Two former members of Congress, Milton Robert “Bob” Carr and Ann Marie Buerkle, are visiting Tufts Sept. 28 – 30 as part of the Congress to Campus program, organized by a three-way partnership between the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership, the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress and Tufts, according to Associate Director of the Stennis Center William “Brother” Rogers.
During their visit, the former members of Congress will be meeting with various members of the Tufts community and speaking about their experience in careers in public service, Rogers explained.
“The Congress to Campus program is an effort to attract young people to public service,” he said. “It sends bipartisan pairs of former members of Congress — one Democrat and one Republican — to visit college campuses around the country.”
Rogers explained that the former members of Congress usually visit campuses for about two days, where they conduct classes, hold community forums, meet informally with community members and do interviews with local media in order to encourage public service careers and provide their firsthand knowledge and experience.
Sarah Shugars, communications manager at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, said she met Rogers in the spring when members of the Stennis Center came to campus for an event.
“We were talking about the work of Tisch College, and you know Tisch College is very dedicated to helping students in the Tufts community connect with public service opportunities and understand what it means to have a career in public service,” she said.
Shugars added that working with the Stennis Center fits well with the mission of Tisch College.
“So to have an opportunity to connect with an organization like the Stennis Center, which is dedicated to public service and public service awareness and also that would bring a bipartisan delegation … to campus just seemed like a great opportunity and a great partnership with Tisch College,” she said.
According to Shugars, planning for the event began last spring and went into the summer. She added that besides Tufts, the former members of Congress will also be visiting Medford High School and Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston.
Today, the former members of Congress will be meeting with the Tisch College staff and the Tisch College research team to learn about the research they have been doing. They will also visit a U.S. history class at Medford High School as well as two classes in the Department of Political Science at Tufts with Professor Jeffrey Berry and Lecturer Teresa Walsh.
This evening they will have a round-table dinner with military fellows of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, students in the Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Shugars said.
“Then on Tuesday they’ll have a meet-and-greet with President Monaco and some of the other senior leadership at Tufts … so we’ve got two pretty full days of activities,” she said.
According to Rogers, one of the benefits of the program is that the former members of Congress have the time to make long visits such as this with many events.
“They can come for several days, they can also be more candid because they’re not in office anymore, they can let their hair down and say exactly what they think and they can just be very honest and very open with students,” he said.
Rogers said that he hopes this will help allow the program to accomplish its goal of getting students interested in participating in politics and getting rid of the negative perceptions some young people have.
Shugars said that Tisch College has a similar goal for the visit.
“Young people today really are dedicated to working in their communities and making a difference in their communities, and a lot of the research we do at Tisch College shows just how passionate young people are about that kind of work and advocating for change, but we’ve also seen that they don’t necessarily see politics or public service as the way for them to do that,” she said.
Shugars added that the program may change the way students see that.
“I think a program like this is just a great opportunity to show students what that kind of path might look like and how they might embrace it as a way to do the kind of public service and public work that they really are passionate about doing,” she added.
The Stennis Center, which is located in Starkville, Miss., is a federal agency under the legislative branch with the mission of promoting public service in the United States, according to Rogers.