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An Inside Scoop on: A Pennsylvania Policy Forum Symposium

By: Jean Cho and Alejandro Garcia Davalos

Endless Opportunities. That is what Messiah has offered to us during our time here. An illustration of such providence occurred just one week ago to two junior politics majors who were offered the eye-opening opportunity to observe an exclusive lawmaking process symposium as the guests of our Department Chair, Doctor Robin Lauermann, only offered to members of the Pennsylvania Policy Forum, such as herself, on Tuesday – October 25, 2011.

Some background about the nature of the Pennsylvania Policy Forum is as follows: this collective group of various faculty members and academic leaders from public and private Pennsylvania colleges and universities collaborate in order to generate ideas, analyses, and set up symposiums that could be used to provide citizens, elected officials, and civic leaders in addressing major issues that are involving the Commonwealth and its local governments.

Alejandro Garcia Davalos, Robin Lauermann, and Jean Cho

On that crisp autumn afternoon we, got to take a break from regular classes and the reality of upcoming mid-term exams, extracurricular activities, and just life in general and headed for the first time to the State Museum of Pennsylvania. We dressed for success and drove into Harrisburg, following Doctor Lauermann’s steady lead. We were so unsure of what to expect. The entire commute to Harrisburg consisted of conversations anticipating what would occur during the event, the speakers, possible networking opportunities, what we would learn, and in general how lucky we were to go.

The Constitutional Foundations of the Lawmaking Process was the title for the afternoon’s symposium meant to be one of a series of professional development events for the General Assembly. The format of the event was a Mock Trial where the three main speakers acted as the key players in the ordeal. The case at hand was as follows: Did the General Assembly Violate the Constitution in Enacting Senate Bill 1 of 2015? Procedural history was reviewed and various Articles within the PA Constitution were referenced. The Four main questions were presented, argued, and then voted on by the legislators in the audience. This interactive voting was very interesting to observe. Each electronic vote was automatically tallied and then displayed on the jumbo screen. It was amazing to apply concepts that we have learned about in the classroom setting and see the procedures in action. Throughout the lifelike trial, our trio from Messiah whispered back and forth, after close observation of each scenario and furiously wrote notes while questioning our own consciences deciding how we would vote in the matter. Engrossed in this new atmosphere, we excitedly soaked in each passing second.
Now if this afternoon could not possibly be getting any more fulfilling and exciting, to our pleasant surprise, we spotted Representative Stephen L. Bloom from the 199th District of PA across the aisle and to our left. Doctor Lauermann predicted that he would be in attendance, as often members of the House are, but it did not strike us until we saw him in the flesh. Jean currently is Representative Bloom’s legislative intern and was able to text him during the meeting asking questions on what was occurring and which way he was going to vote with his electronic buzzer. We both had Representative Bloom as our Economics professor back during first semester of our freshman year. He remembered that Alejandro was from Bolivia and asked if he had ever had a tour of the PA state Capitol building. After stuffing our famished selves with some delicious hors d’oeuvres, networking and mingling amongst the crowd of students and prestigious people we headed past the Occupy Harrisburg protestors to Representative Bloom’s home turf, the Capitol. We were given the most intimate of tours throughout some of Representative Bloom’s favorite parts of the Capitol, fun facts and all. It was amazing to see the places that the general public tours will not go to. The inside scoop on what is arguably the most beautiful Capitol building in the United States was an unforeseen treat indeed!

Representative Stephen Bloom, 119th District

The PA Policy Forum members’ mission as educators to train students for citizenship and public policy careers, by giving them a glimpse of “a day in the life,” along with providing opportunities to civic sector leaders to improve their knowledge and application on issues was clearly a success on both levels that momentous Tuesday. Events like these are the ones that, amidst all the papers and hard work, remind us of why we chose to study politics and encourage us to continue working hard so that, one day, we may be the ones presenting to these legislator or even go on to become an elected official.   A very special thanks to Doctor Lauermann, who not only is shaping our minds into reaching our potential as political researching machines in POLI243 but, who so generously brought us along to the Symposium. It truly was the most intriguing and thought probing educational experiences of our junior year to date!


This reflection post is one of many student blog contributions this semester. Many thanks to all of our students for their energetic and thoughtful contributions! We hope our readers enjoyed. We would love to hear your comments below. . .