learned from Chinese students about their views on America and its domestic and foreign policy.

Every Friday night, 9 pm, at Xiamen Daxue (Xiamen University) in China, you can find a crowd of Chinese students gathered around a contemporary statue, eager to practice English. As a native English speaker, I was a rare commodity among the students, who often only get to practice with each other. With my large, round eyes and brown, curly hair, I could not hide or escape the notice of several Chinese students who would rather DSC06361practice English with an English speaker than a fellow Chinese student. Some were more fluent than others, but no matter the fluency of a student, I was always asked the pivotal question, “What is your major?” I must admit that I was perplexed by this question, especially in the face of native Chinese speakers. Do I tell them that I am a double major in Chinese and Political Science? But I knew that that answer would lead to a conversation in Chinese, which was the opposite of what I was there to do: help them practice English. Instead, I more often than not chose the route of just saying Political Science. And more often than not, I was in for a night of criticisms about both American domestic and foreign policy.

University students in China are not just concerned about one particular area of American politics, but rather a multitude of topics, ranging between both domestic and foreign policy. The most common question I received was, “What is your view on gun ownership?” The Sandy Hook Elementary shootings had just occurred two months previously, and Chinese students wanted answers: why would the American government allow its people to own such dangerous weapons? Through conversation, I also learned that Chinese people believe that every typical American family owns a gun. When I explained that my family didn’t own guns, I was further grilled, “Why doesn’t your family own guns?” “Does that mean your family is against guns?” “Have you ever shot a gun before?” “Can anyone get a gun, and how do you acquire one?” After much discussion, I finally found the root of all the questions: how could you feel safe living in America, knowing that your neighbor owns a weapon that could kill you? Though any American could respond by saying that even a kitchen knife could be used to harm, it is a very real fear for Chinese students who are not accustomed to living in a country where the citizens can own such dangerous weapons.

After the whiplash of hearing criticisms of America for allowing its citizens to own guns, then chastised for not protecting myself from my neighbor, the topic usually turned towards a more passionate venue: the Diaoyu Islands. While I was in China, tensions between Japan and China over the Diaoyu (or Senkaku) Islands had increased dramatically. Chinese students vehemently opposed American involvement in this issue, and demanded answers from me: Why is the United States involved? How does this conflict have anything to do with Americans? Why were the Americans siding with the Japanese? I tried my best to explain the historical reasons for American backing of Japan, but the students did not want a history lesson. They wanted America to leave the conflict within Asia. At this point in the conversation I usually felt helpless. Yes, I am a student of politics, but do they really expect that I can change American foreign policy? I could feel that the students wanted to convince me that America was in the wrong, so I would try to retain neutral objectivity, riding out the conversation until they changed the topic.

I was studying in China when the bombings of the Boston Marathon occurred. It was shocking for me and my fellow American students to walk into the cafeteria one morning and see pictures and news reports flashing over the TV screens. We were all horrified, and a sense of nationalistic pride washed over us as we read about how Americans were helping each other through the ordeal. It was not as easy to comprehend from the news reports what the Chinese perspective was about the event. I realized that I could ask my newfound friends at English Corner what their take was, expecting a similar reaction that I held felt. To my surprise, the Chinese students were not overly concerned. It was a shame, they said, but America was asking for it. Just like 9/11/01, they referenced. When America involves itself in other nations’ affairs, it is only a matter of time before they will be attacked. The world is not a place where America can exact its influence and then not expect something in return. And with that, the conversation was over, and they moved on to congratulating me for re-electing President Obama.

I came to realize through these Friday night conversations that Chinese college students do not have a particularly positive opinion of American government and its 3 (1)policies. That does not mean that they do not like American culture or people; many were looking forward to traveling to the U.S., and all enjoyed Hollywood productions and entertainment. They were especially welcoming towards me and my fellow American study abroad students, and often invited us to go to karaoke. From a political standpoint, however, the students were confused, perplexed, and angry about how America conducts itself both domestically and internationally. Because I am a student of political science, it was my duty to explain the American perspective to them, though honestly I felt as if I took quite a beating. And even though this was the case every Friday night, same place, same time, same conversations, I decided to keep owning that I studied politics. Because I think it was, and still is, important to have these tough conversations in order to expand our worldview. It was one thing for me to debate American policies in the confines of a Messiah classroom with a community of people I trust, and it was quite another to accept the criticism from Chinese college students in their country, while trying to practice a second language. Though English corner was a rather humbling experience to say the least, it was a valuable one, for now I am better prepared to expand my worldview in international politics. With that, I now turn the tables to you, fellow students, alumni, professors, or people just generally interested in politics: how would you have responded to the Chinese student perspective, had you been in my place?

Thank you, Abigail, for sharing your experiences of studying abroad! We welcome any comments that readers may have regarding our posts. 

What can I do with a Politics Major? Thoughts from a recent Alumni

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2013 grad Jon Palmer spent the spring completing a practicum for the Politics Department in which he was responsible for completing our alumni career database.  Below are his thoughts on what he has learned in the process as he reflected over his time in the major.

Over the past four years of my College experience as a Politics major at Messiah College there are many things which I have learned that are important for all students of politics to learn, as well as anyone with the goal of interacting with the U.S. government and 380805_548523961865226_1387279841_nothers as well.  This compilation of things I have learned over the past four years have guided me in my personal journey of morality and ethics, as well as having taught me where I believe God is calling me in my life.

When I first came here to Messiah College I wanted to get a degree in politics so I could learn about government and at the same time try to learn about being a lawyer and what the laws which govern the country entail.  Specifically I wanted to be a lawyer who specialized in constitutional law; I have always had a particular affiliation for those involved in its creation, as well as an affiliation for the ideals it embodies.  I quickly learned that being a lawyer meant that I would be behind a desk for most of the time I was working and would inevitably end up debating many losing battles, or so it seemed to me at the time.  However, I was mostly dissuaded from being a lawyer because I learned that the two most important things about being a lawyer was being both patient and good at research.

I may have learned that I was not cut out to be a lawyer because research takes a lot of patience, which is something I really struggle with, but I have also learned that law-enforcement is where I am called to.  There is much that I feel this major has to offer for anyone who wishes to go into this field. (For example, pursuing a Criminal Justice major does not necessarily provide an advantage in getting into law-enforcement over other fields; if your goal is to be a police officer you will be taught everything you need to know in the Police Academy, as the practical application can only come from experience, according to the police officers I have talked to at my internship in the summer of 2012).  Honestly I didn’t really know about everything that the major entailed and I had thought it was the best thing for me to be a major in.  I did know that there were many different jobs you could get with a B.A. in Politics but after this semester of updating the Alumni database I learned that it was much more.

There are people who have degrees in politics that range from business owners, to lawyers, to police, to people who work in advertising, to editors and writers, all the way to people who work in government positions, or even non-profit organizations.  The question to ask when looking at this major isn’t “what can you do?”  it is “what can’t you do?” The answer to that question is “nothing”.  With this major there is nothing 185585_209938175723808_171986166185676_594667_2294722_nyou cannot do, and if you are not convinced, just take a serious look at the general education classes you take with along with the major.  There are so few fields that have no relation to politics that it is truly astounding more students don’t take a more serious look at this major.  Anything which has laws to govern it, anything that has institutions to run it, and anything involved with other countries has to have some connection to politics, government, or research and this major covers it all.

Another great thing about this major is that it can teach you about the inner workings of any institution related to government, and when you are looking for ways to motivate people in a negotiation, it helps to know why people make the decisions they do.  The inner workings of institutions tend to be similar if not identical, because people have a tendency to want things to be simpler or run in a more efficient way and that means symmetry in institutions.  This major also teaches about the various philosophies which spawned the Constitution and the ideas which prevail in all aspects of life today in the U.S.

One class which also stood out was “Preparing for Public Service.”  I took the class this spring and was astounded by how few students took it, but the value of the class is and will be astronomical in my future.  It has taught me so many practical things, like how to write a letter to someone you want money from, or how to ask someone to do something for you.  These are life skills which can actually be translated across the board as well, because everyone who is involved with politics will at some point need to contact another individual and ask them for help.  It taught me how to negotiate on the basis of my values and not from a single perspective, which creates a flexibility for me to negotiate with without losing sight of what I want to uphold.  It taught me what is involved with fighting for what you believe in by having us create our own interest group on campus with which we are supposed to further the purpose of on campus for one semester.  Keeping it organized, asking others for assistance or information, organizing an event or interview, and keeping our goals in check were all things I had to learn in order to survive the class.  This class has made me able to essentially organize my own non-profit organization if I wanted, or even to start my own business to some degree.  My public service skills and organizational skills have grown immensely as a direct result of this class.  All majors should take this course.

All in all, this major has been an incredible experience and taught me how to do what I want to do in life.  It taught me that a Christian can be both a politician and Christian, but that the politics major can be so much more than that.  It is a pathway to anything involving public service, research, debate, politics, law, institutions, economics, philosophy, religion, and other topics I haven’t named.  These things are all part of the treasure trove of information and wisdom I have found in my education and social life here at Messiah College.

Thank you, Jon, for sharing your thoughts on the Politics major. We wish you the best of luck in your professional career!

Readers, this is our first blog of the semester. Follow us as we embark in this new school year 2013-2014. Welcome Class of 2017!

Spring Photo Gallery!

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We’ve had some great events this year! Thank-you to all the prospective students and families who we met on Accepted Student Preview Day and Open House Day. Also, a special thank-you to the politics Alumni who participated in our annual Career Conversations event on March 25th. The event received great feedback from our students who greatly appreciated the advice and stories you shared.

And finally, congratulations to all our seniors!

Politics SENIOR Cookout at the Yellow Breaches May 12th

Annual Career Conversations Event with the Career Center March 25th

Response to YWCA Advocacy Event

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Christina McIntyre, is a first year Politics major from Maryland. A few weeks ago, Christina visited the Pennsylvania State Capitol for a YWCA advocacy breakfast. She wrote a response for the event that she has graciously contributed to our blog. (Here is also a recent photo of her with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley).

The United States increasingly advanced civil liberties and social justice in the twentieth century, from the progressive reforms of the early 1900s to the civil rights movement. However, as the ChristinaMcIntyrenation committed to freedom and justice for all crosses the threshold of the twenty-first century, social injustices still persist. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The social injustices of the twenty-first century United States may not be as pronounced as child labor, segregation, or the disenfranchisement of women, but social injustices occur daily in our homes and on our streets. The political framework significantly impacts the social order of society, and engaging the legislative process through advocacy for the advancement of social justice greatly promotes a more just and compassionate society.

I recently had the opportunity to witness legislative advocacy for social policy firsthand at the Pennsylvania YWCA’s advocacy breakfast. Dr. Robin Lauermann, Assistant Dean of General Education and Common Learning and an Associate Professor of Politics at Messiah College, invited me and several other students to attend this annual event at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. The YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, and freedom for all. YWCA leaders from across the state of Pennsylvania as well as leaders from the Pennsylvania Child Care Association, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly came together at the Capitol to promote this mission through legislative engagement.

The leaders who spoke emphasized the importance of racial justice, women’s empowerment, and childcare services, sharing personal experiences, statistics, and policy information. Dr. Lauermann, a member of the Greater Harrisburg YWCA’s Public Policy Advocacy Committee, discussed the policy matters on the YWCA’s agenda with us, including childcare, sexual assault domestic violence services, and mental health policies. She described these policy matters as “valence” political issues: nonpartisan issues uniformly supported by the electorate. The debate over these social policies therefore assumes their importance and examines how these social needs can most effectively be addressed through the political structure.

As Christians, God calls us to advance social justice, instructing us to “seek justice, correct oppression… bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s case” (Isaiah 1:16-17). We must reach out to the dis-empowered, marginalized, and hurting members of society with love, and we must “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Proverbs 31:8). Engaging the legislative process by advocating for social policies that promote a more just and compassionate society multiplies loving our neighbor by sharing love with all of society through the political structure.

Thank you, Christina, for sharing your thoughts on faith and political life. We wish you the best of luck in your next few years at Messiah College!

Readers, this is our last official blog of the semester. Stay with us as we embark on a new school year in 2013-2014. In the meantime we bid farewell to our graduating seniors and the rest of the Class of 2013.

Practical Experience in Politics: Matt Wagner Interview

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We sat down this semester with Matthew Wagner  to talk about his spring internship in Harrisburg with the Commonwealth Foundation, a policy-research think tank. Because of Messiah College’s proximity to Harrisburg, Matt decided to look for something in the city and close to the capitol. He is now almost three months in to his Spring internship with the Common Wealth Foundation of Harrisburg.

Matt was kind to sit with us and answer a few questions about his experience.

MattWagner

How have you been able to balance course-work and internship work?

Well, if you do an internship for credit you have to take an internship class. This internship I’m doing is 6 credits, so I have to do a weekly class. And so there are some assignments for the class (i.e. reflection papers). You also have to do a master work portfolio and turn that it. But as far as balancing out other coursework. . . my internship is only 2 full days a week and I don’t have any homework for it. But, I’ve realized that it did make my semester busier than I thought because it made me realize how much time my internship did take away from time I could be doing other work. I’m also double majoring in Music which takes up a lot of time.

Tell us a bit about what you do every day?

Well I work for a policy institution, they will take the current issues and the current bills being discussed (in PA legislature) and they’ll analyze them and post articles and blogs on their website. I go into my office every day and I’m at the computer pretty much most of the time and I’m doing research to help with the articles that the professional policy analysts post. So, they’ll give me little tasks with a due date. I also do typical office stuff like bringing stuff up from the storage room and dropping mail off etc. But I do get to visit the Capitol for hearings too! I really enjoy doing that. Some people might find it boring. I think it’s really interesting to see the interactions when the actual legislatures make their proposals to committees.

It is hard for prospective students and even current students who have not done an internship to picture what it will look like. Of course it depends on the placement, but in general internships offer a great way to get one’s feet wet in a professional environment. What has been your experience being in a professional environment?

It is my first job when I’m going into an office for a full day, so you do all the typical professional things. You have to wear a suit and formal clothing and you do have to worry about being on time and getting things done on time. It’s really not too scary or tough. The people I work with are really nice and pretty laid back. But yeah, you definitely have to worry about your presentation in front of other people.

If you could give advice to a future student (think of this as giving yourself advice 3 years ago) what would you tell them about making the most of their internship experience?

Observe how you feel the whole time. That’s something I’ve been doing (e.g. what tires you or energized you). You learn a lot about yourself in an office environment and you’ll find out what works for you. And I didn’t expect to learn about those things, but it’s interesting how much I’ve learned about myself from just spending time in an office. But also I would say be confident for sure. Whenever you’re meeting people, give them a nice firm hand shake and look them in the eye. I think first impressions really are everything to your job, especially when you’re not going to be seeing certain people a lot.

What have been the most helpful classes you have taken at Messiah College which prepared you for the internship?

I think all the politics classes in general were probably the most helpful. With my job in particular, since I am doing political research, Research Methods has been helpful because it familiarized me with the concepts in political research which I come across all the time. Learning what kinds of sources work and don’t work, what sources are appropriate for certain research, knowing how to interpret different sources and whether you have to do more digging in your research.

And then even the politics classes about other countries, like say Politics in the UK, are the same. You’re using a bunch of different sources and learning how to use them, and this is definitely something I’m doing in this internship.

 

What are you up to next year, you last year at Messiah College?

I’d like to do another internship over the summer. I don’t think I’m going to do one senior year because I’ll be doing SAB again (Student Activities Board) because I had booked our B-Sides bands my sophomore year and will be doing that again next year. I’ll also be preparing for my senior recital (Music Department) and applying to grad schools maybe, and preparing for politics senior seminar (Politics department) which will have quite a lot of work. I can definitely see myself working in politics while I’m doing grad school in music. I think that’s probably what I’d like to end up doing. I see both majors as ways to explore things I’m strongly interested in. So that is another reason why internships are important to me because I do want to get a job and support myself through grad school.

Some students may not know where to start when looking for an internship, and many can be overwhelmed by the process. Matt knew he wanted an internship his junior year, and since he had up to 9 credits of an internship to fill he decided to make the most of that opportunity. Searching for an internship may be a long process, but the Internship Center and faculty are happy to help direct students to the right placement for them. Hopefully students will take advantage of this and and continue their education outside of the classroom and inside the workplace.

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More information about searching and applying for internships can be found at the Messiah College Internship Center.

And for more information about the Commonwealth foundation, go to their website and their staff blog.

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