CSU, Chico News

Students Put Policy Issues in Spotlight at Town Hall Meeting

Date: 04-14-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
Ellie Clifford Ertle, Director
Civic Engagement

California State University, Chico students will lead conversations on topics ranging from immigration to food and water policies at a town hall meeting Tuesday, April 22, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Bell Memorial Union (BMU) Auditorium and other campus locations.

CSU, Chico’s Town Hall Meeting Program, established in 2006, helps students understand the political process and their role in government. About 700 first-year students enrolled in the University’s political science course on American government are expected to participate, said Ellie Clifford Ertle, director of Civic Engagement and faculty coordinator for the Town Hall Meeting Program. The biannual event provides students with a public arena for discussing current policy issues with other students, faculty, administrators and community members.

After opening remarks take place in the BMU, participants move to various locations on campus for breakout sessions. During these sessions, moderators encourage students to share their research with other students and interested participants. Students conclude the evening in small roundtable sessions with members of the campus and community serving as consultants to assist with next steps in research and the development of a plan for civic action. Consultants may include City Council members, political activists, nonprofit advocates, educators and graduate students.

Other topics to be discussed include veterans’ issues, human trafficking, job creation, Chico alcohol and drug policies, homelessness, crime and punishment, improving K-12 education, energy and animal policies.

Town Hall invites a recent alumnus of the event to share their experience before discussions start to give students an idea of what to expect. This semester’s keynote speaker is Maggie Herlocker.

“The Town Hall Meeting allows students to connect with community members and policy experts and see for themselves the impact they can make when they get involved,” Ertle said.

CSU, Chico’s Town Hall Meeting Program has garnered national attention in recent years, including a mention in a 2011 U.S. Department of Education white paper titled “A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future.” The paper sparked a national dialogue about strengthening students’ civic learning and democratic engagement as a core component of college study. Several colleges and universities have modeled programs after Chico’s, including CSU, Fullerton and Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. This semester, Cleveland State officials will attend and observe in hopes of creating a town hall of their own.

The town hall program is a signature piece of CSU, Chico’s Public Sphere Pedagogy, which embeds a "public sphere" in first-year courses, moving students from a typical classroom setting to a dialogue-rich environment. The program is a collaborative effort between the First-Year Experience, a campus program aimed at easing the transition to college life, and the Department of Political Science. It is supported by the Office of Undergraduate Education and the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

For more information, please visit www.csuchico.edu/fye/thm.