TSU Students, Professor Attend Harvard Conference on Politics and Civic Engagement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two TSU students and a professor from the College of Public Service participated in a recent national conference at Harvard University.

The National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement took place earlier this month at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

It focused on identifying the causes of the divisiveness following the 2016 presidential election, as well as strategies to bridge the gaps between all Americans.

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Mikala Hodges, a TSU Political Science major, participates in an open discussion at the conference. (Photo by Harvard University Institute of Politics)

Jalen Jennings, a junior urban studies major, and Mikala Hodges, also a junior majoring in political science, were among 70 students from 28 colleges and universities from across the United States who attended the conference.

The mission was to create a nationally coordinated program, Reconnect America.

Dr. Cara Robinson, interim chair of TSU’s Department of Social Work and Urban Affairs, accompanied the students. She said the students’ experience at the conference gave them the skills necessary to move civic activity on campus through academics and community service programs.

“Jennings and Hodges bring a personal passion, steady leadership, and commitment to assisting students and other stakeholders in moving public discourse and action forward and into a prominent place at TSU,” Robinson said. “The opportunity to work with students on civic and political engagement initiatives is a core purpose of the urban studies program and the College of Public Service.”

At the conference, students heard from prominent speakers such as Doris Kearns Godwin, veteran presidential historian, and David Gergen, veteran political analyst and advisor to three former U.S. presidents.

They noted the importance of having unifying leaders as a key to bridging the political divide, adding that young people have a vital role to play in closing the gap.

Jennings said he enjoyed meeting students from across the country and hearing their thoughts.

“We all have different views, [but] you come together and you find that in some ways we have the same ideas in some areas,” he said.

Jennings, who took part in a breakout group that focused on social media, added, “We are trying to come up with different ideas to make sure news gets published to social media sites that is more credible.”

Since 2003, the alliance has held annual conferences to identify collaborative projects, foster engagement in electoral politics, assist students in pursuing careers in public service and provide a foundation in civic education.

“The College of Public Service is very proud of this partnership, especially as we are the only HBCU,” said Dr. Michael Harris, dean of the college.  “It allows our students the opportunity to work with students from across the United States on enhancing citizenship, leadership and civic engagement, a core value that we instill in our students.”

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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 25 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.