Two University of Montana undergraduate students from the Baucus Institute traveled to the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics this month for the National Campaign Conference.
Every year, students, faculty and administrators from 35 colleges and universities across the country attend the National Campaign Conference to engage with one another on issues of civic and political participation and develop best practices for increasing democratic engagement on campus. The Harvard Kennedy School funds travel and hotel accommodations.
Abbigail Belcher, a marketing senior from Whitefish and president of the Associated Students of UM, and Daniel Parsons, economics and political science major and ASUM business manager from Florence, represented UM alongside students from Harvard, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, the University of Miami, the University of Kansas and other private and public institutions.
“It was very valuable to hear about different ways in which institutions conducted outreach depending on their student demographics,” Belcher said. “It was also interesting to hear the perspectives of students from other schools.”
Over the weekend, the conference celebrated young leaders and facilitated discussions, panels and town hall meetings about pertinent political issues. The program trained participants to increase civic engagement on their respective campuses and in their communities, such as promoting voter registration.
Belcher and Parsons returned from the conference with new knowledge and fresh perspectives to share with ASUM and the rest of the student body.
“A plan that I would like to implement would be to offer more incentives for our student groups to become civically engaged,” Parsons said. “Most of our student groups center around a specific issue or hobby area, but some of the tenets of civic engagement could easily translate into their mission.”
Belcher hopes students will be inspired to become involved.
“My advice would be to find other people who are passionate about the same thing,” Belcher said.
The Max S. Baucus Institute brings together policymakers, lawyers, politicians and law students in the bipartisan, consensus-building spirit of former Ambassador and Sen. Baucus. For more information visit https://www.umt.edu/law/outreach/baucus-institute/.