|Congresswoman Brooks with Political Science majors|
As much as I enjoyed the Congresswoman's visit, I was more impressed by the way our students took advantage of an opportunity for professional development. They attended even though it was the last week of classes and no extra credit was offered. They showed up in professional attire, a point not lost on the reporter from the Herald Bulletin who remarked on their being "suit-clad" (if you don't think professional attire is necessary on such occasions, read this). And they took advantage of the opportunity to network with the Congresswoman and her staff. In other words, our students recognized a unique opportunity for professional development and seized it.
I was also impressed by the way our students took advantage of the opportunity to work the constituent-representative link. Recent work by Kristina Miler shows that "constituents that more frequently contact their legislator are more likely to be identified by legislators as relevant to an issue." Matt Southworth, a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, made a similar point earlier in the year (nice catch, Adriane!). Our students came prepared with questions about current issues and issues that interest them (a few had even worked on multiple drafts of their questions). They asked about gun control, educational standards, and growing income inequality to name a few. And they were able to see a member of Congress engage those questions directly, to begin to develop the constituent-representative link with a new member of Congress, and to see that Congress has smart, personable people who genuinely care about the nation. That, perhaps, was the greatest lesson of all.