Millennial Must-Reads are student-contributed posts by members of the "Millennial" generation - America's 18-29 year-olds - on current events and politics and public service. Viewpoints expressed are exclusively attributed to undergraduate authors and not endorsed by Harvard's Institute of Politics.
Authored by Madeleine Gearan
For more than a decade, the National Campaign Consortium conference has brought together students, faculty and lecturers from across the country for an energizing conference committed to enhancing civic and political activism. The Consortium is made up of 23 colleges and universities around the United States that are all actively committed to enhancing civic engagement on our various campuses.
This year, the weekend was focused on deliberative democracy and non-electoral political engagement beyond voting and it proved to be not only a meaningful conference weekend, but also an exciting opportunity to create a sustainable network of students moving forward.
As a new member of the National Campaign Committee, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the planning leading up to the conference. At its core, getting the chance to meet students from schools around the U.S. is always a fun and fortunate opportunity, but especially when all of the students already have something in common: a deep interest and commitment to public service and political engagement.
This common bond made each conference session valuable as participants got to know one another and formed close friendships. The sessions ranged from Professor Archon Fung’s talk on “Bridging the Theory and Practice of Deliberative Democracy” to one on “Social and Political Equity” and “Matching the Approach to the Need.” Student participants also had the chance to go into Boston for dinner and a tour, led by the amazing chair of NAC, Sietse Goffard.
Each year this conference has been very successful in bringing together engaged students from around the country, and as we look to ways to make it even better with each conference, this year we are committed to ensuring that the Consortium network of students has the tools to stay connected. The community created during the weekend is a unique one and a community that has great potential to create high impact progress for youth civic engagement.
We created a website to connect Consortium members with the hope that we can all share best practices and continue to engage in the important dialogue fostered by the conference. I can’t wait to see how the work of the conference moves forward in real and tangible ways – and I am already looking forward to reconvening during next year’s conference!
Madeleine Gearan is a sophomore living in Winthrop House, studying sociology and government. She is excited to be a part of the National Campaign Committee of the IOP and to have the opportunity to work on civic engagement and public service initiatives on campus and in settings like the National Campaign Consortium Conference.
Madeleine also enjoys teaching local middle school students about leadership through the Social Outreach Committee of the Harvard Leadership Institute and serving as a mentor in the Mission Hill After School program. She is an intern in the Harvard Office of Public Affairs and Communications and loves to volunteer at the Cambridge Nursing Home on Sundays through PBHA's Pets as Therapy program with Gracie, the golden doodle. Madeleine grew up in Geneva, New York.
Authored by Prerna Bhat
National Campaign at the Institute of Politics is an engaging program whose goal is to increase outreach, awareness, and accessibility regarding voting and political participation. This semester, with the major presidential election behind us – the only one that we will experience in our four years of college – National Campaign has been working on ideas to get the students of Harvard involved and excited about political participation, even when prominent debates and conventions aren’t constantly in the media.
The weekend before spring break, National Campaign helped host the National Campaign Consortium at the IOP, with around 40 representatives from 23 schools around the U.S. gathering to exchange ideas on political engagement and the value of deliberative democracy.
The weekend of the consortium started early Friday afternoon – it was an eventful day to be sure, with appearances at the Forum by the President of Senegal as well as Representative Tulsi Gabbard at the inaugural IOP General Assembly, in addition to the reception for those consortium attendees who had already arrived. Running around between all the events was a little hectic, but not something I would’ve missed out on – listening to inspiring speakers, as well as interacting with and learning from fellow students, has surely been an integral part of my first year of college!
Over the next two days, the attendees heard from a variety of facilitators and had plenty of time for discussion in smaller groups. On Saturday afternoon, I had the chance to join in on a Learning Exchange session regarding Facilitating Difficult Dialogue. The table I was at discussed a number of interesting topics related to the use of social media in trying to spread the word and increase participation in activities. These ranged from how best to mediate public pages and avoid negative or inflammatory comments, to the best time at which to publicize events on Facebook – which one student declared to be 8 pm on Sunday, the time at which everyone is online and trying to procrastinate.
Sunday morning I surprised myself by waking up early enough to be able to catch breakfast at the IOP Penthouse with the attendees. In addition to hearing from the former director of the Peace Corps, I also had the opportunity to participate in a session on Free Speech and Civil Discourse. Once again split up into smaller groups to facilitate discussion, we were given different case studies to look over, evaluate, and present to the rest of the attendees.
The case studies were of the sort that are fascinating because of their trickiness, because they often seem to place our values in opposition – for example, the value of free speech versus the value of students feeling safe and accepted on their own college campus. After this session, the attendees met with the other representatives from their respective schools to discuss how they wanted to bring the ideas from the consortium back to their own campuses.
All expressed a desire to increase participation in democratic discussion and dialogue through the political institutes at their own schools, and the general feeling at the end of the consortium around noon on Sunday was that the students had picked up and developed some valuable ideas to make this happen. Although the consortium is over for this year, National Campaign is working to maintain a network of attendees through the website, as well as through upcoming Facebook and Google hangout video chats!
Prerna Bhat is a freshmen at Harvard from Austin, TX with a whole lot of Austin pride! She is planning to study Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. She enjoys getting involved with the Institute of Politics and is a member of the Harvard University Band, as well as a mentor for elementary school kids in South Boston. She loves Harry Potter and enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends. Prerna also really enjoyed the Consortium and is looking forward to more great events!