UF's Graham Center giving students a closer look at public policy
Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 4:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 4:37 p.m.
About 50 college students from around the state will converge on the Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida this weekend to take part in the center's first Robert A. Bryan Future of Florida Public Policy Summit.
The summit -- to run from Friday through Sunday -- was started by several UF students after they had returned from the Harvard Institute of Politics conference in Cambridge, Mass. These students wanted to create something similar but more focused on Florida, said Sheila Dickison, associate director for academic programs at the Graham Center.
“They were very enthusiastic and creative figuring out how to do this,” Dickison said. They're already planning next year's summit, which they hope to have in February, she said.
Jayce Victor, who graduated May 4 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a minor in public leadership through the Graham Center, said the experience at the Harvard Institute of Politics motivated him and his fellow students to create a similar program at UF.
“My friends and I were inspired like, wow! Imagine if we had similar type conference in Florida. Let's get this started here,” Victor said, adding that they chose education as the summit's inaugural topic because it struck close to home.
Victor hopes the conference will help other students from around the state get excited about issues that affect them and form a level of civic engagement that would inspire them to go out and do something.
The center then reached out to public and private institutions of higher learning in Florida to nominate students to attend the conference, she said.
Students from Florida State University, Rollins College, Florida Southern College, New College, and University of Central Florida will be among the participants.
Participants were selected based on their accomplishments, level of civic engagement, and interest in Florida politics with a distinguished record of leadership. Also, they are expected to be at least juniors and have a working knowledge of statistics and a desire to make an impact on the future.
“We were looking for students who were very involved in their university, since the topic is higher education policy,” Dickison said.
The participants will be housed in Hume Hall.
The summit will start 5 p.m. Friday and run through noon Sunday. It will take place in the Ocara at Pugh Hall. Students will discuss the most pressing issues facing their generation and come up with solutions. Topics include the cost of education (tuition, financial aid, Bright Futures); technology (online campus and impact on learning); campus safety (sexual assault, guns on campus): and student preparedness and success.
Workshops include political civility and public policy.
The keynote speaker is Dr. Belle Wheelen, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Panelists include UF Provost Joe Glover, and David Colburn, director of the Graham Center.
“We hope that by the time we finish on Sunday we will not have solved all the problems but get started on a couple of policy proposals,' Dickison said.
From there, they hope to devise a plan to move forward on those policies.
“We don't know what is going to come out of this conference. Hopefully some ideas and solutions that students will continue to work on and a game plan on how to move forward,” she said. “None of us quite knows. This is a new way of doing things.”