Saturday, April 30, 2016

Public History students at the MANY Conference

Emily Kraft (History, '16) and Taqiyah Gibbons (History, '18) pose with Don Wildman,
host of the Travel Channel show, "Mysteries at the Museum." Wildman was
the keynote speaker at the conference. 

On April 17-19, Daemen students Emily Kraft and Taqiyah Gibbons attended the annual conference of the Museum Association of New York (MANY), held at Lake Placid. Both Emily and Taqiyah are History majors and Public History minors who learned about MANY while taking Introduction to Public History last semester with Professor Lenora Henson, who is also Curator and Director of Public Programming at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural site and a regular participant in the Museum Association of New York. She encouraged Emily and Taqiyah to attend the conference at a reduced rate as student volunteers. As Henson explained, "In addition to seeking out internships (which any student interested in exploring a museum career should do as soon as possible), attending a professional conference is a great way to learn more about a field and see if it feels 'right'. It's also a great place to get a head start on networking." 

"I was very excited to learn about a networking opportunity for exactly the field I was interested in," Kraft wrote. "Before talking to Professor Henson, I did not realize New York held such a conference; as a student graduating in May, I am interested in any opportunity to get myself in the field and begin to prepare for my future. As a student I was excited about who I would meet and what is currently being discussed in the field."

A view of Lake Placid, a major recreation destination and site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. 

"All in all the conference was a great opportunity to network and put ourselves out there in the field," Kraft explained. "Professor Henson was a big help and she introduced us to many of her colleagues in the field. It would be so nice to see other students go in the future and use the trip as professional exposure."

Kraft and Gibbons met students, faculty, and museum professionals from across the state. Kraft, who is currently exploring graduate programs, learned more about several master's degree programs in Museum Studies, including Syracuse University's: "I was able to network and find out what the program is like. I plan to research further and keep this as a possibility for grad school."

Kraft integrated her new knowledge about museum programming into her Academic Festival presentation on April 20. The presentation was based upon research she did at Warsaw's Museum of the History of Polish Jews for her senior thesis project, which she completed in December 2015. As Kraft explained, museums are rushing to adjust to the expectations of the millennial generation with more interactive, digital, and online components, which creates opportunities in the field for college graduates with relevant skills.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The 2016 Elections: Civic Literacy and Engagement in the History & Political Science Department

The 2016 Presidential Selection Process

The presidential nominating process is chaotic, but not erratic. The single-most relevant force shaping the sequential, front-loaded election calendar has been the drive to maximize a state's influence on the selection of the nominee. The process is shaped by the sometimes colluding, sometimes colliding, often confusing motion of candidates, voters and party members, states, and political party organizations.  

Civic Literacy: Getting Informed

H&G and PLSA
Voter Registration Drive: 2016 
So just how are citizens, especially college-aged voters, to make sense of our uniquely complex presidential selection process? One way is to take more political science classes. For those tuned-out or turned-off by politics, a class or two on history and politics provides a critical toe-hold divorced from popular punditry and media noise. As Kimberly, a Health Care Studies Major, explains, "it is frustrating because sometimes the political process is made to look like a reality show rather than informing voters on the issues."  

After taking a political science course as part of her learning community, Gabby, a Graphic Design major, says what she finds amusing is the “the fact that it isn’t actually an ingenious system meant to confuse people. When you break it down it becomes somewhat simple.”  Jessica, who is majoring in History & Political Science, is following “the election mostly from news alerts I receive on my smartphone and my American Voter in Campaigns course” taught by Dr. Jay Wendland.

Dr. Parshall (Associate Professor of Political Science) is teaching  PSC 233, Democracy in America, a course which asks student to critique the democratic functioning of the American political system. All semester long, her students have been carefully following the nominations, with a special focus on how the current cycle is deviating from the usual script. “We can learn about democracy from a book,” another freshman learning community participant commented, “or we can watch it playing out around us. For me, I learn better by taking in the action." 

Two of  her students are working on honors projects which critique the out-sized influence that Iowa and New Hampshire voters enjoy by virtue of their well-defended early calendar berths. Emily, a Physical Therapy major, explains what she’s learned: “Early state voters are always important, more for momentum than determining the number of delegates a candidate receives. It’s frustrating how often New York doesn’t matter. Excitingly, this time it does.”

The H&P Department's Delegate Tracker which hangs in the hallway outside the departmental suite invites passersby to
learn more about the presidential nominating process and delegate race. 
After her examination of Iowa, Gabby concluded, "I am not a big fan of caucuses, or the fact that some states don’t even matter when it comes their time to vote."  Dr. Parshall is working on a book, Time and (Con)sequence in Presidential Selection Process: The Case for a Same Day National Primary, that challenges the myths of “full, fair, and meaningful participation” in a sequential, front-loaded nominating process.  The work, co-authored with the late Dr. Franco Mattei (University at Buffalo-SUNY), uses a rights-based lens to challenge the fundamental fairness of a winnowing process that leaves some party members (in later voting states) with limited or no choice in choosing their parties’ nominees. 

Cover image Electoral StudiesSome students have been disappointed to learn that New York is a closed primary state, meaning that unless they are affiliated with a political party they cannot take part in the state's presidential preference vote on April 19th. Dr. Wendland (Assistant Professor of Political Science) has recently published an article in Electoral Studies with co-author, Dr. Barbara Norrander, which examines the impact of state registration laws on candidate preference. Their research "demonstrates that the ideological orientations of voters in these two primary settings are quite similar." This challenge to conventional wisdom and prior research "shows how the influence of primary laws on voters’ self-identifications as partisans or independents affects the number and ideological positions of partisans and independents as they vote in presidential primaries held under differing participation rules."

Civic Engagement: Getting Involved
Another way for students to make sense of a complicated electoral process is to directly engage in the political world by taking part in some of the co-curricular activities and events that are regularly sponsored by the History & Political Science Department. As Devnie, an Animation major, explains, it is particularly important for students to become more politically aware:  “They are the future generation, if they start voting when they’re young and get involved in the political process and what’s happening around them, it will help them make the right decisions to build a better world.” 

When Carlos (a Political Science major) turned 18 he told his parents that “the first thing I wanted to do on my birthday was to go get my voter registration card.”  Now, he and others are making sure that their peers are registered to vote as well. Last month, several members of the Pre Law Student Association (PLSA) and History & Government Club held a voter registration drive, helping to sign up new voters and assisting students in making their absentee ballot requests. 

Because this is the first nominating cycle since 1988 in which New York State (by virtue of its later calendar position) will influence the nomination, there is a surge of interest.  As Emily explains, "It matters so much to me because New York is a key player and because it is the first election I am able to vote in."

H&G and PLSA Club members sign up new voters and assist students in requesting absentee ballots at the 2016 Voter Registration Table Event in Wick Center

Carlos and fellow political science major, Brianna, are  pursuing a summer long internship opportunity with Project Vote Smart, a bipartisan organization on the front-line of national voter education efforts.  “As a Political Science student," Brianna explains,  "The decisions of our elected leaders make affect most aspects of our daily lives. So, it is important to be engaged with the political process and gain a better understanding of what each candidate stands for.”

At the AAUW club event, The 2016 Presidential Campaign: What About Women's Issues? student presenters provided summaries of the leading party candidates' stances on issues relevant to women voters. Faculty from the History & Political Science Department were on hand to answer specific questions about the campaigns, but the students drove the discussion. President Jessica Mark explained the importance of such events. "I wish the students at Daemen could know that the election will be a game-changer, and that their votes are valued."

AAUW Club President, Jessica Mark (left) opens the
 forum on The 2016 Presidential Campaign: What About Women's Issues?  

“I am very excited as this election has definitely made me interested in politics than any other election ever has,” says Devnie. For some students, it's the issues that matter. Kimberly is excited that "the topic of how money in politics and corporate finance is now being discussed in this election and is being discussed as a major issue, it's something I’m passionate about.” As she explains, "a lot of young people are very excited by Sanders' message of corporate finance reform, making state colleges’ tuition free, and breaking up the big banks.” 

AAUW Student Club members provided a review of the presidential candidates'
positions and voting records on key issues of concern to women. 

Many students are particularly intrigued by the possibility of a contested Republican nominating convention, something which has not happened on the Republican side since the brokered convention of 1948 and Reagan's challenge of incumbent President Gerald Ford in 1976. The last Democratic convention to go beyond a first ballot was in 1952. "If Donald Trump doesn't win enough delegates at the convention, I am eager to see the results of that," Kimberly states. For Gabby, the prospect prompts a more mixed reaction: “I’m kind of terrified and excited to see what will come of it. If it does end up going to a contested convention, it will make a great story to tell to others. I can say, ‘My first year voting there was a contested convention and Donald Trump ran and it was crazy!’” 

Several students and faculty went to see VT Senator Benie Sanders speak at UB.
Photo credit: Mary Fox
Jessica is more interested in the Democratic race, which because of its proportionate delegate allocation rules, has remained a tight race. "Bernie Sanders, to me, is an idealist and Hillary Clinton, to me, is a realist.” Kimberly agrees, noting that “A lot of young people are very excited about Bernie Sanders and his message of corporate finance reform, making state colleges’ tuition free, and breaking up the big banks.” There was a contingent of Daemen College faculty, staff and students at the recent Sanders rally. Many will also be attending the upcoming events of the other presidential aspirants who are scheduled to make appearances in WNY. Stefan, a Paralegal major, traveled to Syracuse to take part in a rally for Clinton and even managed to snag a selfie with the candidate.

Daemen College student, Stefan Foster, traveled to hear Hillary Clinton speak in Syracuse, NY on April 1 and managed to
get a selfie with the Democratic candidate and front-runner. 

Others are organizing ride-shares to the Trump rally in Buffalo this weekend. It is a chance to get up-close with the candidates and witness presidential campaigns in the full swing that typically bypasses New York State. Many from the Daemen Community are taking full advantage of the opportunity. As Emily notes, "It's not over yet; anything could happen."

The excitement and interest will be far from over next semester when the History & Political Science Department will focus even more sharply on presidential history and politics. In addition to courses in American Politics, the Department will be offering its Seminar on the Presidency (PSC 415) an upper-division core fulfilling competency requirements in Civic Engagement and Contextual Integration. Politics and the Media and American Political Parties courses will also feature the 2016 elections and provide the foundation for the newly launched Political Communications Minor: An interdisciplinary minor (Political Science and English/Journalism) for students interested in careers in political journalism, government, international affairs, political campaigns, or for graduate study in the fields of political science, communication, or journalism.

The History and Government Club and Pre Law Student Association are already planning a student-to-student panel discussion which will focus on 2016 electoral issues which most affect their demographic cohorts. There will also be the quadrennial election-night watching party, a staple in the History & Political Science Department since 2000 when the party ended well before there was a declared winner. In 2008, roughly 30 students stayed until 2:00 in the morning just to witness President Obama's victory speech on the big screen in Alumni Lounge. 

Students at the 2008 Election Night Party

The 2012 Election Night Party co-hosted by the H&G Club and the Black
Student Association. 

As part of the History & Politics Speaker Series, A People's Forum on the American Presidency (October 1, 2016) will feature several major scholars in History and Political Science with expertise on presidential memory and legacy. This event, expected to be a major draw for the broader community, will offer students an unprecedented opportunity to learn first-hand from preeminent presidential scholars and to frame class research projects and think-tank grants around the theme of presidential reputations, character, and performance.

The focus on the 2016 Elections reflects the History & Political Science Department's commitment to Civic Literacy and Engagement which are at the core of the Daemen College Mission. As Brianna frames it, informed engagement in the political world is an indispensable component of a well-functioning democracy and to the ability to effectuate change: "As the upcoming generation, it is our responsibility to influence the direction that our country takes in the coming years. There are many forms that this influence can take, but it is important to be aware of our current political situation because government is one of the most effective tools to we have to shape our society.”

Department Banquet--May 7

Calling all History & Political Science

students and alumni

You are invited to attend our 
Saturday, May 7, 2016