Don’t tell Suffolk University professor Christine Kulich-Vamavakas that the current generation of America’s college students is self-absorbed and not interested in politics.
“The anecdotal stories tell me students are much more engaged and they’ve resolved themselves to stay engaged,” Kulich-Vamvakas said.
“They must be active,” she added, noting that she believed democracy was at a crisis point in the United States and in several other nations.
Kulich-Vamvakas is one of about 30 faculty from across the country at The Washington Center’s Inauguration ‘17 seminar. Like many of her colleagues, she has a group of her university’s students participating in the seminar, which runs through Jan. 20.
Twenty-two Suffolk students are part of the almost 350 students in Washington. The contingent is primarily from the United States, but students from Haiti, Portugal and Ukraine also are here.
It doesn’t take long for someone to realize that Kulich-Vamvakas, an instructor in the Department of Government at Suffolk, is a proponent of experiential learning, a hallmark of every TWC program.
Such learning is “making it real” and can “serve as a bridge” between being a college student and a professional, she said. “Students are put in a situation that they might be in once they are paying off those student loans.”
Of course, there’s a difference between attending this TWC seminar and really participating in it. Kulich-Vamvakas enjoyed seeing how involved the Suffolk students were over the first few days of the program.
She noted that especially at site visits — opportunities to see an embassy, a think-tank or some other Washington-based organization and to do a deeper dive into a specific issue — her students really opened up.
“Whether they moved from being quiet to finally asking a question or showing real enthusiasm” for what they heard, Kulich-Vamvakas said, they were actively processing what was taking place around them.
As was true on many college campuses, the fall semester was “brutal” at Suffolk, Kulich-Vamvakas said. “Our group appreciates the need for political discourse,” she added, recognizing that one of the big questions that hung over the university during the election campaign was how to talk to people who didn’t hold similar political viewpoints.
The undergraduate students who are here will make a university-wide presentation about the seminar once they return home and also track the legislative accomplishments of the Trump administration throughout the spring semester. Kulich-Vamvakas hopes that they also aspire to build conversations across diverse communities, a hallmark of experiential learning.
Oh, yes, that experiential learning matters. “There’s more bang for the buck” in such programs, Kulich-Vamvakas concluded.