IOP To Host Bipartisan Conference

UPDATED: Sept. 23, 2014, at 9:15 p.m.

Four dozen college students from across the country will convene at the Institute of Politics this weekend to receive training in bipartisan political collaboration.

During a conference entitled “Bipartisan Advocacy: Finding Common Ground,” the visiting students will discuss projects concerning policy issues on college campuses and in their local communities.

In addition, the conference will feature high-profile speakers and experts on bipartisanism, including former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan R. Glickman, who also served as director of the IOP from 2002-2004.

The conference participants come from schools involved in the National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement, a consortium of 25 colleges, founded at Harvard in 2003, dedicated to engaging students in public service.


Glickman explained the need for the conference given the contemporary political culture.

“We probably have the smartest group of students we’ve ever had in the history of our country,” Glickman said. “But overall, they’re the most politically disengaged students we’ve ever had.”

Laura J. Simolaris, director of the National Campaign, said the emphasis on students’ personal, long-term projects sets this year’s conference apart from those in previous years.

“This is the first time we’ve asked [students] to be responsible for something throughout the year, beyond just the conference,” Simolaris said. “We want them to work with one another, we want to create a community of like-minded college students who are working toward a similar goal and help provide them with resources that can get them to do their jobs better.”

Simolaris said she hopes the conference will inspire students to collaborate with others in their communities.

“We really wanted to balance discussion and opportunity for students to share what they’re doing, to hear from people who are working in communities already, but also for them to pick up some real skills that they can use in their efforts, both on campus and after,” Simolaris said.

Niyat Mulugheta ’16, student chair of the National Campaign committee, referred to the attending students as “the next political leaders of our country” and expressed excitement at the prospect of “trying to put together a coordinated national effort toward bipartisanship and coming together and getting things done, unlike the people that are in office right now.”

—Staff writer Forrest K. Lewis can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ForrestKLewis.


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