Congress to Campus to engage student body


Michael Guido, News Editor

Gannon University will be hosting an innovative new program that allows former members of the U.S. Congress to speak to college students about contemporary political issues.

Congress to Campus is a program that seeks to bring former members of Congress to schools and universities to discuss topics and issues relevant to their interests, as well as the interests of professors and students.

The speakers, who will appear over five different events, are a mix of Democrats and Republicans who have recently served in Congress.

The event is a product of the School of Public Service & Global Affairs, which will be sponsoring the events.

However, PSGA will partner with the Center for Social Concerns for one of the events, as well as the Jefferson Educational Society for the racial justice event.

The first event featured former Reps. Bill Enyart (D-Ill.) and Peter Smith (R-Vt.) with the focus on Congress itself and what it is like to serve in Congress.

Enyart represented Illinois’ 12th Congressional District from 2013-2015, while Smith represented Vermont’s at-large district from 1989-1991.

Enyart, during his congressional tenure, was known to be an advocate and sponsor of legislation dealing with privacy issues and veterans’ issues.

In a note of trivia, Smith was succeeded in the House by current Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The event took place early Tuesday during a U.S. Government and Politics class taught by Diane Chido, an adjunct professor.

The next installment will be a racial justice conversation featuring former Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Charles Boustany (R-La.) at 7 p.m. Monday.

Edwards, who was the first Black woman to represent Maryland in the U.S. House of Representatives, served Maryland’s 4th Congressional District from 2008-2017, while Boustany represented Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District from 2005-2017.

Boustany gained notoriety in his congressional career for being the person to give the Republican response to President Obama’s 2009 joint address to Congress. He also sponsored the annual United States farm bill in 2013.

The topic of psychology will be discussed Oct. 6 in a class on political psychology taught by Andrew Caswell, Ph.D.

Former Reps. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) — both of whom hold doctorates in psychology — will take part in the discussion.

Baird represented Washington’s 3rd Congressional District from 1999-2011, while Murphy represented Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District from 2003-2017.

Baird had a reputation for being close to his district and constituents, as he was known to fly home nearly every weekend and hosted over 300 town halls.

During Murphy’s tenure, he was the author of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which sought to provide more funding and assistance to those with mental health needs. It eventually became law as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.

Gannon’s Road to the White House, taught by Jeff Bloodworth, Ph.D., will feature former Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) either Oct. 12 or 14 while a Republican counterpart has yet to be confirmed.

Esty represented Connecticut’s 5th Congressional district from 2013-2019.

While in office, Esty was known for championing causes such as the environment, women’s issues and transportation.

The series of speakers will conclude Oct. 20 with final event beginning at 7 p.m. and focusing on the 2020 election, as former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) will be joined by an eventual Democratic counterpart.

Buerkle represented New York’s 25th Congressional District from 2011-2013, and more recently served as chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission from February 2017 to September 2019.

Due to concerns arising from COVID-19, all events will be held via Zoom, though select students will be allowed to attend each event in-person and ask the guest speakers a question.

Attendance will be based on class sizes and registration for events independent of scheduled classes.

Bloodworth, the history program director, said that despite the original layout of the events being unable to occur due to COVID-19 restrictions, he is still excited for the experience students will be able to have in the five pairs of Congress to Campus talks.

“It isn’t the same as being in-person but we have a wide variety of speakers for campus-wide talks (two) and three talks to specific classes,” he said.

Bloodworth stressed that students would be getting variety in the speakers.

Caswell said that it would be a great opportunity for students to be connected with political figures in an effort to promote civic behavior.

“We want our students to be engaged citizens when they graduate,” Caswell said.

Caswell further said that students will gain the ability to see how the topics discussed play out in the real world.

As for the representatives that will be speaking in his political psychology class, Caswell was satisfied.

Caswell pointed to the fact that Baird is a clinical psychologist, and Murphy represented a district in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“They both served over 10 years and some of the most consequential events of the early 21st century occurred during their tenure,” Caswell said.

Students expressed excitement at the possibilities arising from politicians coming to campus.

Nathan Manion, a junior political science major, said he looked forward to getting input from, and the perspective of, these politicians.

“I am excited to hear from policymakers on the state of the world and our country right now,” Manion said.

Manion said he was especially interested in hearing from Edwards.

“Being that she was the first Black woman to represent Maryland in the House, I think she will have a lot to offer on the topic of racial justice,” Manion said.

Tori Elbert, a sophomore political science and legal studies major, said she is looking forward to hearing from the representatives and their positions and insight.

Elbert also said she was interested in hearing from representatives from around the country.

“Since I am from Ohio, I have only heard of a couple of Congress members,” she said.


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