DUDLEY, Mass.—Nichols College students and faculty were at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017, to witness the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, as part of a two-week program through The Washington Center’s Presidential Inauguration Academic Seminar.
In addition to watching Donald J. Trump be sworn in as president, the 23 Nichols students—led by Assistant Professor of History Erika Cornelius Smith, Ph.D., and Psychology Professor Brian McCoy, Ed.D.—engaged with political players and media experts, and gained access to important organizations and institutions (such as the U.S. Capitol building) throughout Washington, D.C.
Offering the program, which ran Jan. 8-21, 2017, to students seemed like the perfect opportunity to build on the civic leadership movement at Nichols, according to Professor Smith.
“Students in my political science courses last fall were frustrated by the rhetoric of the presidential campaigns, and our class conversations often turned into discussions of how we can rise above partisan disagreements to create real change and address many of the critical issues through bipartisan cooperation,” she said. “At Nichols College, we try to provide students with opportunities to demonstrate leadership in campus organizations, on athletic teams, or in their professional business fields. Civic leadership and civic engagement is another form of leadership where Nichols students are uniquely prepared to offer their talents.”
During the two-week Washington Center program, students focused on a different policy issue with speakers and panelists who had competing views on the subject. Visiting speakers were national political figures, journalists, and issue experts and scholars. Topics included: an election post mortem, immigration, race and equality, national security and foreign relations, the economy, and climate change. Students visited government agencies, embassies, think tanks, and other organizations around Washington, D.C., to further their exposure to various points of view on the transfer of presidential power.
The experiential learning opportunity—for which the students received academic credit—melded psychology and political science curricula to engender an interdisciplinary conversation about power, dissent, political discourse, and reconciliation. The students were challenged to elevate their critical thinking above the noise of the current political discourse and become part of a generation of leaders with the power to pursue bipartisan cooperation. They gained communication and critical thinking skills, and learned about ethics and personal accountability, civic and social engagement, and the importance of teamwork.
“It's important to listen to and connect with people who have different beliefs, backgrounds, and experiences other than your own,” said Timothy Born of Millbury, Mass., a junior majoring in management and human resource management. “Especially regarding politics to help elevate the political discourse we have in this country. This program has given us skills and lessons we’ll be carrying with us for many years to come.”
Senior general business major Isabella St. Francis of Webster, Mass., said: “Nichols has allowed me to participate in an experience of a lifetime. The broadening sense of community and collaboration our group has participated in—including the National Day of Service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, D.C.—will have a lasting positive effect on our future endeavors.”
Students also learned how to approach a question or a problem from the perspective of multiple stakeholders; and to listen to, evaluate, and build consensus for a variety of viewpoints, solutions, or proposals for a particular problem.
“We have bright, thoughtful, creative students on our campus who could share their insights and ideas with their local communities,” said Professor McCoy. “If we can't attract and equip these types of energetic, talented individuals into public service, we will have serious problems in the future in our American democracy.”
In February, the students will present to the campus community on their experience in Washington, D.C.
The following Nichols College students participated in The Washington Center trip:
- Amanda Alcaron ’18, a criminal justice management major from Bridgewater and Maynard, Mass.
- Sarah Benjamin ’18, a psychology major from Charlton, Mass.
- Timothy Born ’18, a hospitality and human resource management major from Millbury, Mass.
- Angelina Butler ’17, a human resource management major from Worcester, Mass.
- Brian Coutts ’17, a criminal justice management major from Belmont, Mass.
- Michael Cutrer ’17, a criminal justice management major from Vineyard Haven, Mass.
- Sean Desmond ’17, a criminal justice management major from Manchester, Mass.
- Dailaine Dos Reis ’19, an economics major from Framingham, Mass.
- Megan Faulkner ’17, a criminal justice management major from Dudley, Mass.
- Olivia Harbert ’17, a general business major from Shrewsbury, Mass.
- Emily Hodgkins ’20, a management major from Franklin, Mass.
- Jacqueline Hogue ’17, a criminal justice management and psychology major from Grafton, Mass.
- Thomas Horner ’18, a finance and economics major from Brewster, N.Y.
- Megan Nathanson ’19, a sport management major from Scarborough, Maine
- Amanda Newman ’17, a management major from Chester, N.H.
- Brianna Raymond ’18, a general business major from Oxford, Mass.
- Erin Sheehan ’17, a general business major from Foxboro, Mass.
- Isabella St. Francis ’17, a general business major from Webster, Mass.
- Kristie Sullivan ’17, a marketing major from West Warwick, R.I.
- Alexandra Vojtila ’17, a business communication and economics major from Southington, Conn.
- Madeline Waslick ’17, a human resource management major from Hudson, N.H.
- Samuel Yeadon ’17, a criminal justice management major from Groton, Mass.
- Nicole Zheng ’19, an accounting and criminal justice management major from Amherst, N.H.
The Washington Center is an independent, non-profit organization that provides college students challenging opportunities to work and learn in the nation’s capital for academic credit. Over 300 students from 60 colleges and universities from across the country participated in this 9th annual Presidential Inauguration Academic Seminar.
- Read the Telegram & Gazette’s coverage of the Nichols College trip to Washington, D.C.
- Read more about the election-related activities held at Nichols during the fall 2016 semester.
- Watch Charter TV 3’s Worcester News Tonight interview:
ABOUT NICHOLS COLLEGE
Nichols College is a college of choice for business and leadership education as a result of its distinctive career-focused and leadership-based approaches to learning, both in and out of the classroom. Founded in 1815, Nichols transforms today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders through a dynamic, career-focused business and professional education. Nichols serves students interested primarily in a comprehensive business education that is supported by a strong liberal arts curriculum.
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