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“I just think you [Generation Z] belong at the table” - Governor Josh Shapiro
Nine Lycoming College Warriors spent spring break fully immersed in Pennsylvania government and politics through the first ever Applied Political Experience course, taught by Sen. David G. Argall ’80. The group of students represented all four years of Lycoming students and hailed from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Venezuela, and France. They spent the week in Harrisburg, Pa., attending meetings and learning from members and staff of all three branches of government.
In a reunion from their October campaign stop at the College, the students had meetings with Gov. Josh Shapiro and Lt. Gov. Austin Davis. In each of these meetings, the students came prepared with questions on goals for the 2023-2024 budget, increasing the minimum wage, and making college more affordable, particularly for children of immigrants. The two highest ranking members of the executive branch spoke highly of Generation Z. Shapiro shared that, “Generation Z matters,” noting that they have “powerful voices” for “driving change.” He added that they are “gifted at using social media to drive out a message.” Davis shared that, “the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power,” noting the importance of having young people, women, and working-class individuals represented in this young administration.
In the judicial branch, the students interacted with another Lycoming alumnus, Justice Kevin Brobson ’92. The group met in the Supreme Court Chamber and learned about the artwork, architecture, and history surrounding them. Brobson fielded questions about the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the experience of running a statewide campaign. Another campaign conversation took place with Megan Martin who is running for Commonwealth Court. She shared her experience of being a woman in politics and having held positions in the State Senate including secretary and parliamentarian.
Committee staff and lobbyists shared their roles in the legislative process. The class met with staff of yet another Lycoming alumnus, Sen. Gene Yaw ’70, who serves as chairman of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. The students asked questions about the perception of lobbying having a negative influence on politics, and learned that it’s an avenue for different causes to be heard. They discovered that many members of the General Assembly and their staff have positive relationships with lobbyists and that they work together frequently on different issues. Specifically, they learned that the role of lobbyists is to get certain causes on the agenda during a legislative session.
The class also met with Rep. Mike Sturla, who is one of the longest-serving members of the House of Representatives. Sturla, chairman of the Housing and Community Development Committee, outlined the responsibilities of his committee and shared lessons he has learned throughout his career. He tried to debunk the belief that state legislators “only work 100 days per year” and showed insight into the role on a non-session day.
Besides informational meetings and question-and-answer sessions, the class spent part of their week shadowing jobs across the Capitol. Some students shadowed professionals in lobbying firms or interest groups, while others spent their time learning from legislative committee and communications staff. One student even spent this time in the Lieutenant Governor’s office! Throughout the week, the class attended committee hearings and had a first-person experience of how the policy process works in Pennsylvania.
Lycoming College’s political science department gives students the tools to not only be consumers of political theory, but active producers and participants in political research and application. Student study the overarching complexities of political values, institutions, processes, and policies, while developing critical thinking, oral and written communication, and informational literacy skills. More information on Lycoming’s political science program is available at https://www.lycoming.edu/political-science/.