Empowering Young Americans

Ebonie Riley is an undergraduate Political Science major and President of the Africana Studies Council of Majors at UMBC.

At UMBC I have learned how to focus my aspiration to make a difference in my community. I have interacted with great professors here on campus in several different departments who have fueled my interest in community activism.  I completed an internship at the National Action Network in Washington, DC, seeking justice and experiencing hands-on civic activism in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.  That experience, coupled with a research project at UMBC, clarified my career plan: I’ll pursue a Ph.D. in Political Science.

But first, I hope to make a difference on campus, getting students involved in academic and community life.  I was working as a student aide in the Department of Africana Studies when I saw an opportunity to build student support for the department and its programs. Using organizing techniques I learned at UMBC and from National Action Network D.C. Bureau Chief Janaye Ingram, with plenty of support from Africana Studies staff member Wanda Soares Nottingham, I recruited peers to reactivate the long-dormant Africana Studies Council of Majors. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. As my professors have helped me discover, the capacity to recognize and respond effectively to a need is the hallmark of an activist.

One of the lessons I took away from my internship was that people need to be equipped with the knowledge to be informed voters in local or state elections so they have a say in policies that will affect their daily lives.  But understanding the political process is not an easy feat. As a Political Science major, I thought it would be important to bring a Member of Congress to campus to interact with young adults who would be able to ask questions about issues like student loan, college affordability, the economy and the job market. I hope you’ll join me for Empowering Young Americans: A Conversation with Congressman Elijah Cummings, in the UC Ballroom at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 18th.

If I could leave something for other students to think about it would be this: Vote. And remember that civic engagement means more than just voting; it also means being active in their communities and holding elected officials accountable. No matter who you are, you can shape your community.

Contact the author, Ebonie Riley, at eriley2@umbc.edu.

Women in Politics!

UMBC’s Women Involved in Learning and Leadership (WILL) will host a panel discussion this Wednesday, October 10, called “Women in Politics!,” featuring campus, state and national leaders (7:00 p.m., Lecture Hall 4). Kelly Martin Broderick and Cassandra Morales, UMBC undergraduates who are among WILL’s co-leaders, tell the story of their inspiration to plan and host the event.

WILL (Women Involved in Learning and Leadership) students are committed to bringing issues of gender equality to light in addition to actively working to resolve these issues. Within our group, we have maintained an equal-power structure, in which no member, including the co-leaders, has a bigger voice than the others. Most of all, WILL remains a safe space to talk about every day confrontations with gender inequality. WILL is a student group, but we are also supported by the GWST program and have a Living/Learning Community in Harbor Hall. If you are interested in WILL, please contact Kate Drabinski in the GWST Program.

Cassandra reflects:  

This past June, WILL’s co-leaders participated in the United States National Committee-United Nations Women conference at George Washington University. The final panel focused on why it was important for more women to be in politics. The panelists discussed obstacles women face in politics, including the fact that when a woman is asked to run for office, she has to be asked three to five different times before she even seriously considers it. This is a significant statistic because a man barely has to be asked; all it takes is being approached once. This is why when asked what advice she would give to women, Erin Prangley, the Associate Director of Government Relations for the American Association of University Women (AAUW), simply stated “RUN. FOR. OFFICE.” This was repeated four more times—encouraging every woman at the conference to get out there and run for office. It doesn’t matter how big or little the election, just get out there and get on a ballot. [Read more…]

Research Methods Beyond the Classroom

Carolyn Forestiere is an associate professor of political science at UMBC.

I have always wanted to introduce some form of civic engagement in my courses, but I never thought that the subject matter that I teach – Research Methods in Political Science – could be adapted to the overall goals of the BreakingGround initiative. After attending the BreakingGround Workshop in the Spring of 2012, I realized that with some innovative thinking, virtually any course can be adapted.

I have been teaching Research Methods since 2006. Part of the students’ regular coursework included developing survey and interview questionnaires that students deliver to each other as a means for them to create their own data set to analyze. In the workshop I decided I could add great depth to my course by a identifying a group of people outside of the university that my students could interview. To serve as a foil for my young college-aged students, I decided to bring them to a retirement community in the Catonsville area. The objective of the exercise will be to gather original data for analysis from the residents at local retirement communities and to garner a sense of empathy for different groups of people. [Read more…]

UMBC’s Leiter-Mason & Case Blog from Democratic Convention

Caitlyn Leiter-Mason and Mitch Case (photo by Brian Brown)

UMBC’s Caitlyn Leiter-Mason ’14, GWS and political science, and Mitch Case ’11, MCS, are in Charlotte this week serving as delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Leiter-Mason was elected to represent Maryland’s 6th District and Case to represent Maryland’s 7th District in the April 2012 primary election. Both are delegates for President Obama.

The two are blogging about their experiences at A Tale of Two Delegates. [Read more…]