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Engaging Democracy

By Jason Lawrence

Professor Richard Clucas of the Political Science Department is conducting a senior capstone project this year entitled Engaging Democracy. As Professor Clucas sees it, “One of the most pressing problems in American politics today is that the public feels increasingly distant from elected leaders. To many reformers, the health of the nation’s democracy can only improve by getting more young people involved in politics.”

The Engaging Democracy capstone will seek to address this problem by having students assist Oregon legislators during the 2013 legislative session in Salem, where they will help handle the broad range of responsibilities placed on legislative staff. During classroom times, students will learn about the position of legislatures in American politics and the character of Oregon politics. The substantive work will come from the student’s experiences as an intern this upcoming legislative session.

On December 12th, the Government Relations office hosted those students interested in the capstone on a visit to the Capitol. For most of these students, it was their first time in the Capitol, and the day provided them with a lot of new information and some exciting opportunities. The students were able to tour the Capitol and learn some interesting historical facts about the building itself, as well as the legislature in general.

The day included visiting the Governor’s office and staff, watching a Senate floor session, and speaking with legislators and legislative staff who have close ties to PSU about their experiences in politics and upcoming internship opportunities. The afternoon concluded with watching a portion of a joint House and Senate Higher Education Committee hearing. Representative Margaret Doherty (D - Tigard, District 35), PSU alumna, was especially engaging as she sat down with our students, answered their questions and shared stories about her experiences.