Summary

Despite COVID restrictions, participants in the Presidential Student Legislative Advocates (PSLA) continue to value the experience they are gaining from the program. Students participated in a wide variety of activities, including weekly sessions with speakers from the state legislative venue, a general election prediction contest, and a virtual lobbying day with the Beaver Caucus. For various reasons, six of the 50 students enrolled in the program withdrew in the early weeks of the quarter.

As we move toward the Winter quarter, we are striving to increase the number of interactive elements and will be offering a diversity of speakers on subjects that reflect a survey we conducted at the end of the fall term.

Over the fall quarter we also developed, and are implementing, two new ventures -- one to engage policy practitioners in course activities in disciplines across the university and another to develop a network of mutual support and collegiality for OSU undergraduate alumni who are active in public policy, government, and communications arenas.

The Numbers

Number of students who applied (summer 2020)....................... 67

Number of students who were accepted and enrolled................ 50 (75% acceptance rate)

Number of students who withdrew*........................................... 6 (12%)

Number of students who successfully completed**................... 44 (100%)

Highest score.......................................................................... 123%

Lowest score............................................................................ 82%

Average score......................................................................... 102%

Number of students with scores over 100%............................... 28 (63% of participants)

Notes

   *Of the 6 students who withdrew, 3 had been nominated, 2 were direct applicants, and 1 was a student who had participated in last year’s program. For next year’s program we will be moving the application and recruitment process from the summer to the spring quarter, with the intent that this will increase the diversity of candidates for the program while also minimizing the potential schedule conflicts and constraints for students as they plan for the fall quarter.

**”Successful completion” required a 70% score based on participation in PSLA activities. The program involved well over a dozen extra-credit opportunities, such as sessions on resume writing, opportunities for getting involved in campaigns, internships, etc. (See Appendix.)

 

All but one of the students who successfully completed the fall quarter have enrolled for the winter quarter -- two additional students who participated in the PSLA last year but could not engage in the fall quarter due to schedule conflicts will join the program winter quarter.

 

2020-21 Program: PSLA Majors

____________

Note: Because some students are double majors, the total number of students is greater than the enrollment in the program.

 

Self-Identified Ethnic/Racial Composition of PSLA Participants Fall 2020

 

 

Fall Survey

Upon completion of the fall term, we surveyed participants seeking their feedback regarding activities conducted during the fall term and recommendations for content during the winter term. [Of the 44 students who completed the quarter, 35 (80%) participated in the survey which was administered during finals week.]

 

The General Election Prediction Contest

Many students commented favorably about the election prediction contest which involved forecasting the results of 16 elements in a dozen state legislative and statewide races, and state and national voter turnout. Four teams tied for first place with 12 correct predictions. The winners included two student teams, the team from OSU’s Government Relations Office, and the Public Policy Faculty team. (All teams beat Archie the dog whose predictions were based on a random number generator.)

 

What Students Liked

Many students enjoyed the session with President Alexander. [“I enjoyed working with my classmates and having the chance to use our class time to ask the President of OSU questions, which is not something that every student has the opportunity to do.”]

Other noteworthy speakers included Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), OSU Professor Dr. Christopher Stout, an extra-credit information session with Public Policy Graduate Director Brent Steel and alumna Alethia Miller on the master’s in public policy, and a presentation by Legislative Counsel attorney Dan Gilbert. (See Appendix, p. 5, for a complete listing of fall PSLA activities.)

Quotes:

  • I have found our weekly meetings very informative. Although we have not been able to do as much as the group might have in past years, I feel like I am learning a lot.
  • All the great speakers and the passion of every member.
  • I also have enjoyed all the speakers. I get particularly interested when they tell their stories about how they got to where they are today.
  • I also really enjoyed the past workshop speakers and the extra events we could attend, such as the internship workshop. I felt I have learned a lot about policy and advocacy.
  • Extra-credit sessions focused on next steps after undergrad have been immensely helpful.
  • Everything! The guest speakers are always great and insightful!
  • I've enjoyed the panelists and extra credit sessions, such as the Resume and Internship workshops. I enjoy learning about the different areas and processes.
  • I've mostly really enjoyed some of the extra credit opportunities and staying up to date on ways to get involved. I've gotten to attend things like the Blumenauer/AOC Townhall and the Henry Louis Gates Jr. Webinar, and feel like I'm learning a lot in conjunction with what's being talked about in the PLSA meetings. Even though I'm also getting settled with OSU, it's reassuring to see so many groups and internships opportunities.

 

Suggestions for Improvement

In short, students are looking for more diversity in the speakers and increased interaction among the program participants.

 

Quotes:

  • Maybe some suggestions on reading materials. Both current articles and books or studies you find interesting. Not necessarily a way to improve, just something I would take advantage of.
  • It would be cool to dive into our specific areas of interest a little more!
  • The only improvement I can think of is more group work with my classmates and time to debrief and discuss what we learn in class.
  • It seemed like earlier in the term, there would be articles and reading material to read over before the meetings. I know these more recent meeting were a bit more open format and seemed to progress through a more natural dialogue, but I did feel that having these articles were helpful to at least feel more prepared with the topics.
  • I would suggest letting students choose to do work individually on their own time or in a group. Since I am a fulltime mom of a toddler and a high school student plus in college and working in research the time I have to do schoolwork is typically after 8:00 pm. This is not conducive to working in a group. If we were not in the midst of a pandemic, I would love working in a group. But also my teen would be in school and my toddler would be in daycare so I would be able to meet at a normal time.
  • Everything is going pretty well. I'm not sure how to improve the issues I see, as things like active participation are difficult in classes this size.
  • More hands-on things to do, opportunities to meet and work with others in PSLA.
  • Making the class more interactive. I'm assuming it was more like this when it was held in-person. Maybe more group discussions about the topic we talked about during last class or a debrief at the end of the current lesson?
  • Diversity in our speakers. I would be interested in hearing the perspective of women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, immigrants/refugees/Asylum seekers/DACA recipients, low-income, first generation (and more) professionals working in the field of law and policy - one that is notoriously white, male, cishet, and dominated by nepotism/elitism.
  • More interactive sessions?

 

Winter Quarter Forecast

The survey also included a review of possible topics for the winter quarter. The top five topics, by order of preference, include: Social Justice, Climate Change/Environmental Policy, Public Health, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and “What’s it like to work in the Governor’s Office?” As a result of the survey we are organizing either regular sessions or extra-credit topics on these topics with an eye to the diversity of the individuals who will be making presentations.

We are also including more collaborative activities involving break-out rooms. Two additions based on the survey include a “show and tell” session in which students will be discussing their IDPs and a team-based scavenger hunt on the legislative website. We will continue to implement other engaging activities for the winter quarter.

 

Confirmed Winter Quarter Activities

January 6

Legislative Scavenger Hunt -- Gaining familiarity and dexterity with the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS)

January 13

“Show & Tell: My Independent Development Plan (IDP)” and OSU’s Legislative Priorities for the 2021 session with Katie Fast & Claire McMorris

January 20

“What it’s like to work in the Governor’s Office with Mary Moller, Deputy Director Department of Consumer and Business Services, Former Executive Appointments Assistant to Governor Kate Brown

January 27

President Alexander: A Federal Perspective

February 3

The Environmental Agenda for the 2021 Session: Morgan Gratz-Weiser (Oregon Environmental Council), Amelia Porterfield (The Nature Conservancy), and Dylan Kruse (Sustainable Northwest)

February 10

The Business Agenda for the 2021 Session: Sandi McDonough (Oregon Business and Industry)

February 17

Social Justice: Chip Lazenby, Attorney; Former Legal Counsel to Governor Kitzhaber

February 24

State Treasurer Tobias Read

Internships

We continue to work with legislative offices in seeking internship opportunities for PSLA and other interested OSU students during the 2021 legislative session. In November we worked with ASOSU and ASCC to sponsor and organize an internship forum which included presentations by staff in congressional and state legislative offices, career services, and students who have participated in internships. Thirty-five students from OSU and OSU-Cascades participated in the forum.

 

Individual Development Plans – The PSLA “Adoption Program”

During the first weeks of the Winter quarter students will develop their own Individual Development Plans (IDPs) which will involve a three-part Adoption Program.

  1. : Students will select a legislator to follow for the course of the 2021 legislative session based on legislators’ characteristics of interest to them -- profession or background, the district they represent, or committees on which they serve.
  2. : Students will select and track a bill of interest to them – including monitoring any hearings held, and actions taken that involve the bill. This will be a fluid and iterative process since many bills do not receive hearings.
  3. : Finally, students will choose an advocate who is working on a topic or issue that is of interest to them. As the legislative session progresses, we will work to facilitate zoom meetings and “virtual shadowing.”

Throughout the session we will work with students to explore opportunities for Zoom shadowing and other opportunities to connect directly with those who are participating in Oregon’s legislative process.

 

Policy Practitioners in the Classroom

In a new venture, the PSLA is reaching out to faculty across disciplines to arrange for policy practitioners to speak to classes. Examples include industry and conservation representatives discussing forestry issues in a senior level capstone class in the College of Forestry, and a GIS specialist with the Association of Oregon Counties talking with a GIS class in the College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. We will continue to cultivate these opportunities through the winter and spring quarters.

 

PSLA Alumni Network

Over the fall, a small group of PSLA and OSU alumni have been meeting to construct a network of mutual support and collegiality for undergraduate alumni who are active in the public policy, government and communications arenas. They have established a LinkedIn site with 65 members who are sharing information about jobs and other developments of interest. The group is coordinating with the OSU Alumni Association, has surveyed its members regarding interests and activities, and is planning zoom events early in 2021.

 

For more information

Please contact Jock Mills, Director, PSLA: jock.mills@oregonstate.edu

 

APPENDIX

PSLA Activities: Fall Quarter 2020

 

Scheduled Sessions

Wednesday, September 23: Introduction and Orientation

Wednesday, September 30: A Conversation with OSU President Alexander

Wednesday, October 7: The Oregon Legislative Process

Wednesday, October 14: General Election Prediction Contest

  • Predicting the results of key races in the 2020 Elections

Wednesday, October 21: OSU’s Presence in Salem

  • Katie Fast, Executive Director, OSU Government Relations

Wednesday, October 28: What is LFO?

Wednesday, November 4: Election Results

Wednesday, November 18: Rep. Dan Rayfield

Wednesday, December 2: What makes a good advocate?

 

Extra Credit Opportunities

  1. Monday, 9/28, 5:00 PM: Molly Woon, Democratic Party of Oregon -- Campaign Volunteer Opportunities
  2. Monday, 9/29, 5:00 PM: Jihun Han, Political Director, Evergreen Oregon PAC: Republican Campaign Volunteer Opportunities
  3. Monday 10/5, 5:00 PM: Beaver Caucus Town Hall with President Alexander
  4. Thursday, October 15, 4:00 PM: US Rep. Earl Blumenauer Virtual Town Hall with US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  5. Monday, 10/19, 5:00 PM: Resume Workshop with Karla Rockhold
  6. Friday, 10/23, 6:30 PM: ASOSU Election Forum
  7. Thursday, 10/29, 6:00 PM: ASOSU Town Hall: A Conversation about Racial Justice and On-Campus Law Enforcement
  8. Monday, November 2, 5:00 PM: A Master's Degree in Public Policy - what does it involve & where can it take me?
  9. Monday, November 9, 5:30 PM: Provost’s Lecture Series: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  10. Tuesday, November 10, 7:00 PM: ASOSU State of the Student Speech
  11. Monday, November 16, 5:00 PM: Dan Gilbert, A Day in the Life of Legislative Counsel
  12. Tuesday, November 17, Noon-1PM: Dr. David Bernell -- The 2020 Elections: What happened and why?
  13. Wednesday, November 18, 4:00 PM: Community Dialogue: How does real change come from protests?
  14. Thursday, November 19, 5:00 PM: Internship Forum
  15. Monday, November 23, 5:00 PM: State Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis/Albany) “From Oregon State University to the Oregon State Senate”
  16. Thursday, December 9, all day: Beaver Caucus Virtual Lobby Day