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Policy lecture series raises issues surrounding presidential elections

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Published September 21, 2008 in The Huntington News

After driving about an hour and a half from Connecticut, Kristen Savage arrived at Room 20 of West Village F to see something she deemed special.

Savage and about 120 other people gathered for the first Open Classroom Policy series Wednesday night. The free lecture, “Policy Advice for the Next President,” was hosted by the School of Social Science, Urban Affairs and Public Policy.

“It’s free education,” Savage said. “It’s a good topic to discuss with people who actually know what they’re talking about.”

The free lecture series, which is being called a course, is led by Michael Dukakis, distinguished professor of political science, former governor of Massachusetts and 1988 presidential hopeful, and Robert Culver, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development authority that works to stimulate economic development, according to the School of Social Science, Urban Affairs and Public Policy’s website

The course is hosted once a week on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m, the website stated, and will run through December. Each class is broken into two subsets: the first half includes a small introduction and a series of guest speakers who are experts on the topic at hand and the second half includes a class discussion on the issues that are relevant to the subject.

“[Open Classroom] supports serious public issues and is a great thing,” Culver said. “I hope the classes are substantially challenging, but that the dialogues are equally informative.”

Having two prominent leaders increases the appeal of the course, said Executive Director of the School of Social Science, Urban Affairs and Public Policy John Sarvey.

“The two leaders are the highlights [of the program],” Sarvey said. “They both have tremendous insight and experience to offer, but in addition to the professors for the semester we have interesting guest lecturers every week and they’re people that have a lot of real world experience and expertise in these issues.”

Seeing such influential figures in person was the motivation for freshman business major Peter Petrin to attend the class, he said.

“At first I heard Dukakis was speaking and I knew a little about him and wanted to see him,” Petrin said. “To see big political figures up close is a completely different experience.”

Some students who did not attend said they might be interested in attending the series.

“[I might attend] depending on what issues they’re discussing,” said freshman accounting major Lauren Buzzell. “If it’s something I’m not interested in, I won’t go.”

The series will be discussing issues like meeting healthcare needs, regulating the marketplace and preparing the workforce for the future, according to the website.

Other students said they did not have the time to attend any additional lectures outside of school-required ones.

“I probably would go, I just don’t have the time right now,” said junior communication studies major Jordan Silas.

The class is designed to discuss policy issues the next president will encounter, the website stated, and covers everything from foreign policy to healthcare. It is a free course open to the community.

“Opening up the university to our neighbors in the Stony Brook Communities was a prime motivation behind the development of the ‘Open Classroom,’” Barry Bluestone, dean of the School of Social Science, Urban Affairs and Public Policy said in a statement. “Here is an opportunity for the broader community to get a chance to see the teaching we do at Northeastern and how we try to use our faculty and guest speakers to address a range of pressing challenges we face as a community and as a nation.”

Though the Policy Advice to the Next President class ends in December, the “Open Classroom” will host another series next semester, entitled “Economic Growth and Social Justice.”

“Every semester we want to have one course that’s of interest and engages the community as well as the campus,” Sarvey said of continuing the program.

By educating the community, the organizers of the class said they hope to give new insight and perspective to this seasons’ voters.

“We want the participants to go away with a deeper understanding of public policy and the challenges and opportunities facing different issues,” Sarvey said. “We also hope that it reinforces Northeastern’s commitment and openness to the community.”

Written by jdunccc

September 21, 2008 at 12:00 am