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July 8, 2022
Summer is here! Along with the warm weather, I see this as a season for us all to carve out serious “off-the grid” or vacation time to reflect and recharge. Each summer I try to disconnect a bit from daily routines and reflect on what is truly important in my personal and professional life.
Every year since I arrived at MSU Denver in 2017, I have returned for the fall semester even more committed to our mission, recharged and ready to seize the opportunities (and sometimes the challenges) ahead.
In recent weeks, as we approached Independence Day, I found myself contemplating the myriad challenges our nation is facing and reflecting on Pillar III of MSU Denver’s Strategic Plan, which calls for us to be a “Civic and Economic Catalyst.” This role seems more important than ever in light of the various threats to our democracy we see playing out every day in the news – from critical debates in the Supreme Court and Congressional hearings, to challenges to free speech and academic freedom we see in higher education as a reflection of the general political polarization across the nation.
As a political scientist and career public servant, I believe deeply in the value of our participatory democracy. But in times like these, I realize we cannot take the strength of our democratic system for granted. We must be active stewards of the processes that make our society work.
This is why I am so passionate about our growing programs for public service at MSU Denver. Our students have demonstrated their enthusiasm for civic engagement, breaking records for voter turnout and playing critical roles in the University’s engagement with our legislators. These activities are key to the strength of our diverse democracy.
One thing I’m most excited about this summer is what a group of MSU Denver students is doing 1,600 miles away from campus. Six Roadrunners are enjoying paid internships with Congressional representatives, government agencies and public service organizations in Washington, D.C., our first cohort of Presidential Federal Interns. These students understand that the more Roadrunner students and graduates we have pursuing careers in public service, the more our democracy will reflect the voices of our diverse nation.
I believe that public service provides the backbone for our participatory, inclusive and diverse democracy. From 2017-20, I served on the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, the mission of which was to inspire more Americans to engage in public service. As the Commission’s report observed:
The United States continues to be a radical experiment in inclusive representative democracy, unique in the history of the world. What makes it so radical and so exceptional is the combination of its ever-evolving and expanding civil society together with the open and free discourse that fuels its political system. At its best, these characteristics enable the United States to confront or prevent crises and to seize opportunities by harnessing the power of diversity of thought, respectful debate, and collaboration focused on a common purpose. But these strengths are not a given – without attention and care, they are at risk.
In our Commission’s research we found that nearly 24 million Americans participate in some form of service to meet our country’s needs, not just in the military or the federal government, but in education, health care, disaster response and, yes, elected office. While those contributions are laudable, we live in a nation of some 330 million people, whose voices are needed inside the agencies and organizations that make our country thrive.
Federal agencies are facing a looming wave of retirements, which means there are immense opportunities for Roadrunner graduates to serve, promoting the strength of our country while charting exciting careers.
This brings me back to our exciting internship programs. One of the traditional barriers preventing young people from serving has been access – many government and nonprofit internship opportunities are unpaid, meaning the only people who can seize these opportunities have been those who can afford to do so for free.
Unpaid opportunities lead to only the wealthy and well-connected gaining critical experience that leads to paying jobs and more prestigious positions, creating a class of public servants who aren’t representative of all Americans. Luckily, this is changing as The White House just announced it will pay its interns for the first time. MSU Denver is working hard to bridge that gap too by encouraging all employers to pay interns and stepping in to help close that gap where necessary through programs like Earn and Learn and the Presidential Federal Internship program.
The goal of MSU Denver’s paid internships in Washington is to strengthen our democracy by diversifying the public sector. Thanks to philanthropic contributions, the program covers housing and transportation and provides networking and mentoring opportunities for our students. Our goal is to expand these opportunities for even more Roadrunners in the years to come.
As we remember our country's founding this month and ponder the challenges of upholding the principles of our radical democracy moving forward, I am very encouraged by the passion of our students. I can’t wait to hear from our federal interns at the end of the summer, and I look forward to the many ways in which their stories will inspire even more Roadrunners to serve.
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.
President, MSU Denver
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In the past few months, the University of California system, Metropolitan State University of Denver, the University of Minnesota system, and the State of Oregon have all moved to waive tuition for the vast majority of their Native American students.
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The future of spaceflight
Alumnus Jeff Kloska takes the reins of the Colorado Air and Space Port and sets sights on the next generation of aerospace travel.
The Rundown: One World One Water Center
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A second chance at family
How finding a new support system has allowed transgender student Jayce Price to flourish.
Aug. 18, 2022 | 5-7 p.m.
Show your support at the official welcome event for new students. There will be food, games, music, and remarks from President Davidson and an MSU Denver alum speaker. RSVP for Convocation
Sept. 15, 2022 | 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Freedom of Expression Panel
MSU Denver General Counsel David Fine will moderate a panel on freedom of expression featuring Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, President Davidson and Communication Studies Chair Katia Campbell. Hosted in the Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Forum.
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