Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Susan Koch: Political environment offers classroom opportunities

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on February 11, 2017.

From its very beginning in 1970, the University of Illinois Springfield has embraced its location in the state capital of Illinois and the home of Abraham Lincoln, providing unique opportunities for students to examine, explore and experience politics and public affairs from a "front and center" vantage point.

In fact, thousands of UIS alums have used their undergraduate or graduate experience as a springboard for a rewarding public service career in state or federal government or in related professional pursuits. 

With a contentious presidential election and ongoing political strife in the Illinois statehouse, this particular academic year has offered unique educational opportunities, particularly for UIS faculty whose teaching and research is focused on these areas. 

Professor of political science Chris Mooney, an expert on state politics currently serving as director of the University of Illinois's Institute of Government and Public Affairs, is one of those faculty. 

"An election season like the one we've just experienced," says Dr. Mooney, "demonstrates that politics is a living, breathing organism. It heightens students' awareness of politics and government and serves as a very real reminder that politics has a real effect on people's lives.

"Our classes often include legislative staffers and other students with state government backgrounds who make the classroom experience better for everyone, and it's exciting for students to have public affairs practitioners speaking regularly in their classes." 

Dr. Magic Wade, assistant professor of political science, is relatively new to the university and recently helped develop courses for the new undergraduate major in public policy. 

"One of the things I appreciate about UIS is the ideological diversity of my students. Students in my classes represent a variety of points of view — both conservative and liberal, Democrats and Republicans," 

"What I try to model in our discussions is that Democrats and Republicans can sit in a room and have conversations that don't evolve into name-calling. In the current climate at the Illinois capital, things are very divided. That's not how things get done. Things get done by working across the aisle."

Read the entire column online.