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What is the time commitment?

The University Legislative Scholars (ULS) program runs Fall, Winter, and Spring terms of the academic year as a non-credit/tuition-free course (PPOL 002). Program meetings occur on Wednesdays at 5:00pm. For the 2021-22 academic year, we anticipate in-person classes that will also accommodate on-line and OSU-Cascades students.

Over the course of the year, students are expected to create “independent development plans” (IDPs) that include additional activities such as shadowing policy advocates or working directly with practitioners, including legislators, legislative staff and lobbyists.

The Program will also involve multiple “extra credit” opportunities on and off campus, both virtual and in-person. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in all three quarters during the academic year.

The amount of time students put into this program – including weekly meetings, writing a policy memorandum, and the IDP-- will depend on how much they wish to get out of the Program. To successfully complete the fall quarter, students are expected to participate in at least seven of the ten program activities; there may be other required activities. During the winter quarter, students will be required to turn in an IDP that identifies a legislator, a bill, and an advocate of interest. The IDP will guide each student’s activities while the legislature is in session. In 2022 the legislature will be conducting a short, six-week session that will convene in late January or early February. The spring quarter will involve more experiential activities including the completion of a professional-grade policy memorandum on a topic of each student’s choosing.

Who may apply?

Undergraduate students enrolled at OSU-Corvallis, OSU-Cascades, or E-Campus may apply to participate in the program. We prefer to serve third- and fourth-year students due to their level of experience with OSU programs and the writing and speaking expectations the Program carries. The experiences that students gain in the University Legislative Scholars program are most helpful the closer students are to transitioning into the job market and post-graduation.

What is a non-credit course and how does it work?

Non-credit courses allow students the opportunity to engage in experiential learning activities without having to pay tuition. The course appears on student transcripts, but because the course carries no credits, it does not require tuition. Students accepted into the University Legislative Scholars program will register for the non-credit course each academic term. Only students who submit their application to the Program and are accepted may register for the course. At the end of each quarter, based on their participation, students will receive either an SC (successfully completed) or NSC (non-successfully completed) which will appear on their transcripts.

Note on University Legislative Scholars as a “For-Credit” option: We are in the process of enabling some majors to enroll in the Program for 2 credits each quarter that would apply to their degree. Students enrolled in the Program who choose to take it for credit would earn a letter grade and would be expected to participate in all of the Program’s activities. (For example, a non-credit student can “successfully complete” the Program with a 70% attendance record. A student enrolled in the Program for credit, at best would a C- with a 70% attendance record.) The credit option is still in process – we expect to have it resolved before the beginning of fall term. No matter the major, no students will be required to enroll in the Program for credit.

What does it take to “Successfully Complete” this Program?

Each quarter students must participate in at least seven of the ten scheduled meetings and activities that are outlined in the course syllabus. In consultation with the Program director, they must also develop a customized Individual Development Plan (IDP) that identifies specific activities they plan to undertake during the winter and spring quarters. In addition, students will be expected to complete a professional-grade policy memorandum that addresses an issue that they select. The memo will be completed in collaboration with the Program Director, and, if possible, will involve an identified client (agency, legislator, or advocate).

Our hope is that students will participate in all three quarters during each academic year. Each quarter provides distinct experiences and advantages. For example, Fall quarter will focus on preparing for the legislative session and the November election in odd-numbered years. Winter and Spring quarters will be devoted to the legislative session, and then merge into exploratory activities of particular interest to students. In even-numbered years, we will be involved in the primary-election cycle.

How are students recruited for this Program?

Any third- or fourth-year student may apply to participate in the Program. Second-year students may apply, but acceptance will depend on capacity. The Program will be limited to 50 participants. The University Legislative Scholars also seeks nominations from university leadership and faculty. We are particularly interested in achieving a diversity of students who have a high level of activity in campus life, can communicate with others about their experiences at OSU, and are interested in public policy as it relates to their field of study. We encourage undergraduate students from all majors to apply. Depending on capacity, students may participate in the Program for two years. Selected students in the second year of the Program may serve as peer leaders.

In short, we are looking for students who show promise for advocating for themselves and in helping the university to succeed in the policy-making and budgetary process at the state level. Students who participate in the Program demonstrate a high potential for developing academic and professional dividends regardless of their majors or subject interests.

For the 2021-2022 Academic year --- How are University Legislative Scholars involved with the state legislative session?

In 2022, the legislature will convene in late January or early February, with adjournment – sine die – scheduled for early March. The legislative session will run at an accelerated pace with limited opportunities for engagement.

Legislative committees will be meeting in the fall months of 2021 as they prepare for the 2022 session. We expect program participants will have an opportunity to monitor or participate in these committee sessions.

Program activities during the Fall and Winter quarters will also involve orientation about Oregon’s state government, information about how to be an effective advocate, how to testify before a committee, and in-depth briefings regarding OSU’s priorities in Salem.

Additionally, we will be exploring the policy issues that are of interest to students. During previous legislative sessions, program participants explored policies involving climate change and carbon emissions. They met with the Governor’s staff, advocates for and against carbon legislation, committee staff who were responsible for running the legislative process, and legislators who were actively involved in the bill. Program participants have also been involved in mental health and public health issues.

As in previous years, participants will have the opportunity to form groups that are focused on bills that align with their specific interests. We will also hold periodic “briefing sessions” to keep Program participants up to date on what is happening in Salem and how they can be involved. Participants will be subscribed to the Government Relations Update, which provides an insider’s view on what is happening in Salem. Students will also be connected to the Beaver Caucus, a 501(c)(3) organization that advocates for OSU in Salem.

Does it cost anything to be in the University Legislative Scholars?

No, other than your time and effort. The Program will finance travel and other expenses. Registration for the non-credit course is free.

Is there reading associated with the Program?

Of course! (What are you doing right now?) There will be plenty of opportunities to read more and delve further into issues, but it’s the student’s choice. Much of the discussion in our sessions will be driven by information we provide ahead of time. Reading materials will be brief and will likely include advocacy and fact sheets (“one-pagers”), legislative updates, current articles of interest, and information about specific bills of interest.

What legislation will be involved?

Our advocacy efforts will include legislation that finances the operating costs and capital facilities on university campuses. These bills are crucial in helping to enable access and affordability for students who attend the OSU-Corvallis and OSU-Cascades campuses. Program participants will help communicate the importance of adequately funding higher education in order to avoid tuition increases, ensure educational quality, and address rising student debt.

We anticipate Program participants will engage in other issues and initiatives as they arise. Possible issues include food security and basic needs and other student-focused issues.

Do students choose the issues for which they advocate?

Yes. And no. When it comes to seeking funding for Oregon’s public universities, there is a broad coalition working together on agreed-upon priorities and programs. We will be working whole-heartedly with this coalition. OSU’s positions on legislation are developed in a deliberative and inclusive process that works across the entire university, and with other universities, to involve and engage student voices. We will continue to work closely with the student government -- the Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU) and the Associated Students of the Cascades Campus (ASCC) -- to ensure that students are engaged in setting University legislative priorities and policies. The activities in this program will be consistent with the inclusive process we use to develop and implement OSU’s legislative agenda.

We will welcome student suggestions if participants are interested in pursuing specific bills or issues. In addition, the Program will identify issues that we will study for the purposes of learning more about the legislative process.

Will students be involved in organizing and presenting for the Program?

Yes! We will be designating peer leaders drawn from those who have previous experience with the Program to help organize and lead meetings and activities. In addition, as we move through the legislative session, participants may identify topics and issues in which they wish to be involved.

Who else is involved?

We work very closely with OSU’s Government Relations Office, ASOSU and ASCC to guide OSU’s legislative priorities and the Program. In addition, many of our efforts will be conducted with the other public universities and community colleges in Oregon. We will also be working with the Beaver Caucus, a volunteer association of OSU alumni and others who support OSU.

Over the course of the legislative session, OSU may also be working with a broad coalition of natural resource industry (agriculture, forestry, and fisheries), conservation and environmental groups on a variety of issues, including funding for the “OSU Statewides” – the OSU Extension Service, Agricultural Experiment Station and Forest Research Laboratory. We may also be working on a number research, economic development, and technology transfer issues.

What are the opportunities for networking?

Many policy and political professionals around the state are interested in working with students. PSLA participants will be provided opportunities to learn from and work side-by-side with university alumni, industry leaders, innovators, educators, activists, and others involved in helping to shape state public policies.

What are the opportunities for interning?

We will be encouraging and facilitating internships during the 2022 legislative session. During the fall quarter we will hold an interactive session specifically designed to help students explore opportunities for internships in Salem and Washington, DC. That session will involve presentations by students who have interned in both Salem and Washington, DC, legislative staff who work with interns, an academic advisor, and OSU’s Career Development Center. Over the course of the Program we will be providing interview and resume assistance, as well as flagging internship and scholarship opportunities.

What are the opportunities for shadowing?

Throughout the year we will provide participants with opportunities to spend a day in Salem, shadowing OSU Government Relations staff or others who are engaged in the legislative process. There also may be opportunities for virtual shadowing. Shadowing often involves a long day as participants attend meetings with legislators, hearings, and other activities.

What if I have more questions?

We’d love to receive them. Please contact: Jock Mills, the Program’s Director: jock.mills@oregonstate.edu.