Kara Lindaman remembers what Nov. 9, 2016, was like at Winona State University, where she is a professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration.
“There were a lot of devastated people after the election,” Lindaman said. They, like millions of Americans, believed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was going to be the next President of the United States.
Winona State also had been recognized by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office for registering almost 1,900 students, or almost one-quarter of the student body, to vote. No four-year Minnesota State University campus did better last year. “There was tremendous spirit on campus throughout the fall semester,” Lindaman said.
“So many of my students rebounded quickly” after Clinton’s loss, she added. “They said ‘we can’t turn our backs on the university community’” as they affirmed they would attend The Washington Center’s Inauguration ‘17 seminar.
“We have to go to D.C.,” they told her.
The 12 students will be in Washington through the inauguration of Donald Trump, which takes place on Jan. 20.
Lindaman is a big believer in experiential learning, which she describes as getting students out of their university bubbles and the comfort zones of such places, and firmly grabbing hold of real-world opportunities. TWC’s seminar is one of those chances, Lindaman said.
“I hope my students go back to campus and share what happens here and empower others to lead,” she said.
When the students do return to Minnesota, they have specific commitments to the campus community and beyond. They will make a presentation to the university’s civic engagement committee before the spring term is done. In June they travel to the American Democracy Project’s Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement meeting, which takes place in Baltimore. There, they will be part of a plenary session that examines how to facilitate positive political discourse on a college campus and to the surrounding community.
Lindaman noted that the first session at TWC’s seminar demonstrated perfectly what the Winona State students have been learning through the American Democracy Project. That session involved a conversation with Julie Winokur and the screening of her documentary “Bring It to the Table”, which showcased how Winokur talked to people across the entire American political spectrum without ever questioning or attacking their beliefs. Instead, she asked them to dig deeper into why they believed what they did.
Lindaman believes the Winona students at The Washington Center seminar are getting an interesting combination of faculty perspectives. Dr. Jenny Chernega, who teaches in Winona’s sociology department, also is in Washington; the two women provide their students political and sociological perspectives on the issues under consideration at the seminar.
“We hope they get to see how people can debate an issue from a different side” and from a different academic or professional viewpoint, she said.
For Lindaman, higher education ultimately is about ensuring a young man or woman sees the power, necessity and importance of being an engaged citizen. “I connect people” to the real world, Lindaman said. Being in higher education “is not about me,” she added, noting that she is always excited to see how her students succeed once they graduate.