Three may just be the charm for Wright State University political science students learning about legislatures this semester.
Students in The Legislative Process course will benefit from real-world political experience when three young alumni working in state and federal politics visit to impart some wisdom and lessons learned from the political arena.
“Legislatures are instrumental to the function of representative democracy in the United States,” said Lee Hannah, Ph.D., professor of political science. “At a very basic level, the size of our population makes direct democracy untenable. And so, we elect a few individuals who collectively deliberate and create laws on behalf of society.”
Hannah’s students are learning about legislatures in the United States and the lawmaking process. Topics they are covering include how legislatures evolved, the rules that structure their operation, who serves, what influences legislators’ behavior, and what types of reforms have been proposed to improve Congress and state legislatures.
“In this class, we learn about the design and the complexity of the lawmaking process in the United States. We’re living in a time where there is not much trust in government and people are pretty cynical about politics in general,” said Hannah. “I try to provide some context for how we have gotten here and highlight some areas where legislatures are in fact working.”
The course will also examine how legislatures interact with other political actors including parties, interest groups and other branches of government.
Hannah connected with three recent Wright State graduates and coordinated visits to try and help guide the discussion and offer real-world lessons from professionals working in politics.
First to visit is Ohio State Rep. Willis Blackshear, who earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Wright State in 2019.
“He represents our area in the statehouse,” said Hannah. “At Wright State, he was not only an exceptional student, but he took advantage of every opportunity to be civically engaged. It’s no surprise that he has been able to have a successful career in politics. He has also been an advocate for Wright State and has provided internships and other opportunities.”
Jayden Nunn Gillman, who graduated from Wright State in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, will visit with students in February. Gillman is a congressional staff assistant for U.S. Rep. Mike Turner.
“Jayden was an exceptional student here. But as she got to her senior year, she still wasn’t totally sure what was next for her. She reached out to me and we set up an internship in Representative Mike Turner’s congressional office. It was a great match and when her internship ended, she wanted to stay and they wanted to keep her.”
Gillman has supervised Wright State students in internships and returned to Hannah’s class several times to talk about her experience.
“While we often focus on what’s happening in Washington, people in the Dayton office work with local governments and organizations to take good care of people in the community on all sorts of issues,” said Hannah.
Austin Lucous, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2021, is a senior legislative aide for Ohio Sen. Steve Huffman and will visit in March.
“Austin was working on campaigns before he even started at Wright State. When he was here, he took every opportunity to learn from his coursework and by completing internships locally and in Columbus,” said Hannah. “When he was ready to graduate, he was already well connected in the Statehouse.”
Hannah said he wants students to leave Wright State with a better appreciation for the complexity of the political process and to see that public service could be a career path for them too.
“There’s nothing better than seeing people just a few years older than them with the very same degree serving the public in these different roles,” said Hannah. “I think their presence in the classroom for our students today also shows a different side of politics that you’re not going to see from the soundbites on cable news. They are all thoughtful and smart people focused on improving society by making good public policy and listening to their constituents.”